👋 Good Thursday morning!
Iran’s Defense Ministry said that an engineer died in an “accident” at the country’s Parchin military facility this morning, the third incident at the site since 2007. The ministry said that an investigation is underway, without providing more details. Parchin is the site of suspected past nuclear work, and has at times been off-limits to international inspectors.
The incident occurred less than a day after U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malleytestified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the current status of talks with Tehran over its nuclear program. Malley, giving rare public testimony on Wednesday, said, “The odds of a successful deal are lower than the odds of failure” because Iran “maintains demands that go beyond the scope of the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].” He added, “We are fully prepared to live with and confront that reality [of no deal], if that is Iran’s choice.”
Malley also confirmed a report that President Joe Biden had committed not to lift the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorism designation. “I think that sticking point has in some ways been resolved in the sense that we’ve made clear to Iran that if they wanted any concession on something that was unrelated to the JCPOA, like the [Foreign Terror Organization] designation, we needed something reciprocal from them that would address our concerns,” Malley said. “They have to decide now, are they prepared to reach a deal without extraneous demands?”
The envoy confirmed that the administration would submit any deal reached for congressional review under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), which had been a lingering question for many critics of the negotiations.
Malley was asked by multiple legislators when the U.S. might exit talks — and confronted with January comments by Secretary of State Tony Blinken that the benefits of reentering the deal could become moot within weeks. “I apologize, it is true that we have said things in the past,” Malley said, walking back Blinken’s prior remarks. “We’re prepared to get back into the JCPOA for as long as our assessment is that its nonproliferation benefits are worth the sanctions relief that we would provide.” Read more here.
Israeli officials reportedly told the Biden administration that Israeli operatives were behind the targeted killing on Sunday of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps colonel, whom they allege was the deputy commander of a covert unit dedicated to kidnapping and killing foreigners around the world.
A new soccer field in the Bronx courtesy of the Abraham Accords
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) is no stranger to government malaise. Prior to his election in 2020, the Bronx congressman spent seven years as a New York City councilmember, working to wade through the sea of red tape that is government bureaucracy. So it impressed Torres when, last Friday, only a few months after first discussing the refurbishment of a soccer field in the Bronx’s Crotona Park, he was handed a pair of golden scissors as he stood on newly laid synthetic turf at the ceremonial ribbon-cutting. More surprising, the unusual source for the project’s success: Middle East peace, reports Jewish Insider’s Sam Zieve Cohen.
Funding: The project was made possible thanks to a $363,000 donation from the United Arab Emirates and the New York Football Club (which is majority-owned by members of the Abu Dhabi royal family). At the ceremony, Torres was joined by UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba, standing alongside the congressman and a contingent of local politicians and city officials. Through the ambassador’s new role as cheerleader for a changed Middle East, Torres, who has gained popularity in the Jewish community as a pro-Israel progressive, and Otaiba formed a friendship.
Trilateral friendship: “There’s no reason to think that the construction of the soccer fields would have gone forward without the Abraham Accords,” Torres observed in an interview this week. “The Abraham Accords has first order-, second-order and third-order consequences… Something as seemingly unconnected as a soccer field is, in its own way, a testament to the new trilateral friendship that has taken hold among the United States, the UAE and Israel.”
Warm peace: Prior to the park visit, Otaiba joined Torres at the Riverdale Jewish Center for an off-the-record conversation on the Abraham Accords before a local audience of around 60 people, including former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and former Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). Otaiba and Torres, sitting on a stage with Rabbi Dovid Zirkind, spent over an hour in conversation. “The Abraham Accords is a monumental achievement in the diplomatic history of the Middle East. It’s an achievement that few in the foreign policy establishment predicted or thought was possible,” Torres told JI afterward, asking rhetorically, “Has there ever been a moment in human history when a Christian majority country, a Muslim majority country and a Jewish majority country came together to form, not merely a cold peace, but a genuine friendship?”
big sky ballot
Cora Neumann’s sweet home Montana
The Jewish community in Montana is so small that for half a century, the Treasure State did not have an operating synagogue, until Congregation Beth Shalom opened in Bozeman in 2001. Beth Shalom is now home to 120 families, but the temple’s president, Jake Werner, only knows of one person in the community who was born and raised in Montana: Cora Neumann, a Bozeman native who is now running to represent one of the state’s two congressional districts. “Montana has always been my home,” Neumann, who is 47, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Going home: When the nonprofit executive and public health expert moved away for college in the 1990s, she spent more than two decades living far from home. But Montana remained her north star, she added: “It’s like the story of so many Montanans, where you grew up here, you leave for school and work, and you’re on your journey home the whole time.” Neumann, a Democrat, is making her deep ties to the state an integral part of her campaign, which has centered on the state’s affordability crisis, brought on by wealthy remote workers who moved there since the start of the pandemic.
Long odds: Neumann is running in the newly created 1st District, which covers the western part of the state; it’s the first time the state has had more than a single statewide district in three decades. And while it includes some Democratic strongholds such as the university towns of Bozeman and Missoula, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated it as “Likely Republican.” “The odds are slightly against her if you look at just the kind of Republican-Democrat stuff, but the candidate quality matters,” said Ed Stafman, rabbi emeritus at Beth Shalom and a Montana state representative. “Montana has a fierce streak of independence.”
Jewish start: Early in her career, Neumann worked briefly in the Jewish professional world before earning her graduate degrees, first as a reporter at the New Mexico Jewish Link and then as a communications professional at the American Jewish Committee. “I felt really connected to the Jewish side of my family, and I was really interested in learning and working with an organization that works globally, and then learning more about Israel and about international relations in general,” she said.
Emiratis estimate trade volume with Israel will reach $5 billion in the next few years
Trade between the United Arab Emirates and Israel is expected to reach $5 billion in the “upcoming few years,” Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi predicted at the 2022 Davos World Economic Forum, The Circuit’s Jacob Miller reports. Less than two years after the signing of the historic normalization agreements, the trade volume between Israel and the UAE has eclipsed $2.5 billion, leading Al Zeyoudi to forecast that bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE will exceed $2 billion this year and that 1,000 Israeli companies will operate in his country by year’s end.
Stronger Together: Al Zeyoudi also noted both countries share common challenges — water scarcity, agriculture, and energy diversification — and referenced past areas of cooperation, including the creation of a water research institute, Israel’s sale to the UAE of stakes in its Tamar gas field and the two countries’ collaboration on launching the Beresheet 2 space mission.
Old Doc: Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, an advisor to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, reiterated that his country remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, a proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and claimed the 2002 document was a tacit acknowledgment of Israel’s legitimacy by the Arab world. “It’s a de facto acceptance by every Arab country of the State of Israel in the region,” he said.
Future Prospects: Sounding a note of optimism, Stuart Eizenstat, a Clinton administration alum and partner at Covington & Burling law firm who currently serves as the State Department’s special advisor on Holocaust Issues, expressed confidence that Israel’s relationship with Abraham Accords countries could deepen, and proposed the U.S. create “Qualified Industrial Zones,” regions in which the U.S. allows free trade on products manufactured with Israeli help, in Abraham Accords countries. “As much as we’ve had remarkable change for the good in a little over a year, there is room for enormous expansion if we do the right things and we continue down this path,” Eizenstat said. Asked about the possibility of promoting peace between other Middle Eastern countries, Al Khalifa stressed the importance of patience, but said, “We will need to work harder and harder and harder to make that go at a faster pace.”
Israeli technology minister mobilizes startups to reinforce normalization accords with Morocco and Gulf states
From the Arab Gulf states to northern Africa, Israel is trying to sew up the normalization pacts it signed nearly two years ago by sharing its pioneering answers to drought, desertification and fossil-fuel replacement. That’s what brought Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Israel’s minister of innovation, science and technology, to Morocco this week with a cohort of startup companies focused on addressing the region’s climate and energy nightmares, reports The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger.
Inking it: “I’m here to say that Israel’s innovation, talent, our people and our minds can and should be a partner,” Farkash-Hacohen told an Israel-Moroccan business conference in Casablanca on Wednesday. The Israeli cabinet minister, a member of the Blue & White party in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition, is scheduled to be in the capital city of Rabat on Thursday to sign a memorandum of understanding with her Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Miraoui. The broad agreement will cover cooperative efforts in agricultural technologies, water management, water desalination, renewable energy and artificial intelligence, Farkash-Hacohen said.
Around the region: Her visit to Morocco follows a similar trip to the United Arab Emirates in October 2021 that covered joint activities in the realms of climate and energy, but also focused on cooperation between the two countries on space exploration, including Israel’s Beresheet 2 unmanned lunar landing mission. “I hope this will echo a more moderate voice in the Middle East and in Africa,” Farkash-Hacohen told The Circuit in a brief interview on the sidelines of the conference. “We are facing a lot of extremists in our neighborhood. This is an alliance of the moderate countries.”
🗣️ Pace of Polarization: The Atlantic’s Yascha Mounk looks at political polarization in the U.S. through the lens of a recent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study on two centuries of partisan disagreement. “As near-universal as political polarization has become, it is more pronounced in some places than in others. On a five-point scale, with 0 indicating a country with very little partisan polarization and 4 indicating a country with extreme polarization, both the U.S. and the rest of the world, on average, displayed only a modest degree of polarization at the turn of the millennium: They each scored about a 2.0. By 2020, the world average had increased significantly, to a score of about 2.4. But in the United States, polarization accelerated much more sharply, growing to a score of 3.8. Among countries whose political institutions have been relatively stable, the pace and extent of American polarization is an eye-popping outlier. ‘Very few countries classified as full liberal democracies have ever reached pernicious levels,’ the study’s authors write. ‘The United States stands out today as the only wealthy Western democracy with persistent levels of pernicious polarization.’” [TheAtlantic]
🇷🇺 Sanctions Study: The Washington Post’s Miriam Berger explains how the sanctions regime currently in place against Iran could provide Moscow with a blueprint for how to live with — and evade — similar restrictions. “‘The real sanction evasion, though, takes place under the radar. Governments and their cronies create front companies to obtain and trade goods, use criminal groups as middlemen and money launderers, and transfer embargoed oil off-the-grid,’ said Richard Nephew, who in January left his position as a U.S. deputy special envoy for Iran. Iran has perfected the art: Oil tankers meet on the high seas, where other countries are loath to intervene, turn off their tracking radar, transfer Iranian oil and cover their tracks. In early May, Iran said it had doubled its oil exports since August. As one Iranian told [a Russian journalist], ‘it has become harder’ for him since Trump imposed his maximalist policy, but ‘the sanctions introduced have become a business for many people.’ All the while, Iran has continued its repressive policies and grown its nuclear program.” [WashPost]
🏦 Money Matters: Politico’s Kate Davidson and Victoria Guida describe how Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has “often taken a back seat” to the White House and National Economic Council, despite rising inflation and economic uncertainty. “Yellen, the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, is seen as a technocrat, a widely respected, above-the-fray leader rather than a flame thrower in a political messaging war. Some Democrats are yearning for more as they see their political fortunes crumble. One administration official said she is an obvious candidate to spearhead a policy or communications response to the extraordinary spike in prices on behalf of the White House. ‘Janet Yellen seems like this not-so-secret weapon,’ said the official, who, like most of those interviewed for this story, asked not to be identified by name so they could speak candidly. ‘If we haven’t used her yet, are we ever going to utilize her?’” [Politico]
Around the Web
📜 On the Docket: The Senate will vote today on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.
✈️ That’s Oil, Folks: White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein are in Riyadh this week to discuss a possible agreement between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt that would increase oil production in the region.
👍 Treasury Man: Paul Rosen was confirmed by a voice vote to be assistant secretary of the Treasury for investment security.
🗳️ Seal of Approval: The Washington Post editorial board endorsed Glenn Ivey over Donna Edwards in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, noting that the two candidates have similar political ideologies, “although there are shades of difference between them, their stances on Israel being one.”
🖼️ Home is Where the Art Is: Vanity Fair spotlights CASTLE, the art gallery in the Hancock Park, Los Angeles, home of entertainment executive Harley Wertheimer, part of a growing trend of galleries housed in private residences.
👨 Dire Warning: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, George Soros warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a civilization-ending “beginning of the third world war.”
🫂 Family Reunion: The Washington Post spotlights the reunion between a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor and the daughter she gave up for adoption as a teenager.
📈 WeRaise: Dana Gibber’s crypto startup FlowCarbon, which counts WeWork founder Adam Neumann as an investor, raised $70 million.
💰 Eye on Alzheimer’s: NeuraLight, based in Tel Aviv and Austin, Texas, announced $25 million in Series A funding, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies.
🚶♂️🚶♂️ Warning Sign: Hamas warned Israeli officials to cancel the upcoming Jerusalem Day march this weekend, or face a new wave of violence.
🇮🇷 New Sanctions: The Treasury Department announced sanctions on an Iranian oil smuggling and money-laundering network backed by the Kremlin.
⛽ It’s a Gas: The European Union is working on a deal with Jerusalem and Cairo that would see Israeli gas processed in Egypt and shipped to the continent, as part of a larger effort to reduce European reliance on Russian supplies.
⛔ No Go: Israel rejected a request from Washington to allow Berlin to provide anti-tank missiles, developed in Germany with Israeli technology and licensing, to Ukraine.
🕯️ Remembering: Book agent Morton L. Janklow, who represented such names as Pope John Paul II, Danielle Steel and former Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, died at 91. Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, the founding director of NCSY, died at 90.
Pic of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Greece George J. Tsunis (center) visited the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. Tsunis said in a tweet that the museum serves as “a reminder for us all of the lives lost and our need to stand united against anti-Semitism.”
Political cartoonist and journalist, Ranan Lurie turns 90…
Public speaker, teacher and author, he writes the weekly column “Looking at Language,” Richard Lederer turns 84… Journalist and educator, the mother of Susan (CEO of YouTube), Janet (a Fulbright-winning anthropologist) and Anne (co-founder of 23andMe), Esther Hochman Wojcicki turns 81… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-IL) since 1999, Janice Danoff “Jan” Schakowsky turns 78… Lake City, Fla., resident, John W. Davis… Longtime media exec, Michael Oreskes turns 68… Co-founder and CEO of Mobileye, he became an SVP of Intel after Intel acquired Mobileye in 2017, Amnon Shashua turns 62… NYC real estate developer, board member of The Charles H. Revson Foundation and a former commissioner on the NYC Planning Commission, Cheryl Cohen Effron… Former Brigadier General in the IDF, she has been a member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2009, Miriam “Miri” Regev turns 57… Counsel in the government affairs practice in the D.C. office of Paul Hastings, Dina Ellis Rochkind… Photographer, her work has appeared in galleries and been published in books, Naomi Harris turns 49… South Florida entrepreneur, Sholom Zeines… Program officer for media and communications at the Maimonides Fund, Rebecca Friedman… Former minor league baseball player, he has become one of the leading agents for NBA players, Jason Glushon turns 37… Tel Aviv-based freelance journalist, Yardena Schwartz… Special counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, Mark Goldfeder… Deputy Washington director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Arielle Gingold… Special counsel in the Washington office of Covington & Burling, Benjamin L. Cavataro… Toronto-born Israeli actress and singer, best known as the protagonist of the television series “Split,” Melissa Amit Farkash turns 33… External relations officer at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Morgan A. Jacobs… Catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Garrett Patrick Stubbs turns 29… Eytan Merkin…