👋 Good Friday morning!
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent JI stories, including: Ambassador Tom Nides’ shiva chronicles; Meet Aviva Aron-Dine, the White House’s newest econ wonk; The mad rush to replace Bobby Rush; The view from Washington on the one-year anniversary of Israel’s groundbreaking government; One year on, Bennett’s government hangs on by a thread; Blinken, Lapid highlight regional reconciliation, Iran and Ukraine; Alessandra Biaggi distances herself from AOC on Israel; To crack Emirati market, CEOs line up for ‘speed-dating’ with Israel’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi; and From Tel Aviv to Athens: Meet the Israeli hotelier taking a gamble on Greek tourism. Print the latest edition here.
Doron Almog, a former IDF general and a disability rights activist, was unanimously selected as the next chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, following a drawn-out process that saw the organization’s selection committee fail to choose a candidate that could rally the requisite nine of 10 votes. eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales spoke to Almog on Thursday shortly after the announcement. Read the full interview below.
The National Defense Authorization Act draft finalized by the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday includes the Abraham Accords Caucus’ DEFEND Act, which orders the secretary of defense to explore creating an integrated Middle East air- and missile-defense infrastructure that includes Israel and numerous Arab states. Senate Armed Services proposed an overall $45 billion boost to the NDAA’s topline over what President Joe Biden requested.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) said during an AIPAC virtual event yesterday that the U.N.’s Commission of Inquiry investigating Israel is “clearly an effort to talk about the legitimacy of the State of Israel” and “prevent direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” adding, “I’m much more positive about Israel’s relations with its neighbors than I have [been] in many decades.”
The third public hearing by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol emphasized former Vice President Mike Pence’s role in rejecting consistent pressure from former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the election results, a move that witnesses said would have been clearly illegal and unconstitutional.
Witnesses said Trump and his top advisors were told their plans were unlawful but pursued them anyway. Trump aides also acknowledged before the riot that their plans would likely not hold up in court and could plunge the country into chaos.
Retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig testified that Trump and his allies remain “a clear and present danger” to the U.S., because Trump-aligned Republicans “would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election” should they lose, and are publicly and actively positioning themselves to do so.
Ivanka Trump and a former top aide testified in committee depositions that the former president engaged in a heated argument with Pence on the morning of Jan. 6, pressure that allegedly continued after the riot.
One Proud Boys informant told the FBI that the group would have killed Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) if given the opportunity, the committee revealed. Top Trump advisor John Eastman also requested a presidential pardon following the riot.
Former Pence aide Greg Jacobs recounted that he read from the biblical story of Daniel while sheltering from the riot, specifically citing a section where Daniel refuses an order from the King of Babylon that he felt he could not follow, which Jacobs saw as analogous to Pence’s actions.
Ben Smith talks state of journalism
Ben Smith has worn many hats in his journey from young New York City Hall reporter to founder of a media company. But everywhere the veteran journalist goes — from The New York Sun to Politico to BuzzFeed to The New York Times — he has brought a signature scoop-focused intensity. As he prepares to launch his newest venture, Semafor, Smith joined Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” for a discussion on the state of journalism, cutting his teeth in New York’s infamous Room 9 and how he looks to build a new media company.
Twitter’s impact on institutions: “I don’t think journalism is particularly different from anything else. Everybody from television networks, to politicians, to businesses suddenly felt this new challenge. People could see inside the workings and demystify these institutions, which, I think, was a big problem for the media, because we would pretend we were better than we were, or doing something sort of special when it really was just kind of messy, hard work.”
Twitter’s impact on media: “It’s not like the media wasn’t making mistakes and being ideological and bumbling and biased before. It’s just now, it’s all much more on display, like we were always idiots, it’s just on display now. And people can attack it… The thing is, now, all that bumbling around that I was doing during the day is on public display, and people are like, ‘Oh my God, these people are total idiots. They don’t know any more than we do.’ The thing is, that’s always been true. It’s just that now it’s on display. And I think all journalists can do is just be like, ‘Yes, we don’t have any special magic powers that you don’t, we’re just trying to figure stuff out.’ Which I think is painful, because I think journalists like to have this special mystified status.”
Building Semafor: “I think in terms of what we’re trying to build at Semafor now, we want to just acknowledge the reality that people connect more and audiences connect more with individuals than with a faceless brand, and lean into that and give great journalists an opportunity to speak really directly to an audience and not try to aggressively come in-between that and keep journalists in their box.”
USAID nominee Wittes says past skepticism over Abraham Accords was ‘wrong’
Tamara Cofman Wittes, the Biden administration’s nominee to be the assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development for the Middle East, expressed support for the Abraham Accords under questioning on Thursday by Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about past comments critical of the normalization agreements, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Wittes was testifying Thursday at a confirmation hearing alongside Michael Ratney, formerly the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Israel, who has been nominated to be the ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Background: Wittes had previously expressed skepticism about the agreement’s durability and whether other countries beyond the United Arab Emirates would join them. She described the deals as having been “oversold,” a “betrayal of Palestinian interests” by Arab signatories and an overall setback for the Palestinians. She also said during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas terrorists in Gaza that “Arab states that normalized with Israel bought this mess and now have to live with it.” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) further said that Wittes had promoted on social media an article that called the deal a “triumph for authoritarianism.” Her Twitter account is now private.
Voicing support: On Thursday, the nominee praised the Accords, which she said brought “profound transformation” and “strengthen[ed] the pro-American coalition” in the Middle East. She said she had encouraged the Biden administration to build on the agreements before she was nominated. “I said publicly when they were signed that they were a boon to the Israeli government and to Israelis who have long felt isolated in their neighborhood,” Wittes added. “The Accords offer a foundation for more cooperation between Arab States and Israel… If I’m confirmed, I look forward to engaging with you on how we can build on the Abraham Accords to bolster positive engagement across the region.”
Reverse course: Wittes acknowledged that she was initially “skeptical” that the Accords could be expanded beyond the UAE, “and I was wrong about that.” Young, who is the top Republican on the Senate panel’s Middle East subcommittee, indicated to JI after the hearing that her remarks had not mollified his concerns, saying that her early comments about the Accords should “probably” disqualify her from the position for which she was nominated. “I think it’s notable how wrong she was as a scholar of the region,” he said. “The history of intemperate remarks with respect to our government policies in the past is something that makes me concerned about her ability to serve effectively in a diplomatic capacity.”
Lifelong engagement: Born in Turkey to a parent working at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Wittes lived in Israel on a kibbutz and was a student at Tel Aviv University. She served as the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs from 2009 to 2012. “I have spent over 20 years working on Middle East policy and traveled through nearly every country of the region,” Wittes said on Thursday. “Engagement with the governments and peoples of the Middle East has been part of my entire personal and professional life and that’s why I’m so excited at the prospect of leading USAID’s Middle East Bureau.”
House subcommittee approves $360 million for Nonprofit Security Grant Program, meeting Jewish leaders’ requests
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved a 2023 spending bill on Thursday that contains $360 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), matching the funding level requested by Jewish nonprofits for several years, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller reports. The spending bill — with an $85.7 billion topline — is one of 12 appropriations bills before the House of Representatives and increases NSGP funding by $110 million over the 2022 funding level. The subcommittee approved the bill along a party-line vote, with Republicans objecting to its border security provisions; it now heads to the full Appropriations Committee for an as-yet unscheduled markup.
Jewish take: Jewish community leaders praised the proposed spending, a level that Congress has repeatedly declined to meet, despite lobbying from Jewish organizations and advocates in both chambers of Congress. “Seeing members of Congress mirror our $360 million request is unquestionably a victory, and we are incredibly pleased to see Congress taking such bold action,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told JI. The spending proposal comes as antisemitic incidents and hate crimes overall are rising nationwide. The security grant program, which provides houses of worship and nonprofits funding to bulk up their security, has provided grants for less than half the program’s applicants.
Next steps: Despite the subcommittee’s approval, the NSGP appropriation still has several hurdles to overcome. “This is the second step in a long process,” Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, told JI, adding that the appropriations bills are likely to be folded into an omnibus spending package this fall and voted on in the lame-duck period following November’s midterm elections. The Senate also has not yet proposed funding levels for NSGP, and its proposal could influence final funding levels. “Between the leadership support and the bipartisan support in the Senate, I’m optimistic about the $360 million,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for public affairs.
Jewish Agency taps Doron Almog as next chairman
After a roller-coaster search lasting more than a year, The Jewish Agency for Israel has a new incoming chair of the executive: Doron Almog, a former Israel Defense Forces general and activist for the disability community. Almog spoke to eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales on Thursday shortly after the announcement.
Man for the mission: Almog, 71, stressed the agency’s mission of facilitating aliyah, or immigration to Israel, which has taken on a greater urgency as tens of thousands of Ukrainians have sought refuge in Israel from Russia’s invasion. Immigration from Ethiopia also recently restarted after a hiatus of more than a year. “We are a small nation but the power comes from our values,” he told eJP. “We’ll focus on continued aliyah, stretching our hand to the people in Ukraine, to the Jews in Ukraine, to the immigrants from Ethiopia — stretching our hand in assistance to any Jew in trouble all over the globe.”
Background: Two decades ago, Almog served as head of the IDF’s Southern Command, overseeing the area around the Gaza Strip. Prior to that, he served in the 1976 hostage rescue at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda, and also took part in Operation Moses, which Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 1980s. Since retiring from the IDF, Almog has dedicated himself to disability rights in memory of his son, Eran, who died at age 23 from Castleman disease. Almog is the founder and chairman of Adi Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village offering a range of services to people with disabilities. In 2016, he won the Israel Prize, the country’s highest honor, for his activism.
Moving on: Almog feels the drama of the protracted search is behind The Jewish Agency, and added that he does not affiliate with a political party. He hopes to remain outside the fray. His two predecessors, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, both served in Israel’s Knesset prior to taking the job. “This whole series of elections in the last year is not relevant anymore right now, the election is finished, I’m chosen and we need to do the work,” Almog said, in response to a question about the search process. Regarding the coalition crisis, he said, “I’m not coming from politics, I’m out of politics and I don’t belong to any political party.”
🧒 Teach Your Children: In Tablet, former Al-Arabiya English editor-in-chief Mohammed Khalid Alyahya contrasts how Iran and Saudi Arabia are preparing younger generations for eventual adulthood and leadership, and the effects those choices will have in the decades ahead. “Perhaps the most significant point on which the Iranian and Saudi models diverge is the radically different approaches they offer to dealing with their countries’ youth. While Iran utilizes and empowers backward, reactionary, anti-Western Islamist and police forces to crush the aspirations of its young people in the name of Islam, Saudi Arabia has chosen to draw on the energy of its youth in order to fight the dangerous and backward Islamist countercurrent that formerly constrained opportunity and social life in the country. It is putting its faith instead in nationalism combined with economic empowerment and dynamism. Since the success or failure of these opposite approaches is likely to shape both the region and the larger Muslim world for decades to come, it is important for the West to choose wisely.” [Tablet]
📍 On the Map: The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank spotlights the controversy around a recent social media post by an anti-Israel activist group “mapping” Jewish institutions across Massachusetts. “Late Tuesday, Boston’s arm of the loosely organized movement urged its followers, as it had several times before, to explore an interactive ‘Mapping Project,’ which it said would show ‘how imperialism, racism, militarism & Zionism are systemically connected in our communities.’ It does none of those things. The BDS-promoted Mapping Project is just the latest manifestation of an antisemitic canard alleging secret, hidden Jewish control of, and the buying of influence over, academia, the media, corporations, charities, law enforcement and more.” [WashPost]
☢️ War Warning: In The Hill, Mark Toth warns that Israel and Iran, which have been engaged in a shadow war of sorts, are inching closer to significant conflict. “If forced to attack Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s primary target would be destroying the centrifuges enriching HEU [highly enriched uranium] in Natanz, Fordow and elsewhere — all of which are buried deep underground. It is the only military means by which Jerusalem could avert Tehran from reaching the 90 percent HEU enrichment level. Numerous tertiary targets also would need to be eliminated. Iran Watch lists 38 known nuclear-related sites in total. Jerusalem’s planning must anticipate Hezbollah, Hamas and other Tehran-backed militias aggressively responding in kind if Israel launches a raid into Iran. In all likelihood, before Israel’s air forces could return to Israeli airspace, massive volleys of rocket fire would be hitting the country from Lebanon, Gaza and Syria — and possibly even from Iran itself. Striking Iran’s nuclear facilities would be only the beginning, not the end, of a hot war between Israel and Iran.” [TheHill]
🇦🇲🇦🇿 Double Standard: In the Wall Street Journal, Eugene Kontorovich highlights the efforts of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) to support Armenian settlement efforts in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is also claimed by Azerbaijan, even as it condemns Israeli activity in the West Bank. “The PCUSA is fully within its rights to support Armenian settlements. Nothing in international law requires boycotts or sanctions against such communities. It is understandable if, as Christians, the PCUSA’s members are touched by the plight of one the most ancient churches in Christendom. It shouldn’t be a crime for members of a particular ethnic group to live in part of its historic homeland, and surely the PCUSA would be scandalized if third parties boycotted Armenians for returning to Karabakh. Yet that is exactly what the PCUSA urges when it comes to the Jewish state. It has made Armenian nationalism a funding priority while treating Zionism as a horrible crime.” [WSJ]
✍️ Nuclear Next Step: Bloomberg’s editorial board calls on the Biden administration to detail its “plan B” on Iran, amid increasing speculation that an agreement with Tehran over its nuclear program will not be reached. “Even now, the US should remain open to compromise. If Iran can propose a face-saving way to give up on what appears to be the last sticking point — its demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be taken off the State Department’s terrorist organization list — the US should listen. Even an interim deal that freezes Iran’s enrichment and restores IAEA access in exchange for limited sanctions relief may be worth considering. At the same time, the Biden administration should set aside fears that a tougher approach might derail negotiations. US officials have suggested they’re prepared to shift to a ‘plan B’ if talks fail; they should spell out what that means.” [Bloomberg]
Around the Web
🤝 Meeting of the Minds: Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt met with UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba in Washington yesterday.
🇩🇰 Advise and Consent: The Senate confirmed financier Alan Leventhal to be ambassador to Denmark.
🙏 Security Suggestion: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requesting that the Defense Department not downgrade the rank of the official responsible for coordinating Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s security efforts.
👍 Split Squad: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said she would “of course” support President Joe Biden in a reelection bid, breaking with fellow Squad member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who has expressed reservations about supporting her party’s incumbent.
🗳️ Party Line: The New York Times spotlights Democrats’ risky moves to boost extreme Republican candidates in primary races in the hopes that far-right nominees will pose less of a threat in the general election.
🏢 Suit Settled: The federal government settled a lawsuit with Jackson Township in Ocean County, N.J., which will rescind a 2017 ordinance prohibiting the building of dormitories and limiting where religious schools could be built, a move the government said had been implemented to discourage Orthodox Jews from settling in the town.
🪙 Currency Convo: The Bank of Israel and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority are collaborating to test a new digital currency.
🎯 Target Talk: A Wall Street Journal report found that Israel coordinates with officials in Washington ahead of military strikes in Syria that largely target Iranian militias and militant groups.
💥 News from Jenin: Three Palestinians were killed in a skirmish with Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin on Friday morning.
🛬 Never Again: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced the cancellation of Holocaust education tours that bring thousands of Israeli schoolchildren to Poland, citing Polish efforts to whitewash its complicity in the Holocaust by controlling the education components of the trips.
🚇 Tunnel Vision: Israeli and U.S. officials are monitoring the construction of an underground tunnel network near Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, part of what they believe is an effort by Iran to move more of its nuclear production to locations impenetrable from the outside.
🔍 Behind Bars: Iran reportedly arrested an individual with ties to two French citizens already being held on espionage charges.
⚖️ Life Sentence: An international tribunal sentenced in absentia two Hezbollah members to life imprisonment for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the deaths of 21 other people in a bombing attack.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Aegerter 2020 Meursault:
“This week I discovered the white wine they likely serve in heaven. Sitting in Paris with Benjamin, a leader in the new generation of kosher wine proprietors, I submerged half my face into a large bowl filled with gold-colored, honey-fragranced Meursault from Bourgogne. The Aegerter 2020 Meursault is made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes. The front palate is buttery; less the rich California butter, and more a silky refined butter. The mid-palate is textured like sticky beeswax, and the finish is long and elegant. This wine will drink even more beautifully in five years. Enjoy with buttered French croissants.”
Singer-songwriter, actress and television personality, Paula Abdul turns 60 on Sunday…
FRIDAY: Former undersecretary of state for international security affairs in the Carter administration, longtime UN special representative, Matthew Nimetz turns 83… Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, professor at Georgetown and UC Berkeley, he is married to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin, George Akerlof turns 82… One of the world’s best-selling singer-songwriters, Barry Manilow, born Barry Alan Pincus, turns 79… Former member of the Knesset for the Zionist Union party, Eitan Broshi turns 72… Former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, now senior counsel in the Maryland Attorney General’s office, Jon Leibowitz turns 64… Deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Stephanie Pollack turns 62… Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Aaron Dan Peskin turns 58… Fashion designer, daughter of Reva Schapira, Tory Burch turns 56… Active in interfaith peace initiatives, Rabbi Yakov Meir Nagen (born Genack) turns 55… Founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, Michael Freund turns 54… Former editor of the World edition of The Spectator, Dominic Green, Ph.D., turns 52… Advocacy, philanthropic and political counsel at Chicago-based Beyond Advisers, David Elliot Horwich… SVP for the economic program at Third Way, Gabe Horwitz… Chief philanthropy officer of the Jewish Community Foundation and Jewish Federation of Broward County, Keith Mark Goldmann… Director of government affairs for the Conservation Lands Foundation, David Eric Feinman… Rabbi of the Elmora Hills Minyan in Union County, N.J., Rabbi Michael Bleicher… NYC-based media and business writer for The Hollywood Reporter, Alexander Weprin… Founder and executive director of the Zioness Movement, designed to empower progressive Zionists, Amanda Berman… Manager of strategic partnerships at Avodah, Alexander Willick… Award-winning college football senior writer for The Athletic, Nicole Auerbach… Member of the U.S. Ski Team’s alpine program, Jared Goldberg turns 31… Senior graphics editor at Insider, Rebecca Zisser… Shortstop for Team Israel at the 2020 Olympics, now on the minor league Charleston Dirty Birds, Scott Burcham turns 29… Freelance foreign media consultant, Mounira Al Hmoud…
SATURDAY: Attorney and former alderman on the Chicago City Council, Solomon Gutstein turns 88… Former Washington Post editor and reporter, Fred Barbash turns 77… IT management advisor at Next Stage, Steven Shlomo Nezer… Croatian entrepreneur, previously the Croatian minister of economy, labor and entrepreneurship in the ‘90s, Davor Stern turns 75… Rabbi at Or Hamidbar in Palm Springs, Calif., Rabbi David James Lazar turns 65… Rebecca Diamond… Best-selling author and journalist, Joanne Lipman turns 61… Retired professor of English at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, Helene Meyers… Executive of the William Pears Group, a large U.K. real estate firm founded by his father and grandfather, Sir Trevor Steven Pears (family name was Schleicher) turns 58… Global head of sustainability and inclusive growth at Goldman Sachs, Dina Powell McCormick… Former assistant to former President Donald Trump and a principal of the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, Reed Saunders Cordish turns 48… Film director and screenwriter, Jonathan A. Levine turns 46… Television producer and writer, Jeremy Bronson turns 42… Talent manager and music business mogul, Scott Samuel “Scooter” Braun turns 41… Baseball pitcher for Team Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics, he is also an analytics staffer and scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jeremy Bleich turns 35… Associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Esther Lifshitz… Private equity associate at Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, Jacob E. Best… Rachel Hazan…
SUNDAY: Former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands in the Carter administration, Geri M. Joseph turns 99… Attorney, investment banker, film producer and former deputy mayor of NYC, Kenneth Lipper turns 81… Rabbi emeritus of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, N.J., Rabbi Bennett F. Miller 74… Retired territory sales manager for GlaxoSmithKline, Harry E. Wenkert turns 66… Retired president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jay Sanderson turns 65… Broker at Morgan Stanley, Inna N. Zalevsky turns 65… Overland Park, Kan., resident, Kathi Shaivitz Rosenberg turns 63… Director of communications for New York State Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz, Adrienne M. Knoll turns 62… Member of the European Jewish Parliament for Latvia, Valery Engel, Ph.D., turns 61… OB-GYN physician specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, Jessica Rosenberg Brown, MD, turns 61… Co-founder of Centerview Partners, Blair Effron turns 60… Former member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin turns 52… Co-founder of nine venture-backed companies in the telecom, high-tech, pharmaceuticals, energy, water, and biotechnology industries, Andrew Perlman turns 47… Official in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs focused on the Metaverse, Eitan Weiss… Staff writer at the New Yorker, Isaac Chotiner… Director of affinities and global experiences at the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, Tslil Shtulsaft… Founder of JSwipe Jewish dating app, David Austin Yarus… Senior program officer at Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Anna Langer… COO at Stealth Fintech Company, Alex Jakubowski… Finance director at M/O Strategies, Cydney Couch…