👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Shortly after reports that the White House had postponed President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East, which had not been formally announced but was expected to take place later this month, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told Jewish Insider that Biden is likely to visit the region — including a stop in Israel — next month.
Nides explained to JI’s Ruth Marks Eglash that “it’s just about organizing the exact date because, obviously, it’s contingent upon some other stops. He was going to come in June, but the trip got too long, and everything was getting crunched in.”
The postponement came amid a series of shake-ups in recent weeks that have seen a number of high-level staffers leave the Prime Minister’s Office. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s spokesperson, Matan Sidi, who had worked with Bennett for several years, resigned on Monday.
Bennett’s governing coalition suffered another blow on Monday after it failed to pass a crucial bill extending Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis living in West Bank settlements. The legislation, which is meant to be ratified every five years, extends regulations that have been in effect since 1967 and ensures Israelis living in the settlements have the same civil rights as other Israeli citizens.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is collecting signatures on a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arguing against Israel’s potential inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program.
It’s primary day in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota. We’re watching a number of federal and local elections — more on some of the races we’re keeping an eye on below, including our recent profile of Cora Neumann, who is running for Montana’s newly drawn 1st District.
In Orange County, a controversial challenger threatens to boot Young Kim from the ballot
An Orange County, Calif., congressional primary has turned into a surprisingly heated contest that could see an incumbent knocked out — and the advance of a candidate who received widespread criticism for comments he made about the influence of the U.S. Jewish community, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Verbatim: At a candidate forum hosted by the Orange County Islamic Federation in late May, four-time Republican congressional candidate Greg Raths, the former mayor of Mission Viejo who is running to unseat freshman Rep. Young Kim (R-CA), drew national headlines after a video of him calling out the American Jewish community went viral. “The Jewish community has never given me one dime, so I’m not beholden to them at all,” he said.
Blame game: In a 45-minute conversation with JI last week, Raths attempted to walk back his comments, vowing to be “a little more deliberative in what I say, and I apologize if I offended any Jewish people.” He also claimed his remarks had been misconstrued and that a video of them had been doctored, leaving out the full context of what he said. But what he insisted he said at the candidate forum does not match up with what he actually told audience members.
Spin machine: “I was trying to tell the Muslim community, Islamic community, if you want to get better at national politics, you’ve got to organize,” Raths told JI. “I said, ‘It’s very fractured.’ I said, ‘The only democracy in the Middle East is Israel. And as an American, I have to support — well, I don’t have to, I support Israel because they’re a democracy.’”
State of play: Because of the redistricting process, roughly 80% of the 40th District consists of areas Kim does not currently represent. And the 40th District is more Republican-leaning than her current one, leading Kim to adopt a more stridently conservative tone, while Raths has painted her as insufficiently Republican. “She was representing a multicultural district, and now she’s moving into a more conservative district,” Fred Smoller, associate professor of political science at Chapman University in Orange County, said of Kim. “Primaries bring out the most passionate people, and so the primary will favor a conservative for the Republican nomination.”
Opposing voice: The only Democrat in the race is Asif Mahmood, a physician and longtime political activist. “Israel is our ally and we need it there, but we cannot close our eyes for those Palestinian kids,” Mahmood said at the forum. He did not respond directly to what Raths said about the Jewish community but later told JI that he disagreed with Raths’ comments at the forum — “that is not how I feel about that,” he said — and that he hopes to build bridges between religious groups.
Elsewhere in California: We’re keeping an eye on the 37th Congressional District, where Sydney Kamlager is making a play for the seat currently held by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who is running for Los Angeles mayor. And in the 42nd District, it’s the battle of the Garcias as Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and California state Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, both Democrats, go head-to-head in a newly formed blue district.
Which Republican will take on top GOP target Josh Gottheimer?
Since flipping his district in 2016, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) has been one of the more outspoken members of Congress, on issues ranging from infrastructure to Middle East foreign policy. His high profile — and national trends that favor Republicans this election cycle — have made him a top target for the National Republican Congressional Committee, and for local Republicans seeking to retake the seat, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Marine Corps veteran Nick De Gregorio and investment banker Frank Pallotta will square off in the Republican primary today for a shot at taking on Gottheimer.
For the children: De Gregorio, who decided to jump into the race after American service members were killed during the Afghanistan withdrawal last year, told Jewish Insider last weekend that his run has been inspired largely by his children, as well as his military service. De Gregorio served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Pacific. “It’s not just about my kids, it’s about every subsequent generation of Americans,” he said. “I think we have an obligation to make sure that we’re passing a better America on than what we found. And I do worry that we might be the first generation in American history that is failing to do that.”
Rematch: Pallotta is aiming for a rematch against Gottheimer — he lost to the prominent centrist Democrat by around seven points in the 2020 election. He told JI that his background in finance is “what I think we need in this district, in the state right now,” adding that he wants to “put forth policies that actually benefit the country.” The investment banker blamed his 2020 loss largely on the pandemic, which he said prevented him from campaigning in person. “You succeed by looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand and telling them you have their back,” he explained. “And we didn’t have the opportunity to do that last cycle.”
Tea leaves: Dan Cassino, a political scientist and analyst at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, told JI, “You have to assume that De Gregorio is the favorite just because the district is mostly Bergen County and he’s got the Bergen County [Republican Party endorsement].” Cassino described Pallotta as the “Trumpier” candidate as compared to the more moderate and traditionally conservative De Gregorio. Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, described De Gregorio as an “old-style Northeastern Republican.”
Looking ahead: Despite poor headwinds for Democrats, the 5th District is rated as Likely Democratic by the Cook Political Report and Solid Democratic by Inside Elections for the general election. “Gottheimer is very good on constituent service, he does what needs to be done for an incumbent to be reelected,” Baker said. “You can survive adverse trends if you’re really a high-quality member.” Cassino was less certain about Gottheimer’s odds, particularly if Republicans nominate De Gregorio. “If Gottheimer is facing a really high-quality candidate — in that case it’s De Gregorio — it’s going to be a very, very tight race,” he said.
Deal or no deal: De Gregorio said that it “makes no sense” to ask Israel to wait for Hamas — “a terrorist organization that continually says that they want death to Jews and death to Israel” — to negotiate. He said would support a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “that our Israeli partners were spearheading,” but argued that it is not “the right or responsibility” of the United States to dictate what form that should take. Pallotta was more openly skeptical of a two-state solution in a position paper shared on his campaign site, in which he said that, under current conditions, a two-state solution is “a fallacy lodged in the minds of anti-Israel policy ‘wonks.’” He also said he “cannot and will not support the creation of a Palestinian state” under current Palestinian leadership.
from the trail
Meet the four candidates vying to represent one of L.A.’s Jewish hubs
In the race for Los Angeles’ Council District 5 — which contains a large Jewish population and comprises the historic Jewish neighborhoods of Pico-Robertson and Fairfax — four Jewish candidates are vying for the Westside seat currently held by Paul Koretz, who is running for city controller, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller reports. Whoever wins the election will be one of 15 elected officials on the nation’s second largest city’s legislative body, and will contend with a homelessness crisis affecting an estimated 66,000 people, homicide rates on pace to set a 16-year high and the continuing effects of climate change, which has caused heat waves and fires in the city. The candidates — Jimmy Biblarz, Scott Epstein, Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Sam Yebri — have similar policy prescriptions to address L.A.’s problems.
Making history: Yebri would be the first Iranian-American elected official in L.A.’s history. Yebri, who came to California as a refugee and went on to graduate from Yale, has also founded his own law firm; worked at Bet Tzedek legal services, a Jewish charity providing legal services to those in need; sits on the board of the Anti-Defamation League; and helped found 30 Years After, a nonprofit promoting civic engagement among the Iranian-Jewish community in America. Through his legal work, Yebri has represented sexual assault victims, wrongfully evicted tenants and Holocaust survivors seeking benefits. “I grew up with stories of how precarious the Jewish experience was in Iran, how close my grandparents were to a similar fate, and how all Jews are bound by history, by blood, and by shared destiny,” he explained. “For me it felt like an opportunity to meet and help a long-lost cousin.”
Family business: Yaroslavsky, who received the Los Angeles Times’ endorsement in the race, grew up in L.A. in a political home, where her mother managed a local lawmaker’s district office. After attending law school and a stint working at a law firm, Yaroslavsky found her way to public service, focusing on environmental issues. If elected, “councilmember” would be one line on a long resume for Yaroslavsky, whose career has spanned both government and nonprofit work. Yaroslavsky was appointed to the County Board of Supervisors, where she worked for four years and helped develop and implement Measure W, a $300 million-a-year clean-water infrastructure initiative; helped create L.A. County’s Office of Sustainability; and helped implement the L.A. County Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative, which works to ensure equal access to the arts.
Academic hopeful: Biblarz grew up in what he called “the heart of Jewish L.A.,” in a small duplex apartment, from which his family was evicted when he was 12. Growing up with parents who fell victim to substance abuse, and grappling with his gay identity at a time when gay marriage was not yet legal, drew Biblarz to politics. “When we were evicted I was told, and I remember feeling, even then at such a young age, there has to be a better way to do this, around something as sensitive as people’s housing,” he said, explaining what drew him to his eventual career interest — the study of inequality. The issue was the focus of his graduate study at Harvard, where he pursued a law degree and doctorate after receiving his bachelor’s there in 2014, and was his impetus for entering the race.
Community contender: Scott Epstein brings a different perspective to the race. “I’m a policy analyst by trade,” he says about his background, and explains he served on his neighborhood’s council, where he helped bring in millions of dollars into the community, and founded Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to tackling the homelessness crisis.
Jewish angle: In interviews with JI, all four candidates stressed the importance of combating hate crimes, a particularly salient issue both for the district’s large Jewish and Asian communities, and called for empowering police to investigate hate crimes. In addition, all four are opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the global effort that seeks to target and isolate Israel.
taking a position
Democrat Quaye Quartey outlines approach to Israel in position paper ahead of California primary
Quaye Quartey, a Democratic primary candidate challenging Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) in California’s 27th District today, emphasized his support for a two-state solution “that allows Israel to retain its character as a Jewish Democracy and for Palestine to build its own nation,” he wrote in a position paper recently obtained by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
In his words: “Ultimately, I believe Israel undeniably has a right to exist and to live in peace with its neighbors,” he said. “For nearly two centuries, Israel’s national security has been, and will remain, inextricably linked to Palestinian statehood. In Congress, I will never lose sight of this fact as I proactively voice my concerns with any actions that make a two-state solution harder to achieve, such as settlement expansion or annexation of parts of the West Bank.” An agreement “must include Palestine acknowledging that Israel has the right to exist, and renouncing terrorism and violence,” Quartey continued. “And Israel must halt its illegal settlement activity in the West Bank and respect human rights, and embrace a shared capital in Jerusalem for both the Israelis and Palestinians under a two-state solution.”
Race outlook: Quartey, a former Navy intelligence officer, has been gaining traction in his first bid for public office, having posted strong fundraising numbers while notching endorsements from a range of high-profile California House members, including Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). He has also earned a nod from the Congressional Black Caucus. But his chief Democratic rival, Christy Smith, a former California state assemblywoman who is mounting her third challenge against Garcia, appears to have garnered more support from the national pro-Israel community.
PAC backers: Last week, Smith gained a last-minute endorsement from the political arm of Democratic Majority for Israel, whose president, Mark Mellman, said she had demonstrated her “willingness to fight for the Biden-Harris agenda, including a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.” Garcia, for his part, is backed by a new PAC launched by the bipartisan pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.
🎙️ Being Bannon: The Atlantic’s Jennifer Senior profiles Republican political strategist Steve Bannon as the former Trump administration chief strategist builds a following on the far right. “Anti-Semitic rhetoric was the most abundant form of ugliness I saw from commenters during his broadcast, even more abundant than anything floridly racist or anti-immigrant… He says I should talk to all the Jews with whom he’s worked and done business. And it’s true, there are a fair number; not one has told me he’s said anything that offended them or betrayed any revulsion. (Though in court filings made during their divorce proceedings, his second ex-wife claimed that Bannon said outright that he didn’t like Jews, and didn’t want his kids attending a school with so many of them, because ‘they raise their kids to be “whiny brats.’” His response is adamant. ‘That’s a bald-faced lie,’ he says, noting that he sent his kids to the school in question.) During our conversation, Bannon is almost clumsily eager to show that he likes Jews. One evening, he told me that two things shocked him when living in London: ‘the anti-Semitism and the drinking.’ A few minutes later, he mentioned how much he missed his doctors in Los Angeles. ‘They’re all Persian Jewish. They all look like movie stars. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these guys. They’re like the most perfect people you’ve ever seen.’” [TheAtlantic]
🎓 Campus Controversy: In the Wall Street Journal, Ilya Shapiro, who was put on paid leave days before beginning as a lecturer at Georgetown University’s law school over a tweet regarding President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court pick, explains his reasons for resigning from the institution shortly after being reinstated. “It’s all well and good to adopt strong free-speech policies, but it’s not enough if university administrators aren’t willing to stand up to those who demand censorship. And the problem isn’t limited to cowardly administrators. Proliferating [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion]-style offices enforce an orthodoxy that stifles intellectual diversity, undermines equal opportunity, and excludes dissenting voices. Even the dean of an elite law school bucks these bureaucrats at his peril. What Georgetown subjected me to, what it would be subjecting me to if I stayed, is a heckler’s veto that leads to a Star Chamber. ‘Live not by lies,’ warned Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. ‘Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.’” [WSJ]
👩California Commentary: In New York magazine’s “The Cut,” Rebecca Traister spotlights the decades-long career of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has made headlines in recent months over concerns she is no longer mentally fit to serve. “She has a solidly Democratic voting record and has occasionally taken positions progressively ahead of her party, though in other instances she has practically acted as a Republican. If she has hopscotched around the middle, it’s because she believes stability and progress — ‘the heart of political change’ — flow from strong, functioning institutions built on consensus. It made Feinstein an odd fit for San Francisco in the late ’70s. As [San Francisco writer David] Talbot wrote, ‘San Franciscans had a fondness for lovable rogues and other colorful characters. But in a city of Marx Brothers, Feinstein was Margaret Dumont, forever distressed and befuddled by the antics around her.’ In the wake of the assassinations, however, she became ‘precisely the right leader for the time.’” [NYMag]
Around the Web
🇸🇦 Saudi Shift: The Wall Street Journal looks at the diplomatic changes underway in the Middle East, as Israel and Saudi Arabia engage in talks around business and security, a move that “could accelerate long-building efforts to end the conflict between two countries.”
🤝 Mediator in the Middle: Lebanon announced it plans to invite Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s special envoy for energy affairs, to assist in negotiations with Israel over a maritime border dispute.
⚖️ Guilty Plea: Richard Olson, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, pleaded guilty to federal charges connected to lobbying work he did on behalf of Qatar after he left government service.
🗳️ Oz vs. Fetterman: David McCormick conceded to Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary. Oz will face off against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in November.
✍️ Middle East Moves: Eighty House Democrats signed onto a J Street-backed letter calling on the Biden administration to take “concrete steps” to “deter harmful actions” including rising Israeli settler violence, increasing settlement construction, demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and growing Israeli government spending in West Bank settlements, as well as Palestinian Authority martyr payments.
🔍 Investigation Push: Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) sent a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken insisting that “the Administration ensure a full and transparent investigation” in the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin last month.
🇮🇷 Let my people go: Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chair and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement calling on the Biden administration “to continue to vigorously pursue” the release of U.S. hostages held in Iran, “no matter the status of nuclear talks.”
✈️ Man on a Mission: The Wall Street Journal spotlights CIA Director Bill Burns’ untraditional role within the Biden administration, calling him “a sort of special envoy for complex problems.”
🇮🇳 Diplomatic Drama: Politico reports on efforts by allies of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose nomination to become ambassador to India has stalled, to pressure Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) to back Garcetti by threatening the loss of donors — a move that has reportedly backfired.
💼 On the Hill: Far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has accepted an internship in the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
🧑✈️ Lost That Lovin’ Feeling: The family of Ehud Yonay, who inspired the original “Top Gun” film, is suing Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement, alleging the company failed to reacquire the rights before the release of “Top Gun: Maverick.”
📰 Unfree Press: The South African Jewish Report was expelled from the Press Council of South Africa after the outlet interviewed antisemitism experts who criticized a cartoon of a Jewish man putting money into his mouth that had been posted on a pro-BDS Facebook page.
💰 Big Bucks: The Tel Aviv-based Vayyar Imaging Ltd. raised $108 million in its latest round of funding, which was led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, as it considers an IPO outside of Israel in the next two to three years.
👨 Transition: Gabriel Noronha, who served as a special advisor for the State Department’s Iran Action Group from 2019-2021, is joining JINSA as a fellow at its Gemunder Center for Defense.
🕯️ Remembering: Former Washington Post editor Barry Sussman, who worked closely with reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on their coverage of Watergate, died at 87. Andrée Geulen-Herscovici, a Belgian schoolteacher who helped to save more than 1,000 Jewish children during the Holocaust and was later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, died at 101. Sophie Freud, a granddaughter of Sigmund Freud who challenged many of his theories, died at 97.
Pic of the Day
The grave of Lt. Seymour L. Mullman in the U.S. cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, for soldiers killed during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Monday marked the 78th anniversary of the invasion.
Chicago- and Aspen-based businessman and philanthropist, Lester Crown (center) turns 97…
Rehoboth Beach, Del., resident, Dennis B. Berlin turns 81… Former five-term Democratic congressman from California, he now serves as counsel in the Century City office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Mel Levine turns 79… Professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, and author of 13 books, Deborah Tannen turns 77… Epidemiologist, toxicologist and author of three books about environmental hazards, Devra Davis turns 76… Deputy Secretary of State of the United States, Wendy Ruth Sherman turns 73… Senior advisor in the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. State Department, Hillel Weinberg… President of Shenkar design and engineering college in Israel, he is a grandson of former Israeli PM Levi Eshkol, Sheizaf Rafaeli turns 67… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-PA), Susan Ellis Wild turns 65… Former vice president of the United States, Mike Pence turns 63… Jerusalem resident, Deborah Lee Renert… U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York, Jesse Matthew Furman turns 50… U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) turns 50… One-half of the Arab-Jewish electronic music duo Chromeo, David “Dave 1” Macklovitch turns 44… Director of voice, creativity and culture at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Isaac Luria… Editor of The New York Review of Books, Emily S. Greenhouse… Actress and model, Emily Ratajkowski turns 31… Canadian ice hockey forward currently playing with HC Kunlun Red Star in the Kontinental Hockey League, Ethan Werek turns 31… Andrea Gonzales…