👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Results from last night’s “jungle primaries” in California continue to trickle in, giving voters — and political observers across the country — a sense of what November’s general election will look like.
In the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in California’s newly drawn 15th District, Democrats Kevin Mullin, who has pulled in establishment support, including from Speier herself, and the more progressive David Canepa are expected to advance to the November election.
Former California Assemblymember Christy Smith, who is backed by Democratic Majority for Israel’s PAC, will go up against Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA), who has the support of AIPAC’s new PAC, in November after besting fellow Democrat Quaye Quartey last night. This is the third time voters have had a Garcia-Smith match-up, but given the barbs traded in the 2020 special and regular elections, it’s unlikely Garcia and Smith will be getting ice cream anytime soon.
With 52% of the vote counted in California’s 40th District, Young Kim appears to have fended off a challenge from her right from former Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths, who drew criticism in the final days of the campaign for his comments regarding the American Jewish community. If the current numbers hold, Kim will face off against Dr. Asif Mahmood, a Democrat, in November.
In California’s 42nd Congressional District, Democrat Robert Garcia and Republican John Briscoe appear headed to the November general election. State Assemblymember Cristina Garcia trails in third place, with 37% of the vote counted.
But the biggest news of the night was the recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, whose ouster is being characterized as a bellwether for other progressive district attorneys. San Francisco Mayor London Breed will appoint an interim district attorney, who will hold the position until a special election is held.
Across the country, the GOP primary in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District is too close to call. Just 1,400 votes separate Frank Pallotta and Nick De Gregorio, who are battling to take on Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). The Democratic congressman has made it clear that he prefers to square off against Pallotta, who Gottheimer beat by seven points in 2020, going so far as to send mailers to Republican households in the district linking Pallotta to former President Donald Trump.
In the nearby 8th Congressional District, Robert Menendez, Jr., the son of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), won the Democratic primary in a landslide victory, and will go on to face Marcos Arroyo.
In Montana, Cora Neumann fell short in her bid to represent the state’s newly drawn 1st District, losing to Monica Tranel, an Olympic rower and attorney who will continue on to face the Republican nominee. The GOP race, where former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and former state Sen. Al “Doc” Olszewski are facing off, has yet to be called.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is in Southern California today, where he’ll meet with representatives of the USC Shoah Foundation to discuss the technology they use to interview and record Holocaust survivors.
The evolution of Blake Masters
Blake Masters, a venture capitalist now seeking the GOP Senate nomination in Arizona, has cast himself as an outspoken immigration hawk who inveighs against “open borders,” “illegal aliens” and drugs that “pour into” the state from Mexico. “Not on my watch,” he declares on his campaign site, vowing to “finish the wall” and “triple” the Border Patrol, while fighting “to end illegal immigration and secure” the border. Such hardline policy objectives, however, are strikingly at odds with sentiments Masters expressed in the mid-aughts as an undergraduate at Stanford University, according to a cache of online writings recently uncovered by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Border backtracking: In a series of short, polemical blog posts, Masters once suggested that “illegal immigration is an ethical contradiction in terms,” argued that “‘unrestricted’ immigration is the only choice” and commended U.S. service members who had participated in a drug trafficking ring as “heroes,” among other things. The posts, published to a LiveJournal account in 2005, when Masters was 19, have not previously been reported. The account was operated under a pseudonym, but a person familiar with the entries — who asked to remain anonymous — confirmed that Masters had written them. A spokesperson for Masters’ campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment from JI.
Unvarnished insight: Masters, now 35, composed the entries nearly 17 years ago, when he identified as something of a libertarian purist whose deep skepticism of state power appears to have influenced a proudly laissez-faire approach to drug legalization, military authority, unfettered immigration and even the pretense of national borders themselves. The blog posts provide unique and seemingly unvarnished insight into the mind of an opinionated young political activist, once steeped in libertarian thought, who is now gaining traction in his first bid for public office while promoting a completely different message.
‘Hero’ smugglers: In one representative entry, Masters applauded U.S. law enforcement officers involved in a widespread criminal conspiracy — uncovered by an FBI sting operation known as Operation Lively Green — to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico. The drug bust had gotten it “backwards,” Masters insisted. “For seeking a profit while conducting trade between groups of consenting adults, in the face of government oppression, these men and women arrested in the latest cocaine sting are heroes.”
Policy puzzle: Even as Masters claims to have evolved in recent years, his older writings suggest a deeper penchant for extreme and often contrarian views that seem to be a defining feature of his political self-conception. That he is given to significant ideological shifts could raise more immediate questions over the positions he is likely to adopt if elected to the Senate. Masters, who notched a coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump last week, has also faced scrutiny for a provocative essay, published in 2006, where he referenced a “poignant quotation” from Nazi leader Hermann Goering while arguing that “the U.S. hasn’t been involved in a just war in over 140 years.”
setting the record
Washington remains committed to Middle East, says key U.S. diplomat
A top American diplomat laid out the Biden administration’s vision for engagement with the Middle East in a speech on Tuesday and contested the widely held belief that Washington has sought to distance itself from the region in favor of engagement with Asia, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Still here: Speaking virtually to an Atlantic Council event in Rome, Yael Lempert, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, argued that Washington remains deeply engaged in the region — and, more bluntly, insisted that only the United States, rather than China or Russia, can offer both economic advantages and a commitment to democracy.
Values driven: A “regrettably pervasive” narrative “has emerged in some corners that the United States is leaving the Middle East and North Africa,” said Lempert. “That narrative is wholly incorrect, as becomes abundantly clear upon reviewing the breadth of American engagement throughout the region.” What Washington offers, Lempert argued, is “support for a rules-based international order, a dynamic global economy and respect for democracy and human rights.” Rather than being separate from concerns over security, putting human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy in the region is actually good for global security, Lempert said.
Diplomatic core: At the heart of the U.S. approach to regional security in the Middle East and North Africa is diplomacy, Lempert argued. She highlighted several areas where the Biden administration has focused its attention: the United Nations-facilitated peace process in Yemen, Syria, Libya and the Western Sahara; expanding the Abraham Accords; and reentering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Pick me: Lempert’s address to the Washington-based think tank seemed designed to reach both skeptics in Washington and allies in the region who might be considering closer ties with China and Russia. “In an age of strategic competition, we want partners to look to Washington,” she noted, and pointed out that U.S. financial investment in the region still surpasses that of China — although China is rapidly catching up. U.S. allies should not think only about the financial benefits, although, she argued, the U.S. hopes to expand trade with the region.
State Department criticizes ‘one-sided’ U.N. human rights report on Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A report released on Tuesday by a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that blamed Israel for recent tensions in the region drew criticism from the State Department for its targeting of Israel, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Still opposed: The State Department “firmly oppose[s]” the “open-ended and vaguely defined” Commission of Inquiry, a State Department spokesperson told JI. “The Commission released its first report today, and its content gives us no reason to re-evaluate our position on this COI.”
Remaining concerns: The COI “represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a separate public statement. “The report of the Commission, released today, does nothing to alleviate our concerns.”
Background: The report was the first released by the Commission of Inquiry, which was established last year following last May’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. It criticized Israel for seeking “complete control” over the “occupied Palestinian territory,” and said that “ending the occupation of lands by Israel…remains essential in ending the persistent cycle of violence.”
Bonus: A group of House Democrats released a joint statement calling the Commission “unquestionably just another attempt by the United Nations Human Rights Council to unjustifiably target Israel.” The statement reads, “We look forward to working with the Administration to end this one-sided COI and reform the Human Rights Council.”
The Israeli folk singer keeping Debbie Friedman’s legacy alive
If music can serve as a bridge between communities, or be a balm for “those in need of healing,” in the words of the “Mi Shebeirach” prayer, Israeli musician Bat Ella might just have all the right tunes. A veteran folk singer and recording artist, Bat Ella spent more than a decade living and working in the U.S., where she forged a close professional relationship with celebrated Jewish-American singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, whose musical setting of “Mi Shebeirach” is perhaps her most beloved musical arrangement. Bat Ella recently spoke to Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash about her efforts to bridge the divide between Israeli and American Jews.
Continuing legacy: On June 14, Bat Ella will be the featured performer in a New York tribute concert to honor the legendary musician, who died in 2011 from pneumonia complications. “I want to take her torch and continue her legacy,” Bat Ella told JI. “I want to use her music to build a bridge between Israel and American Jewry,” she added, referring to two groups that are pulling apart and may very well be in need of a source of healing.
Inspiring a community: “Debbie had this ability to take prayers out of the synagogue and make them relevant to day-to-day life,” noted Bat Ella, 55, who regularly performed with Friedman in the U.S. and Europe. “She changed the whole concept of prayer and service in synagogues,” continued Bat Ella, describing how Friedman inspired community singing and revolutionized the place of the female voice in Jewish prayer.
Unlikely connection: Born to immigrant parents from Iran and Syria, Bat Ella’s deep connection to modern liturgical music so familiar to many American Jews is an unlikely one for someone who was raised in a secular household and never entered a synagogue as a child. “Sometimes life surprises you,” shrugged the singer as she told JI how she was introduced to Friedman’s music during her first trip to the U.S. as a teenager in 1983, as part of the Israeli Tzofim Friendship Caravan. “We traveled around the camps and the Jewish communities and congregations, and I started to hear Debbie,” recalled Bat Ella, adding, “As I got more familiar with her songs, I also learned that there are all kinds of Judaism, and that there is more than one way to be a Jew.”
☢️ Next Best Option: In The Hill, JINSA’s Eric Edelman and (ret.) Gen. Charles Wald suggest that it is time for the Biden administration to invoke “Plan B” in its dealings with Iran, arguing that negotiations have failed to bring about a new agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program. “Avoiding ‘a nuclear crisis in the Persian Gulf’ was [Iran envoy Rob] Malley’s justification for indefinite negotiations. But staying on this course will produce precisely the outcomes the United States wants to avoid. Already perched on the brink of the bomb (as a recent International Atomic Energy Agency report notes), and with Russia’s recent nuclear threats deterring direct U.S. intervention in Ukraine, Iran now has more incentive than ever to keep approaching the nuclear threshold while American diplomats bury their heads in the sand. Simultaneously, the administration’s inaction in the Middle East and underenforcement of U.S. sanctions, rather than earning Tehran’s goodwill, simply provide Iran with more money and opportunities to destabilize the region, attack U.S. interests and raise the risks of a major conflict. Left on autopilot, this approach increases the pressure the United States and its partners will have to apply to get concessions from Tehran, while shrinking their window to do so. Years of declining U.S. commitments in the Middle East make matters worse, as America’s partners and Tehran harbor serious doubts about Washington’s willingness to stop Iran’s nuclear and regional aggression.” [TheHill]
🛢️ Policy Pivot: In Bloomberg, Zev Chafets defends Israel’s reversal of its position on natural gas drilling, citing the need to adapt to the global energy crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The war in Ukraine has made it clear that it’s dangerous for a country to count on the goodwill of foreign suppliers for its energy needs. This is especially true for a country like Israel, a small nation in a hostile region. In the past 20 years, Israel has gone from being a net importer of fossil fuels to being self-sufficient, thanks to offshore gas drilling. The government is wise to preserve that independence and to take advantage of the demand from European nations looking for a substitute for Russian imports. Resuming gas extraction doesn’t mean that Israel is reneging on its climate obligations. Israel already is a global leader when it comes to sustainability, notably through technical innovations around fragile water supplies including desalination and sustainable agricultural irrigation.” [Bloomberg]
Around the Web
🕵️ Intense Investigation: The FBI seized electronic data belonging to former Marine Gen. John R. Allen as part of an investigation into Allen’s role in a campaign — involving a former ambassador to the UAE and Pakistan — to illegally lobby on behalf of Qatar.
✍️ Saudi Quandary: A group of House lawmakers, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), penned a letter urging President Joe Biden to proceed cautiously as Washington attempts to mend ties with Saudi Arabia.
👎 Map Mishegas: Israel condemned the recent publication of a map, created by The Mapping Project and circulated by a pro-BDS group in Boston, linking Jewish and Israel-related groups to media outlets and political and governmental entities.
🇷🇺 Out of the USSR: RabbiPinchas Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow, is living in self-exile in Israel after refusing to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
✈️ Jet Jurisdiction: U.S. federal authorities plan to seize two planes traced to Russian-Israeli businessman Roman Abramovich that they allege were flown to Russia shortly after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine without the approval of the Department of Commerce division tasked with signing off on such moves.
📉 Share Sag: Max Levchin’s Affirm, which provides loans to millennials and Gen Z-ers, has seen its shares plummet over 80% this year.
🏈 Key Play: Walmart heir Rob Walton is leading a group that will buy the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion, pending approval of the NFL.
🌆 Making it Official: Oren and Tal Alexander have left brokerage firm Douglas Elliman to launch Official, which is being backed by Side.
⚖️ Speedy Settlement: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld settled a pair of lawsuits concerning a $1.5 million sale of a Porsche, which the buyer alleged was inauthentic.
🖼️ Case Closed: The heirs of an Austrian man killed in the Holocaust won their yearslong legal battle against an art dealer to auction two paintings they claimed Fritz Grunbaum was forced to sell prior to his deportation to Auschwitz.
🎭 Stage Set: Playwright Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt,” a play loosely based on his own family’s history that traces the experiences of a Jewish family living in Austria through both World Wars, will open on Broadway in September.
💥 Car Crash: One person was killed and at least 8 injured when a car drove into a crowd outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin.
👩 Targeted Attack: The daughter of the deputy mayor of the Arab-Israel town of Shfaram, a known women’s rights and anti-violence activist, was killed in a car bombing.
⛽ Gas Guzzling: Israeli gas imports into Egypt hit an all-time high in March, two years after Cairo first began importing gas from the Jewish state.
⚠️ Travel Talk: Israel is warning citizens against traveling to Thailand, citing threats from Iran, a week after it issued a similar warning against travel to Turkey.
🇮🇷 Pointing Fingers: A statement from the U.S. to the IAEA’s board of governors blamed Iran’s refusal to drop its demand that non-nuclear sanctions be lifted for “preventing us from concluding a deal.”
📹 Closed Circuit: Iran has turned off two of the IAEA’s cameras monitoring enrichment at one of its nuclear sites.
❓ Mystery Death: An Iranian scientist reportedly working on the development of missiles and drones mysteriously died last month after attending a dinner party in Yazd, Iran.
🚨 Train Travails: Seventeen people were killed and more than 50 injured in a train derailment in eastern Iran.
🕯️ Remembering: Phil Ritzenberg, who served as editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week from 1983-1992, died at 90.
Song of the Day
“Zacharti” (I remembered), a new song by Naftali Kempe, Motti Feldman and Motti Illowitz.
Detective novelist, best known for creating the character of V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky turns 75…
Hebrew University mathematics professor and 2005 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, Robert Aumann turns 92… Partner in the Cincinnati-based law firm of Aronoff, Rosen & Hunt, he was a member of the Ohio State Senate (1967-1996), the last seven years of which he served as Senate president, Stanley J. Aronoff turns 90… Founder of the Family Dollar Stores chain of discount stores in 1959, he remained chairman and CEO until 2003, Leon Levine turns 85… Guru of alternative, holistic and integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil turns 80… South African businessman and philanthropist, formerly the chairman of De Beers, Nicholas F. “Nicky” Oppenheimer turns 77… Hedge fund founder and manager, founder of the Paloma Funds, Selwyn Donald Sussman turns 76… Founder and CEO of Sitrick and Company, Michael Sitrick… Classical pianist, teacher and performer at the Juilliard School and winner of a Grammy Award, he is the child of Holocaust survivors, Emanuel Ax turns 73… Community affairs advisor at Yeshiva High School of Arizona, Miriam Pinkerson… Former member of Knesset from the Zionist Union party, now a professor at Ben-Gurion University, Yosef “Yossi” Yona turns 69… Barbara Jaffe Panken… Senior advisor at Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based O2 Investment Partners, Rob Orley… Journalist, stand-up comedian, author, cartoonist and blogger, Aaron Freeman turns 66… CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Stacy Ritter turns 62… AVP for campaign at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Patti Frazin…
Businessman in the Russian energy sector and co-founder and CEO of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Stan Polovets turns 59… Winner of many Emmy and SAG awards, star of the long-running TV series “The Good Wife,” Julianna Margulies turns 56… Actor, screenwriter and producer, Dan Futterman turns 55… Former congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt near Tucson in 2011, Gabrielle Giffords turns 52… Actor who starred in USA Network’s “Royal Pains,” he also wrote and created the CBS series “9JKL,” Mark Feuerstein turns 51… Executive director at Consulate Health Care in New Port Richey, Florida, Daniel Frenden… Head of North America for the Jewish Agency and President and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development (JAID), Daniel Elbaum… Deputy chief of staff for Charlie Baker, the Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Emanuel Vallarelli… Senior educator at Hillel Jewish Student Center at Arizona State University, Suzy Stone… Founder of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Dasha Zhukova turns 41… Fourth-generation supermarket executive at Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland, Marshall Klein… Corporate litigation associate at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, Daniel Kirshenbaum… SVP of social media for CBS News, CBS Sports and CBS Entertainment, Eric J. Kuhn… CEO of the Bnai Zion Foundation, Rabbi Dr. Ari Lamm… Offensive tackle in the NFL for nine seasons, he started in 121 straight games in which he played every offensive snap, his Hebrew name is “Mendel,” Mitchell Schwartz turns 33…