👋 Good Monday morning!
The Aspen Security Forum wrapped up on Friday in Colorado, featuring a slate of high-profile current and former administration officials.
Victoria Nuland, the Biden administration’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, addressed the status of Iran talks in Vienna, which have been stalled for months as Iranian and U.S. officials have been on opposing sides of a debate over removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Foreign Terror Organization designation.
“The deal is sitting there on the table for the taking, if the Iranians want it,” Nuland told CNN’s Jim Sciutto, who moderated Friday’s session. “There’s only one decision-maker in Iran. It would get their oil back on the market. It would get them some relief from some of the sanctions that have come on. But so far, they haven’t chosen to go in that route… Frankly, the Iranian people pay the price as their prices go up and inflation goes up and if he doesn’t take the deal, we’re gonna have to increase the pressure of course.”
Nuland was more optimistic about the odds of reaching a deal than MI6 chief Richard Moore, who the day prior said he didn’t believe that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wanted to reach an agreement. “It’s interesting that they haven’t thrown over the table yet,” Nuland said. “They haven’t walked away when they could have done that over these many months where the deal’s been ready and sitting there. So, you know, let’s see what happens.”
The comments were made hours after International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi warned that Iran’s nuclear program is “galloping ahead.”
Last week, we reported on newly proposed bipartisan legislation that would require the White House to submit to Congress regular, detailed reports on the state of Iran’s nuclear program. The Iran Nuclear Weapons Capability Act of 2022 is cosponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Shortly after the bill’s introduction, Iran’s Foreign Ministry warned against its passage, saying that such moves could further endanger the stalled nuclear talks in Vienna.
Iran will be a hot topic on the Hill this week. House Foreign Affairs Committee members will receive a classified briefing on Thursday on the status of the stalled negotiations.
Heard in aspen
Rice: Israel’s booming tech sector key to warming relations in region
Relations between Israel and a number of Gulf nations have improved in part because of regional interest in Israel’s technology sector, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports.
What she said: “Think about Israel and the Gulf states and what is developing there,” Rice said during a panel at the Aspen Security Forum alongside former National Security Advisors Tom Donilan and Stephen Hadley. “Think about the fact that you could actually be at a place where the Arabs end the state of war against Israel — really end it. And why? Not because they’ve learned to love the Jewish democratic State of Israel, but because the smarter of them have realized that in order to modernize their own economies and not be completely dependent on oil, that they’re going to have to deal with the 800-pound gorilla on technology in the region, and that’s Israel.”
Regional dynamics: Rice praised President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, calling the trip “a very good thing,” while noting she disagreed with Biden’s stance toward Riyadh during the primary, during which time he pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state, a pronouncement made after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “I think the problem was the first position, because who isn’t going to go to Saudi Arabia?” Rice said. “Name an American president who is not going to go to Saudi Arabia at some point. So don’t say that you’re not going to go to Saudi Arabia. You’re going to go to Saudi Arabia, because of economic reasons and because of stability in the Middle East.
SPOTLIGHT ON MI-13
Israel emerges as flash point in Detroit-area race
Michigan’s 13th Congressional District has emerged as another battleground for pro-Israel forces. In the race, United Democracy Project, the AIPAC-affiliated super PAC, has spent $3.1 million in recent weeks to back state Sen. Adam Hollier. Support for Hollier in the district, which includes parts of Detroit and its suburbs, is being driven in part by concerns about one of his opponents in the nine-candidate field, state Rep. Shri Thanedar, a wealthy entrepreneur who has self-funded his campaign to the tune of $8.2 million, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Rewind: In May 2021, amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Thanedar co-sponsored a resolution in the Michigan House urging Congress to halt aid to Israel. The resolution described Israel as an “apartheid state” and accused it of “countless human rights violations.” Thanedar has since attempted to walk back his support for this legislation and frame himself as a supporter of Israel, requesting in January, shortly after he announced his campaign, to remove himself as a co-sponsor, shortly after declaring his candidacy for Congress.
Walk-back: Thanedar told JI in early June that his initial support for the resolution calling to end aid was “an emotional reaction” to last May’s conflict and said he had not been as focused on foreign policy issues until he began his congressional run. “When I was formulating my Israel policy, I felt that resolution did not fit with, and upon more reflection, more reading, I felt that the language in there was not in line with my thinking,” he said. “It was a mistake.”
New lens: For his part, Hollier, who has mixed Black and Native American ancestry, told JI that this background gives him a “really unique” perspective on Israel policy. He compared the thorny issues in Israeli-Palestinian relations to “complex” questions about land rights and sovereignty for Native tribes in the U.S. “I think about the incredible grace that the Israeli government has tried to manage, and dealing with the complex issue of where is their nation, who are Israeli citizens, who are not Israeli citizens,” he said. “These are the kind of issues that tribal governments are dealing with right now. It’s a huge issue, right?”
Israeli tech startup Wilco closes experience gap for aspiring software engineers
A rookie software engineer sits at his desk and faces a problem he’s never encountered before, at least not in his college coding class. The wrong fix could cost his company millions, but luckily the stakes here are much lower. This engineer is honing his skills at a fantasy company on an online platform that works much like a flight simulator for aspiring pilots. When the Israeli startup Wilco launched its simulator platform last month, On Freund, the company’s CEO, and his founding partners were taking a page out of the playbook used by pilots, architects and race car drivers by creating a simulation experience for software engineers to gain new skills and master existing ones regardless of someone’s career opportunities or background, The Circuit’s Sophie Cohen reports.
Hands-on practice: Engineers using Wilco complete various “quests” that allow them to practice troubleshooting problems that commonly arise in real-world situations, but in an engaging way that’s akin to a video game. “I quickly realized that there is a difference between the theory which they have learned in school and the actual hands-on practice that takes years to come by,” Freund told The Circuit. The quests, Freund said, grew out of experiences Wilco’s partners faced in their own careers as developers.
How it works: In 2021, Freund, Alon Carmel, Wilco’s chief products officer, and Shem Magnezi, the startup’s chief technology officer, came together to launch Wilco with $7 million in seed money; the platform is accessible to any software engineer regardless of their background or location.
🎼 Musical Harmony: The New York Times’ Patrick Kingsley visitsthe Israeli city of Ramla, where a new underground musical exhibition blends the city’s mixed Arab-Jewish cultures. “When the reservoir was built in 789, the city’s residents fetched water by lowering buckets from small gaps in the reservoir’s roof. Today, the project’s loudspeakers hang from the same openings. Emanating from those speakers is a 22-minute cycle of four Arab love songs, each played simultaneously with four Jewish religious poems. All the songs and poems are at least a century old, and each of the four pairings is set to a different Arab tune. In one matchup, an Arab folk song popularized in the 1970s by Fairuz, a Lebanese singer, is set against a Jewish poem written in the 19th century by Rafael Antebi, a Syrian-born rabbi. The Arabic song depicts a hypnotized lover while the Hebrew verse addresses an exiled Jew’s yearning for Zion. All the songs and poems were recorded by a team of three singers — two Jewish and one Arab. Then they were blended together by Dor Zlekha Levy, an Israeli artist who led the project, and Yaniv Raba, an Israeli composer.” [NYTimes]
💻 Zeligs of Tech: The New Yorker’s David Heller spotlights Russian-born brothers and serial entrepreneurs Daniil and David Liberman. “Few members of the general public have heard of the Libermans or their work, which has a looping, manic trajectory, like an ant’s climb up a candy cane. Yet they belong to a rising techie class that quietly traffics novel-seeming ideas among powerful people, shaping the wider world we live in along the way. In the past decade, the brothers led the design of the 3-D-Bitmoji feature on Snapchat, helped put out a hit Russian political-satire show, and devised an approach to capping corporate returns for investors. They have a way of popping up, like a lanky, pale Bill and Ted, in the background of interesting moments, with improbable associates. One friend of theirs calls them ‘hilariously networked.’” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🤝 Sidelines Huddle: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper on the sidelines of the Aspen Security Forum late last week.
📺 Ad Buy: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is launching a new ad ahead of the Aug. 23 member-on-member primary against Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in New York’s newly drawn 12th District.
🎓 Campus Beat: A complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education by the Washington, D.C.-based American Center for Law & Justice alleges that schools within the City University of New York — which weeks ago were the subject of a New York City Council hearing — are a “pervasively hostile environment for Jewish students,” citing incidents at a number of the system’s 25 schools.
💸 Cash Strapped: Newly posted financial filings reveal that progressives running in New York are falling short of matching the fundraising numbers being posted by mainstream competitors in primary races across the state.
🏫 Holocaust Horrors: Faculty at the University of Strasbourg are reckoning with the school’s complicity in Nazi atrocities during WWII, which included experimentation on the bodies of Jewish victims from a nearby concentration camp, that for decades administrators had sought to distance the institution from.
💣 AMIA Bombing:The New York Times spotlights a new report from the Mossad that found that Hezbollah — with the approval and support of Iran — bore the brunt of responsibility for the early 1990s attacks on the Israeli embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that collectively killed more than 100 people.
🛒 Spar-ing Partner: The Dutch supermarket Spar is set to open a chain of franchises in Israel in 2023.
🛫 Taking Off: El Al is returning its Boeing 777s to service to meet the demand posed by the recent uptick in summer travel.
⚠️ Warning Shot: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned that Russia’s threatened shuttering of The Jewish Agency for Israel’s operations in the country would hurt relations between Moscow and Jerusalem.
🛥️ Sinking Feeling: The Israeli navy sunk a Palestinian boat it alleged was carrying equipment to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, after the vessel ignored numerous calls to stop.
🏊 Sinkhole Tragedy: An Israeli man in the central town of Karmei Yosef was killed when a sinkhole opened up underneath a pool he was swimming in.
🕯️ Remembering: Holocaust survivor Werner Reich, who learned magic tricks from a fellow inmate in Auschwitz and would go on to become a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, diedat 94. Edward Feiner, a former chief architect for the federal government, died at 75.
Pic of the Day
Ribbons with names of inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto during a ceremony in Warsaw on Friday marking the 80th anniversary of the mass deportation of the ghetto residents to the Treblinka death camp.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, she is a staff writer at The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum turns 58…
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising participant and Holocaust survivor, she is the subject of the 2021 documentary “I am Here,” Ella Blumenthal turns 101… Former publisher/editor-in-chief of Jewish Lights Publishing, Stuart M. Matlins turns 82… Cinematographer, whose work includes “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” Peter Suschitzky turns 81… Former member of the New York City Council, Alan N. Maisel turns 76… Born in Casablanca, entrepreneur and film producer, he produced “The Woman in Red” and “Weekend at Bernie’s,” Victor Drai turns 75… Former IDF Brigadier General, he was part of Operation Entebbe in 1976, later a member of Knesset, Efraim “Effi” Eitam turns 70… Voiceover artist, Peter Grossman… Chairman of Vibrant Capital Partners and chair emeritus of the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Philip Darivoff… Screenwriter, director and producer, Darren Star turns 61… Retired MLB pitcher from the small Jewish community in the Dominican Republic, he maintains a kosher home, José Bautista turns 58… Israeli journalist, television news anchor and author of a non-fiction book and a novel, Oshrat Kotler turns 57… National director and CEO of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Rabbi Steven Weil… Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, he is a NYC-based criminal defense attorney, Arkady L. Bukh turns 50… Head coach of the men’s basketball team at Kent State University, Rob Senderoffturns 49… SVP of health policy and advocacy at PR firm Weber Shandwick, Erin Seidler… Film and television actor, Michael Welchturns 35… Baseball pitcher on the Israeli national baseball team, now a real estate broker at Avison Young, Joseph “Joey” Samuel Wagmanturns 31…