👋 Good Thursday morning!
President Joe Biden arrived in Israel yesterday for his 10th trip to the country and his first as president. He was greeted at Ben Gurion Airport by Israeli President Isaac Herzog — who referred to Biden as “our brother Joseph” — Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and ministers from the Israeli government in a festive ceremony including warm and welcoming speeches, as well as a performance by the country’s military band.
Lapid said Biden’s visit was both “historic” and “deeply personal.” “It is historic because it expresses the unbreakable bond between our two countries, Our commitment to shared values: democracy, freedom and the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own,” he said. “It is also a personal visit, because your relationship with Israel has always been personal. You once defined yourself as a Zionist. You said that you don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.”
Biden recalled his first trip to Israel, in 1973, meeting with then-Prime Minister Golda Meir and with a young Yitzhak Rabin. “I look back on it all now, and I realize that I had the great honor of living part of the great history of this great — and I did say and I say again, you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist,” he said.
Biden immediately received a security briefing from Defense Minister Benny Gantz and inspected Israel’s multi-tiered air-defense capabilities, including its newest system, the Iron Beam. Director General of Israel’s Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel also presented the new high-powered laser interception system to Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who are both traveling with the president.
Biden then visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, where he met with two Holocaust survivors – Rena Quint and Giselle Cycowicz, both U.S. citizens. The president was reportedly teary eyed as he spoke to the two women, ages 86 and 92, respectively.
In an interview with Channel 12’s Yonit Levi, Biden dismissed anti-Israel voices within the Democratic Party. “There are few of them. I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend.” Biden added that “there’s no possibility, I think, of the Democratic Party or even a significant portion of Republican Party, walking away from Israel.”
Earlier today, Biden held a bilateral meeting with Lapid and the two signed “The Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration,” affirming the strategic partnership between the two countries, with the U.S. pledging never to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and committing to partnering with other countries to confront Tehran’s aggression and destabilizing activities in the region. In a brief press spray after the meeting, Lapid and Biden joked that they’d only discussed a key issue: baseball.
Biden and Lapid also held the first-ever virtual summit of the I2U2 with the leaders of India and the United Arab Emirates. A statement from the White House noted that the group “aims to harness the vibrancy of our societies and entrepreneurial spirit to tackle some of the greatest challenges confronting our world, with a particular focus on joint investments and new initiatives in water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security.”
Later today, Biden will visit the residence of President Herzog and also meet with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before attending the opening ceremony of the 21st Maccabiah Games in the evening.
view from dc
Senators weigh in on Saudi-Israel normalization, Iran as Biden lands in Middle East
As President Joe Biden began his four-day trip through Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, senators weighed in from Capitol Hillon what they hope to see from Biden while he’s in the region, with lawmakers across the political spectrum telling Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that they would support any effort by the administration to advance relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Two tracks: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) urged Biden to take “constructive steps toward normalizing relations with other countries in the Middle East,” but said that any such efforts should have “the proper preconditions… that ensure that American values are being honored.” He explained, “We have a whole history of ensuring that human rights and other interests are also made a part of any formula.”
Across the aisle: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), who has emerged as a prominent critic of some aspects of the administration’s Israel policy, said he would “applaud it” if the president “sees the value in the Abraham Accords and continues to push forward on that.” He added, “I’ve heard some encouraging news that that may well be the case.”
Balancing act: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who led a recent letter to the administrationlabeling “any interaction” with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince “profoundly disturbing,” told JI he feels that there is a way for the U.S. to facilitate normalization “in the interest of security and peace” while remaining “very tough” on Riyadh, without elaborating further on what such an approach might entail.
No trust: Biden said in an interview with Israeli TV’s Channel 12 that aired on Wednesday that he would not remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorism designation, and said military force against Iran is possible as a “last resort” to stop the regime’s nuclear program. Biden’s comments were met with skepticism by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “He’s negotiating [with] an Iranian regime that’s trying to kill former American officials, so I don’t know how you can take anything else he says at face value as long as he’s doing that,” Rubio said.
Barriers ahead: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pledged that he would work to block any resumption of offensive arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a move reportedly under consideration by the Biden administration. He helped lead a successful effort to block weapons sales to the oil-rich kingdom in 2019. “It’d be an absolute capitulation of Biden and against everything Biden said he stood for,” Paul said. “He said human rights would make a difference in who we sold arms to. And he’s really played games with it.”
Bonus: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who’s been outspoken in efforts to reform educational materials produced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, told JI that a “disappointing” new report that found pro-terrorism, antisemitic and anti-Israel content in new UNRWA-produced study materials “highlights how little UNRWA has progressed” toward reforms it had pledged to the U.S. it would enact.
Daniel Silva paints a new picture for Gabriel Allon
Israel’s leading spy doesn’t make it to the top of the Mossad without making a few enemies. The same could be said for Daniel Silva, the New York Times bestselling author whose iconic protagonist, Israeli spy chief Gabriel Allon, will soon return to bookshelves. Silva told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch that vitriol comes with the territory. “If your character is an Israeli intelligence officer, I mean, from the get-go you’re controversial, and your character’s controversial. His very existence offends a subset of readers,” Silva said.
Attacked online: The latest release comes a year after Silva’s previous novel, which featured a not-so-subtle Jan. 6-like attack on the U.S. Capitol and other similarities to American current events, sparked a wave of vicious online reviews from some political conservatives. “To be honest with you, I thought it was going to be worse than it actually was,” he admitted.
New story: Portrait of an Unknown Woman, Silva’s 25th novel, features a recently retired Allon — for real this time, or so he says — who escapes a brush with death that involved a QAnon adherent in Washington, D.C. In the series’ latest installment, Allon leans into his spy cover as an art restorer, traversing Europe to investigate and expose an art forgery ring. This time, he’s a freelancer, and not an Israeli agent.
Making history: The book begins with a brief tour of Allon’s goodbye parties in Israel, including one that is attended by an Emirati diplomat, a hint at the regional changes brought about by the Abraham Accords. Silva credits the Mossad with the real-world shift. “I would say there would be no Abraham Accords if it wasn’t for a lot of the security arrangements and long-standing ties that Mossad has fostered with these — both the frontline states, like Jordan and Egypt, and obviously, the Gulf states,” he explained.
Real-life experience: Earlier in his life, Silva, 62, documented some of these trends as a Cairo-based journalist. He met his wife, Jamie Gangel, a CNN special correspondent, while they were covering the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. He mostly covered Arab countries during his reporting days: “It was hard to go back and forth in those days,” he said of why his Mideast coverage rarely took him to Israel. But, he added, “I was issued a second passport by the State Department that I could use to travel to Israel to keep the stamps out of the passport that I used in the Arab world, because if you had any Israeli entrance visas, you could get off a plane at a place and be turned around.”
Personal connection: Silva grew up Catholic, but converted to Judaism after meeting Gangel. Being Jewish “is an important part of our life,” Silva said, though he declined to share more — he told JI his connection to religion is private.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum honors Auschwitz-Birkenau museum director
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., presented its National Leadership Award to the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Dr. Piotr Cywiński, in a ceremony on Wednesday commemorating the historic site’s 75th anniversary, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller reports. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland opened to the public in 1947 on the grounds of the Auschwitz death camp two years after the end of World War II, following a debate among Holocaust survivors about the fate of the camp. Cywiński, who holds a doctorate in history, has directed the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum since 2006.
Worthy honoree: Stuart Eizenstat, who chairs the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and serves as the State Department’s special advisor on Holocaust issues, explained to Jewish Insider that Cywiński “created a new educational center, he’s kept the preservation of things like the barracks, which would otherwise have deteriorated, he had built up the visitorship to over 2 million a year before COVID, and he’s been a fantastic partner of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.”
Remembering the past: The ceremony, which was attended by about 50 people, included a discussion between Cywiński and Sara Bloomfield, the director of the D.C. museum, about the site’s history and importance. In the conversation, Cywiński acknowledged Holocaust denial in Poland under Soviet rule, but sidestepped commenting on Polish leaders’ more recent flirtations with Holocaust denial. He also discussed a recent Russian propaganda effort that digitally doctored photos of Auschwitz to include anti-Russian graffiti on the walls, noting that the bulk of visitors to the camp hail from Europe, North America, Israel and the Far East, especially South Korea. “My main goal is not to know who is entering Auschwitz,” Cywiński said. “My main goal is to know who is leaving Auschwitz… My hope is that the people who are leaving after three, four, five or eight hours… they are going out with not only some facts, some empathy or some reflections about the past, but also with moral anxiety about their choice.”
💰 Setting Conditions: In the Wall Street Journal, Sander Gerber and Michael Koplow suggest that the Biden administration condition its reopening of a Jerusalem consulate for Palestinians on the cessation of Palestinian Authority payments to the families of individuals who commit terror attacks. “Mr. Biden took office with a stated goal of rebuilding ties with the Palestinians, and despite Palestinian dissatisfaction, policies have been implemented that do just that. Economic and humanitarian assistance to the West Bank that is consistent with Taylor Force restrictions has resumed, and the president’s budget request for the next fiscal year continues that aid. American diplomats have met regularly with Palestinian officials, including Mr. Abbas. If the Palestinian leadership wants the PLO mission in Washington reopened, they must take seriously the U.S. bipartisan message on terrorism payments. And if the Palestinians genuinely want to reset relations with the U.S. and begin to regain what they have lost, this week they should seize what may be their only opportunity to speak with Mr. Biden on their own turf.” [WSJ]
😡 Corruption Concerns: In The Washington Post, Babak Dehghanpisheh spotlights the allegations of corruption being leveled at the government of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. “The cases — some involving government ministries or implicating high officials — have stoked popular anger at a moment when Iranians are reeling from rising prices and an economic downturn, conditions caused by a combination of Western sanctions, an accelerating global economic crisis and the government’s removal of subsidies on basic goods… The allegations have been especially embarrassing for Raisi, who campaigned last year on an anti-corruption platform in an election in which most of the competition was sidelined and less than half of the electorate voted. Now, the credentials of some of his political allies are being called into question by lawmakers and the public.” [WashPost]
🇮🇱 Aerial Alliance: Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer considers the positive effects of increased security and defense cooperation between Israel and Gulf states. “If the air-defense alliance proves itself and becomes more formal, there is talk in Israel of much more ambitious cooperation with Arab countries, especially in the Gulf. The multi-mission radar used by Iron Dome, David’s Sling and balloon-borne Sky Dew radar offer more flexible detection capabilities. More radars in the Gulf also mean that Israel will have earlier indication of potential attacks. In the more distant future, there is talk of deploying the laser interceptors which are scheduled to become operational around Gaza on Israel’s southern border next year. The outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett even tweeted last month about a future satellite-based program to intercept ballistic missiles. ‘This new generation of Israeli air defense systems will serve our allies, who are also exposed to severe threats from Iran,’ he said earlier this year at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference.” [Haaretz]
☢️ Addressing Threats: Describing Israel as the “last line of defense” against Iran’s nuclear aggression, Rich Goldberg, who co-hosts JI’s “Limited Liability” podcast, writes in the New York Post that Israel should be given the space to act as it sees fit against Iran. “Over the past weeks, Jerusalem has widened its covert campaign against Iran — conducting clandestine strikes, cyber-attacks and assassinations deep inside the Islamic Republic. At a minimum, Biden should commit to his counterpart that the US will not get in Israel’s way. Better though would be an offer of US support through a combination of intelligence coordination, expedited defense transfers, and covert action — while simultaneously ratcheting up economic and diplomatic pressure to further weaken the regime, even as the president insists publicly his goal is a return to a nuclear deal.” [NYPost]
Around the Web
👋 Quick Trip: A Secret Service employee was sent home from Israel on Monday after being briefly arrested by police in Jerusalem for a “physical encounter” in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda shuk.
🏡 For Sale: A Colorado vacation home belonging to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was put on the market for $29.9 million, months after the death of her husband, Richard Blum.
⚖️ Deposition Dodger: Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder is reportedly avoiding being handed a subpoena to appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
📽️ Coming Soon: Netflix and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions are joining forces on a film version of the Young Adult novel You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah!
🥗 On the Menu: Israeli chef Einat Admony joined “Good Morning America” to share Mediterranean recipes.
🚓 Behind Bars: Police in Hornell, N.Y., charged three individuals with 115 felony hate crime counts after they distributed white supremacist literature across the Western New York town, including at a local synagogue.
🖼️ What Lies Beneath: Curators at the Hecht Museum in Haifa discovered three new sketches from modern artist Amadeo Modigliani hidden beneath another Modigliani painting, making the discovery during an X-ray of the canvas.
🛩️ Air Allies: The New York Times reveals how Arab states are allowing Israeli fighter jets into its air space to shoot down Iranian drones, in a sign of growing cooperation between Israel and the Arab world.
🛢️ Gas Game: Hezbollah chief Hassan Narallah warned Israel that it would escalate with military action should a maritime border dispute with Lebanon over a gas field between the two countries not be resolved in Beirut’s favor.
🌍 Hampering Hezbollah: Diplomatic and security officials from the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and 27 other countries held a two-day summit on how to approach and counter Hezbollah’s influence.
🤝 Back to the Table: An Iranian Foreign Ministry official said that Tehran and Riyadh have both expressed interest in continuing talks to resolve disagreements.
🗣️ Deal Dynamics: France’s new foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, said that the window for reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “will close in a few weeks,” to which Iran responded that it will not budge from its “rightful and logical” position in the talks.
🇮🇷 Iran Revenge: A new U.S. intelligence report suggests that Iran may target current or former senior U.S. officials in retaliation for the 2020 targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
🎯 On Strike: The U.S. said it killed ISIS’s top Syria leader in a drone strike on Tuesday.
Pic of the Day
The note left by President Joe Biden yesterday in the visitor’s book at Yad Vashem.
Signing the visitor’s book, Biden wrote: “It is a great honor to be back — back to my emotional home — we must never, ever, forget because hate is never defeated — it only hides. We must teach every succeeding generation that it can happen again unless we remember. That is what I teach my children and grandchildren. Never forget. Joe Biden.”
Rapper and record producer from Brooklyn known as “Ill Bill,” William “Bill” Braunstein turns 50…
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