👋 Good Thursday morning!
Israeli Defense Secretary Benny Gantz isn’t slated to speak at the Aspen Security Forum until this afternoon, but Israel’s military was never far from the conversation on the forum’s dais.
During a session that looked at the military’s ability to adapt to a changing technological and geopolitical environment, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, who spoke alongside Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, the Navy’s chief of naval research, pointed to Israel’s elite 8200 unit — a highly skilled tech unit within the IDF’s intelligence corps — as an example of how the U.S. could upgrade its military capabilities.
“If I were focused on what we need, is we need like a digital ROTC, a West Point that’s equivalent to [a] kind of digital and software,” Hoffman said. “We need that going into a service, whether it’s modeled on, you know, Israeli 8200 unit or other kinds of things.”
“The training and education needs to change,” NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, the session’s moderator, said. “Yes,” Hoffman responded. “The whole thing.”
“[Israel is] somewhat isolated. You’re in a challenging neighborhood,” Selby told JI following the panel conversation. “And you guys have figured out how to kind of internally turn out an innovation ecosystem…[Israel has] also figured out how to do that in the military.”
‘People love Joe Biden here,’ Nides says of the president’s reception in Israel
Hailing President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel last week as a huge success, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash on Wednesday that the two allies are more aligned than ever on previous flash-point issues and said he believed that the visit had changed Israeli public opinion towards the U.S. president and the current administration. “I think people love Joe Biden here,” Nides said in a phone interview. “I think if you now ask the average Israel, ‘Do you believe that Joe Biden cares about Israel?’ the answer would be 100%, yes.”
Closer than ever: While Biden’s two days in Israel passed with many encouraging platitudes and little controversy, some analysts reflected on the trip as underwhelming in comparison to visits by previous presidents and others pointed out that differences still remain between the U.S. and Israeli on geopolitical matters such as curbing Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons or finding possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nides, however, told JI that on thorny issues where the two allies have clashed in the past, the sides were “closer than ever in conversations,” both in public statements and behind closed doors.
U.S. has Israel’s back: On Iran, Nides said that Biden was very clear that “he would like a diplomatic solution to the crisis… He’s been clear about that from the day he ran for president. But he also said he is not going to compromise; he made it very clear he’s not going to stand by and let the Iranians get a nuclear weapon… [Biden] has been unbelievably consistent on this – yes, we would like a diplomatic solution, we’re not going to let the Iranians obtain a nuclear weapon and certainly we will not tie Israel’s hands,” the ambassador explained. “We have Israel’s back and everyone knows that.”
scene in aspen
Burns: U.S. will ‘do everything we can’ to encourage increased Israeli normalization in region
CIA Director William Burns said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden is hopeful that his trip to the Middle East last week “will help to reinforce what is clearly a positive trend line” and that Washington will “do everything we can” to promote increased ties between Israel and countries in the region, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports from the Aspen Security Forum.
Positive trend lines: Burns told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that the Biden trip occurred against the backdrop of a “rare” moment in which “there are at least some modestly positive trend lines in a part of the world where I spend a lot of time and learned the hard way that modestly positive trend lines are exceedingly rare.”
Odd bedfellows: The CIA director also weighed in on the visit to Tehran this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which state-owned oil companies from each country inked a $40 billion agreement that will see the development of Iranian gas fields and new pipelines to export the gas. “Russians and Iranians need each other right now,” Burns said, noting that both nations are under sanctions and each face political isolation.
Drone deal: CNN reported earlier this week that Russian officials have visited Tehran at least twice in recent weeks to examine Iranian drones that are able to carry precision-guided missiles. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last week that Moscow is seeking to purchase hundreds of drones from Iran to replenish its supply. “It’s true that the Russians are reaching out to the Iranians to try to acquire drones, UAVs,” Burns said. “It’s important, I think, for us to remember or to remind ourselves, when we look at that prospect, that the purpose of those drones is to kill Ukrainian civilians in a brutal and unprovoked war of aggression.”
on the hill
Human rights activists urge resumption of Houthi terror designation, Saudi weapons sales
A group of activists, led by a Yemeni human rights activist, were on Capitol Hill last week to deliver a message starkly at odds with the approach advocated by many in the human rights community: In order to aid the Yemeni people, the Biden administration should reinstate the Houthis’ terrorist designation and resume offensive weapons sales to the Saudi government, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Around town: The group was led by Wesam Basindowah, the president of the Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women, and included human rights and national security attorney and analyst Irina Tsukerman and Manel Msalmi, the president of the European Association for the Defense of Minorities, who also advises members of the European Parliament. The trip to Washington was timed to coincide with President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia last week.
In response: The State Department said this week that its focus is on maintaining the current truce in Yemen. “Humanitarian considerations continue to be an important factor in any decision regarding a Foreign Terrorist Designation of [the Houthis]. We are currently focused on securing, extending, and building on the U.N. truce in Yemen, which is having a tangible impact on millions of Yemenis and provides a credible opportunity for peace in Yemen,” a State Department spokesperson told JI. “The parties need to continue to choose peace and move toward a permanent ceasefire and the launch of an inclusive, comprehensive political process under U.N. auspices.”
🇷🇺 Putin’s Problems: Bloomberg’s Bobby Ghosh suggests that the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose trip to Iran followed President Joe Biden’s trip to the region, in the Middle East is on the decline. “But the illusion that Putin’s travels are of equal import as Biden’s can’t be sustained by his meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his fellow guest, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. If anything, Putin’s war on Ukraine has diminished his country’s stature in the region. Rather than offer solutions to geopolitical, economic and security problems created by US disengagement, Russia is now a source of new crises. Mounting grain scarcities and food inflation in the poorer Arab nations are a direct consequence of Putin’s belligerence. His continued support for Iran despite its nuclear brinkmanship is cause for frustration for Israel and the Gulf Arab states menaced by the regime in Tehran. Not that the Iranians are feeling especially grateful at the moment: Russia is undercutting their oil exports to China.” [Bloomberg]
🕍 Italian (Jewish) Renaissance: The Associated Press’ Frances D’Emilio spotlights Rabbi Barbara Aiello, an American rabbi who relocated to her father’s native southern Italy, from which he left prior to WWII, to revive the local Jewish community of Serrastretta. “When visitors arrive from abroad for ceremonies at her synagogue, Rabbi Aiello, who is 74, shows them the house in what had been the Jewish quarter in the nearby city of Lamezia Terme, where her father had been learning about his Jewish faith. She points out a plaque which reads: ‘In this quarter was active an industrious community’ of Jews from the 13th till the 16th centuries. One recent summer evening, as Aiello, who wears a yarmulke and necklace with a small Star of David, walked by en route to the ancient neighborhood, a local resident, Emilio Fulvo, 73, leaped up from a bench to greet her. When he was 15, Fulvo recounted, genealogical research discovered that his family has Jewish roots. Learning about his background ‘made me feel free,’ Fulvo said. ‘I knew something was missing’ while raised as a Catholic in southern Italy.” [AP]
🛍️ Wing and a Prayer: Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox interviews The Wing founder Audrey Gelman, two years after Gelman left the company — and the public eye — amid controversy to focus on family and new ventures, including a homegoods store in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood. “Tucked into a real-life block of nondescript brokerage firms and dry cleaners is the charming fictional village of Barrow’s Green, which Gelman made up, and that is where the Six Bells — both real-life and fictional — is doing business as a ‘country store of homewares from a world far away,’ as the hand-painted sign out front says. A corporeal metaverse for the so-called grandmillennials. Gelman has populated Barrow’s Green with a cast of characters to whom she gave backstories. Inside the store, she’s hung oil portraits she’s collected over the years to serve as avatars for the townspeople, with brass name plaques underneath to identify the likes of the town gossip, the businessman, the rabbi.” [VanityFair]
Around the Web
💰 Money Matters: WhatsApp founder Jan Koum donated $2 million to the AIPAC-affiliated United Democracy Project last month, according to its newly released June donor report. HighSage Ventures founder Jonathon Jacobson donated $1 million.
☢️ Nuke Deal: Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley told CNN that the odds of reaching a new nuclear agreement with Iran “diminishes by the day.”
🗳️ Spielberg Scenes: Filmmaker Steven Spielberg donated $20,000 — the maximum legal amount — to the reelection campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat. Separately, the Hollywood mogul made his music video debut, with a video featuring British band Mumford & Sons shot on the movie director’s phone.
💵 Money Matters: Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group investment fund netted $250 million in an early stage venture capital fundraiser.
💱 Crypto Kid: Bloomberg looks at FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s flurry of crypto transactions carried out over the past two weeks, which together amount to $1 billion.
🧑🍳 Hungry for History: The BBC spotlights a Budapest restaurant owned by a Holocaust survivor that features traditional Jewish-Hungarian cuisine.
🛰️ Army Announcement: The Israeli Defense Forces lifted a media ban on discussing its use of armed drones.
⚖️ Court Case: The International Legal Forum, an Israeli legal network, is appealing to the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations that the Palestinian Authority tortures journalists, dissidents and activists.
📈 Trending Up: Israeli exports are projected to reach $165 billion in 2022, up 15% from last year’s numbers.
🇲🇦 Morocco Moment: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, in Morocco this week, invited his Moroccan counterpart to make an official visit to Israel.
⚠️ War Warning: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah again threatened military conflict with Israel as the country negotiates a maritime dispute with Lebanon.
💼Transition: Kara Blond, the former executive director of the Capital Jewish Museum, is joining the National Archives as director of the Office of Presidential Libraries.
Pic of the Day
New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs and Tablet magazine’s Armin Rosen spoke at the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn last night at the launch of Tech Tribe’s Twelvex — a series of 10 events over the next 12 months exploring the intersection of tech, culture and the soul.
CEO of Fanatics, until last month he was a minority owner of the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) and New Jersey Devils (NHL), Michael G. Rubin turns 50…
President at Admar Group, Henry Dean Ostberg turns 94… Chilean born classical music composer, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University, Leon Schidlowsky turns 91… Escondido, Calif., resident, Leonard Simon Zoll… Retired CEO of Sony/ATV, Martin Bandier turns 81… Professor emeritus in the Department of Physics at Bar-Ilan University, Shlomo Havlin turns 80… Director of the Center for the Political Future at USC, Robert Shrum turns 79… Criminal defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman turns 74… Former member of the U.K. Parliament, now in the House of Lords, Baroness Susan Veronica Kramer turns 72… U.S. senator (R-WY), John Barrasso turns 70… Chairman and CEO at Quantitative Financial Strategies, Sanford “Sandy” Jay Grossman turns 69… Professor at Columbia University’s medical school and the president of NYC’s Central Synagogue, Shonni Silverberg, MD… Professor at Columbia Law School and daughter of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Carol Ginsburg turns 67… Irene Ostrovsky… Comedian and actor, Jon Lovitz turns 65… Former chief rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt turns 59…
Literary agent and the co-head of at William Morris Endeavor book department, Eric Matthew Simonoff turns 55… Actress and producer, Alysia Reiner turns 52… Professor of astronomy at MIT and winner of a 2013 MacArthur genius award, Sara Seager turns 51… Brazilian fashion designer best known for avant-garde designs and eclectic prints, Alexandre Herchcovitch turns 51… Founder, president and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) and the Electrification Coalition, Raphael “Robbie” Diamond… Rabbi of Congregation Bais Naftali and teacher at Mesivta Birkas Yitzchok in Los Angeles, he is also a motivational speaker, Rabbi Yoel Gold… Online media personality and product manager on the Adobe Spark team, Veronica Belmont turns 40… Youth and teen engagement coordinator at Manhattan’s B’nai Jeshurun, Aniko Gomory… Writer and political activist, Chloé Simone Valdary turns 29… Policy analyst at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Zachary A. Marshall… Talent acquisition partner at Drizly, Rachel Elizabeth Nieves… Attorney in Madrid and recent secretary general of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, Elias Cohen…