👋 Good Monday morning!
As the U.S. waits for Iran’s response to its comments on a European Union-submitted nuclear deal proposal — which Iranian state media reported would not be given until this Friday at the earliest — Israeli officials are registering their concerns with American officials.
Mossad head David Barneais scheduled to travel to Washington to discuss negotiations with Iran. Barnea had warned last week that he felt the deal had been finalized and was days away from being signed.
The review comes amid a series of back-and-forth attacks by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and American forces in Syria, which has become a staging ground for proxy battles between U.S., Iranian, Israeli and Turkish militaries, among others.
Earlier today, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made a rare public address in which he warned Israel against attacking components of Tehran’s nuclear program, suggesting that if Israel attacks, it “will see if anything from the Zionist regime will remain or not.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports, Tehran and Moscow are enjoying “tighter ties than ever,” as the two countries deepen their trade and military cooperation amid growing global isolation and as they both face international sanctions — Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, and Iran over its nuclear efforts and support of terror proxies throughout the Middle East.
Former U.S., Israeli officials downplay perceived tension between Trump, Netanyahu
Former Israeli and U.S. officials are seeking to downplay any perceived disparities or tension between former President Donald Trump and Israel’s former long-serving leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following the publication last week of a memoir by Trump’s former special advisor, Jared Kushner. Speaking to Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash last week after Breaking History: A White House Memoir, Kushner’s 500-page recollection of his time in the White House, hit shelves, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and, separately, a former Trump White House official, who asked that his name not be used so he could discuss sensitive matters, concurred that even the strongest relationships can experience miscommunications or disagreements. Throughout Trump’s four years in office, both former officials emphasized, communication was good and relations very warm.
At odds: In his book, Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, recalls two specific incidents when Trump and Netanyahu appeared to be at odds despite public perceptions that both were populist politicians who shared a similar approach and worldview. The first was in December 2017, ahead of the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv; the second was when Netanyahu, Kushner said, shocked Trump and Kushner by declaring his intention to annex parts of the West Bank as the Trump administration rolled out its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
Lukewarm response: In describing events leading up to Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy, Kushner recounts a phone call the president made to the Israeli prime minister: “On December 5, the day before the planned announcement, Trump called Bibi and told him the news,” he writes, using Netanyahu’s popular nickname. “Bibi said he’d support the move, if that’s what the president wanted to do, but he didn’t sound overly enthused.” Netanyahu’s lukewarm response, recounted Kushner, prompted the president to begin “second-guessing his decision.”
Fully supportive: “I haven’t read Jared’s book, but to argue that the prime minister of Israel was not supportive of the decision of Trump to recognize Jerusalem is ridiculous,” Dermer told JI in an interview. “We made it clear that we supported this decision from beginning to end.” Dermer, who served in Washington from 2013 until 2021, admitted that moving the embassy wasn’t necessarily Israel’s top priority at the time – that would have been Iran – but, he said, “We were fully supportive of this decision.”
Surprise announcement: In reference to Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel would apply its sovereignty to 30 percent of the West Bank – land that Palestinians hope will one day become part of a national state – Kushner recounts his own surprise as the Israeli prime minister congratulated Trump for being “the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage.”
Supporting annexation: Dermer told JI that the misunderstanding was likely connected to the timeline of Israel’s application of sovereignty over areas already designated in the plan to be under Israeli control and whether or not Netanyahu agreed to establish a Palestinian state in exchange for annexation. The former senior White House official told JI also that the misunderstanding — which is how Kushner characterizes the incident in his book — did indeed stem, in large part, from the timing. “There is no question that the president was amenable and that we were pushing forward with annexation. The only question was about the timing of said annexation,” the former official told JI, confirming reports that there had been an exchange of letters between Trump and Netanyahu assuring White House support for annexation.
Frost primary victory draws ire from anti-Israel activists
Last Tuesday, Maxwell Alejandro Frost burst onto the national stage as he claimed victory in a Democratic primary for an Orlando-area House seat, where he is now poised to become the first member of Generation Z elected to Congress. The 25-year-old progressive activist has received accolades from a chorus of prominent elected officials who endorsed his bid. But at least one group wasn’t so pleased with Frost’s positions on Israel, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Dissenting voice: On the evening before the primary, Florida Palestine Network (FPN), a local advocacy group, released a furious statement charging that Frost had “lied and deceived his early supporters” within the pro-Palestinian community when — in recent comments to JI — he expressed support for continued U.S. military assistance to Israel and rejected the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as “problematic.” The statement, written anonymously, said Frost had “committed to ending military aid to Israel” and “supporting” the BDS movement in a Zoom conversation last March.
Broken promises? During the meeting, Frost also “promised” not to distribute a Middle East position paper without “the approval of FPN,” the statement said. FPN accused him of breaking that vow, claiming it was “shocked to learn” Frost had written an “anti-Palestinian” position paper without seeking input from the group. FPN, which did not respond to requests for comment, demanded an “immediate apology” as well as a “recommitment” to “centering Palestinian human rights.”
Frost’s response: A spokesperson for the Frost campaign, Kevin Lata, confirmed the meeting had taken place but said, without elaborating, that he did “not agree with FPN’s accounting of the events.” “Maxwell is someone who wants to lean in with different folks on a wide variety of issues,” Lata said in a statement to JI. “He believes that a two-state solution, and subsequent policies that lead to it, is the strongest and quickest path toward peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
‘Pro-Israel’ and ‘pro-Palestinian’: In his position paper, Frost describes himself as “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestinian,” pledging to support funding for U.N. agencies serving Palestinians. He also argues in favor of “robust U.S. assistance that benefits the Palestinian people,” as long as it remains “in compliance with the Taylor Force Act,” a U.S. law that withholds aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ends payments to families of Palestinians convicted of terrorism. “Our commitment to Israeli security,” Frost argues, “must run parallel to our commitment to ensuring the dignity and humanity of the Palestinian people.”
UAE incubator prepares women-led startups to confront desert
When Ghita Bahmad, a Moroccan-born researcher in Canada who was working on innovative ways to grow fruits and vegetables in the desert, needed to raise funds for her vertical-farming startup last year, she went to the Dubai Expo. Bearing the name The Food Engineer, Bahmad’s company uses a misting technique called “aeroponics” to grow walls of lettuce and herbs that require no soil and 95 percent less water than conventional farming. At an Expo networking event, Bahmad rubbed shoulders with a range of Middle East investors and emerged with backing from Dana, a business incubator launched two years ago that supports so-called “desert-tech” companies founded by women, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports for The Circuit.
Accords influence: Dana is among the young Middle East firms that have cropped up amid growing cooperation between the Gulf states and Israel, which culminated with the Abraham Accords in 2020. The three women who founded the business include an American, a Jewish Israeli and a Palestinian citizen of Israel. After a vetting process for early stage startups, the firm’s venture arm is prepared to invest between $350,000 and $1 million in the companies, in partnership with other funds and investors, co-founder Katie Wachsberger said. It expects to have about $25 million in capital and make its first investments in mid-2023, Wachsberger added. “At the end of the day, creating sustainable solutions for our region must be commercially viable,” said Wachsberger, 30, a native New Yorker who runs the Abu Dhabi headquarters as chief operating officer. “Otherwise, we can’t expect our economies to transform as they must toward carbon neutrality and food security.”
Partners: Companies currently working with Dana include Israel’s BioCloud, which produces an herbal pesticide used in cultivating medical marijuana and other greenhouse crops; SunBox, a solar-energy startup from the Gaza Strip; and Eco-Bricks, a maker of bricks recycled from construction sludge, which is based in the West Bank city of Hebron. Businesses from the UAE and Saudi Arabia are also consulting with Dana, Wachsberger said.
🗳️ Power Player: The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner spotlights Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas ahead of Israel’s next elections, when the first Arab politician to lead a bloc in the Israeli Knesset could be positioned to play kingmaker for a second time. “Mr. Abbas also said that he had learned valuable lessons during his first time in government. He cited an episode in which he suspended Raam’s participation in the coalition after Israeli-Palestinian tensions over a Jerusalem holy site and a deadly wave of Arab terrorist attacks. With the fate of the government in the balance, the country was forced to wait on a decision of the Shura Council, Raam’s Islamic-style advisory body, before the party could rejoin the coalition. The episode illustrated how pivotal Mr. Abbas and Raam had become, but it also exposed the precarious nature of their positions. Mr. Netanyahu exploited the fears of many Jewish Israelis worried about the Arab influence in the government, saying it had been ‘held hostage by the Shura Council.’ ‘I admit it was an own goal,’ Mr. Abbas said. ‘We didn’t have any experience of how to be in a coalition.’” [NYTimes]
🎙️ Real Time: In The Spectator, Jamie Kirchick interviews TV host Bill Maher from Maher’s Los Angeles podcast studio about the TV host’s views on the evolution of Democratic politics. “Maher points to the Middle East as an example of the left’s abandonment of liberal values. ‘The left has given up on Israel,’ he says, a country that ought to earn liberal sympathy by dint of its being a ‘western democracy’ in a region populated with despots and religious fanatics. As is so often the case, the anti-Israel phenomenon is ‘mostly a young people thing. Because they don’t think past this: the Palestinians are browner and poorer, so they must be the good guys… We always have to break things down into oppressed and oppressor.’” [Spectator]
✍️ Faith and the Fatwa: In the Wall Street Journal, Reuel Marc Gerecht explores the history of the fatwa against writer Salman Rushdie and calls for his protection following an assassination attempt earlier this month. “In 1989 Iran’s supreme leader divided the world into three parts — the West and East, both led by infidels, and the Muslim-led but Western-harassed Third World. Infidels are by definition misguided and prone to ignorant, invidious ideas. Muslims historically didn’t concern themselves with European aspersions on the faith or its prophet. Even after the Europeans started to defeat Ottoman and Mughal armies, Muslims remained mostly self-assured and oblivious to Christian criticism. But that changed as Muslim elites began to Westernize. For many faithful Muslims, Mr. Rushdie, an Indian Muslim by birth, was the quintessential example of this new, thoroughly secularized global elite. He was hopelessly fallen and had committed a capital offense.” [WSJ]
🌎 New Doctrine: The Washington Post’s David Montgomery looks at the efforts by Secretary of State Tony Blinken and the Biden administration to address present threats and chart a new course for American diplomacy. “[President Joe] Biden and Blinken are attempting something larger than a post-Trump reset and restoration of the traditional liberal internationalist approach to foreign policy. They must confront a radically different context from the days when they both served under President Barack Obama: While still preeminent, America’s power abroad — relative to close rivals like China — is diminished. At home, its model as a functioning democracy is tarnished amid an insurrection investigation and paralyzing polarization. Existential crises like climate change and the threat of global pandemics overshadow geopolitical disputes and require leadership and collective responses. On top of it all, vast swaths of the American public question the value of international engagement in the first place, making us a less reliable partner. America may be back now — but for how long?” [WashPost]
Around the Web
🕍 Ancient Wonder: The Circuit spotlights a mosaic of Noah’s Ark discovered in the ruins of an ancient church in Jerash, Jordan, which is believed to be built on top of a synagogue.
💰 Not-So-Secret Donors: Politicoobtained the tax documents for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s Stand For America, Inc. nonprofit, which show the former South Carolina governor has received backing from Paul Singer, Bernie Marcus and Miriam Adelson and her late husband, Sheldon Adelson.
👨 On a Roll: New York magazine looks at the series of political wins scored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) after a challenging first year leading Senate Democrats.
🔼 Oversight Overlord: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) will seek the top seat on the House Oversight Committee following Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-NY) primary loss last week.
🚓 Cut! And Run: Filming in Baltimore for the new Natalie Portman film “Lady in the Lake” was halted when crew members were accosted by local gang members attempting to extort production staff.
📱 Troublesome Tweet: A New York activist group is under fire for a social media post in which it mocked the names of two Jewish politicians.
🎓 Campus Beat: The dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law denounced a recent demand by 10 student groups to adopt a bylaw that would prohibit pro-Israel speakers from appearing on campus.
🥪 Deli Demise: A newly opened Jewish deli in Doylestown, Pa., that closed after less than a week in business blamed the abrupt shuttering on a dispute with the landlord and antisemitic sentiment in the community.
✡️ New Jewish Exodus: The Conversation looks at the history of Russian antisemitism and the most recent exodus of Russia Jews following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
💻 Wielding Influence: The New York Times spotlights Nuseir Yassin, an Israeli-Palestinian social media influencer who moved to the United Arab Emirates following the Abraham Accords and has faced criticism from Palestinians for the move.
🕯️ Remembering: Steven Hoffenberg, a former associate of Jeffrey Epstein who spent 18 years in federal prison for his role in a Ponzi scheme, died at 77.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer Ishay Ribo released his newest single, “Techef Yipatach,” yesterday.
Hip-hop fashion designer, entrepreneur and artist, born in Lakewood, N.J., as Marc Milecofsky, Marc Ecko turns 50…
Interior designer and fashion icon, Iris Apfel turns 101… Lakewood, Calif., resident, retired insurance agency owner, Joe Lissak… Longtime movie and television actor, Elliott Gould turns 84… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration, Robert Rubin turns 84… Head of Yeshiva Ahavat Shalom in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Hillel turns 77… Hotel and real estate mogul, she was confirmed by the Senate three weeks ago to be the U.S. ambassador to Malta, Connie Milstein turns 76… Former dean of Duke Law School following 17 years as a U.S. District Court judge, David F. Levi turns 71… Founder of Yad Sarah and former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski turns 71… Los Angeles resident, Warren B. Stern… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration, Jacob Joseph ‘Jack’ Lew turns 67… Former senior counsel at the Federal Communications Commission for 23 years, Amy L. Nathan… Director of operations at Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue, Laura Kamer-Israel… CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the first woman in JDC’s history to hold the position, Ariel Zwang… Journalist, author and blogger, Lisa Frydman Barr… Partner at D.C.-based HLP&R Advocacy, Jerr Rosenbaum… Election law guru at Dickinson Wright PLLC, Charles R. Spies… Author and senior editor for books at The Atlantic, Gal Beckerman… Rosh Yeshiva and head of school at Bnei Akiva Schools in Toronto, Rabbi Seth Grauer… Israeli computer hacker, known as “The Analyzer,” Ehud Tenenbaum turns 43… Rabbi of Congregation Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill, NJ, Michael Z. Davies… Television and film actress, Lauren Collins turns 36… Winner of the Tiberias Marathon and the Jerusalem Marathon, mother of five children, Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch turns 33… Robin Rubin… Adam Shapiro…