👋 Good Thursday morning!
Michigan state Rep. Shri Thanedar was declared the winner of the Democratic primary in the state’s 13th Congressional District, edging out state Sen. Adam Hollier by 4.8 points, 28.3% to 23.5%. Hollier’s defeat marked only the second time a United Democracy Project-supported candidate has lost. Read on for Jewish Insider’s interview with UDP CEO Rob Bassin and AIPAC PAC Director Marilyn Rosenthal.
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee swiftly passed the Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act, which would create a dedicated office for managing the program and support increased funding to $360 million. The version of the bill that passed the House proposed $500 million annually.
A group of five Democratic House members is in Israel this week on a delegation led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and run by J Street. The group also includes Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA).
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Brooklyn-based Iranian human rights activist Masih Alinejad yesterday. Speaking on behalf of President Joe Biden, Sullivan expressed “profound concern over Alinejad’s physical safety, and commended the work of law enforcement agencies for their actions to ensure the protection of Alinejad and her family,” according to a White House readout of the call. Sullivan “further noted that President Biden will continue to receive updates on her situation, and indicated that the United States stands with Alinejad and all those in Iran who demand equal rights and dignity.”
Three decades on, peace between Israel, Jordan takes off – slowly
Nearly three decades after signing a peace treaty, Israel and Jordan took a tiny step forward toward warming ties this week with the announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid that his government would accelerate a neglected project to build a joint Israeli-Jordanian industrial zone straddling the banks of the Jordan River, The Circuit’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Tension remains: Touted as a “breakthrough” and a step toward “civil peace,” the Jordan Gateway plan fits snugly within the broader process of normalization taking place between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. However, while both Israel and Jordan stand to gain economically from this shared venture, lingering tensions between the countries, including anti-Israel sentiment among many Jordanians and Israeli bureaucracy tied up with ongoing electoral chaos, will likely mean progress is slow, analysts and those working on the project say.
Important step: “I’m hesitant to say this signifies a normalizing of relations between Israelis and Jordanians,” Oded Eran, Israel’s former ambassador to Jordan, told The Circuit. “However, if this project does finally come to a conclusion, it will be an important step, psychologically, because it has become a lingering symbol of the failure of the relations between Israel and Jordan,” added Eran, now a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Positive dynamic: Ksenia Svetlova, a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and the Israel Middle East program director for Mitvim, an Israeli think tank, drew a parallel between the new momentum on the industrial zone and the Abraham Accords, saying that the Accords might be playing a role in renewing ties and reviving the joint economic plan. “The generally optimistic and positive dynamics of the Abraham Accords have had an impact on Israel’s veteran normalization partners, Egypt and Jordan,” she maintained. “There have been more developments in the past two years than there were in the previous 10 years with both these countries, so I think that generally, there was more inspiration in promoting important economic projects between Israel and Arab countries in the region.”
Vedat Gashi gains Engel’s endorsement in bid to oust Bowman
In New York’s redrawn 16th Congressional District, where freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) is hoping to fend off a moderate primary challenger, the district’s former longtime representative has waded into the race, backing his successor’s opponent. Former Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who represented parts of the Bronx and Westchester for more than three decades, is bucking Bowman and endorsing Vedat Gashi, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller has learned.
New blood: Gashi, an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia who currently serves as a Westchester county legislator and a Democratic district leader, is running a kitchen-table-issues campaign in the solidly blue district, contrasting himself with Bowman, who identifies himself with the “Squad,” a cohort of progressive lawmakers. Two other candidates — Catherine Parker and Mark Jaffe — are also running, but trail far behind Bowman and Gashi in fundraising. Parker has raised $145,000 to Bowman’s $909,000 and Gashi’s $462,000. (No FEC filings for Jaffe were visible.) A source with knowledge of Gashi’s campaign told JI that Gashi trails Bowman in internal polling.
Rave reviews: “Vedat is the type of leader we need in Washington, D.C. – someone who understands the unprecedented times we are facing and who will work with President Biden and fellow Democrats on our shared democratic values,” said Engel. “Someone who will work to achieve real results and real progress, not rhetoric or partisan politics.” Engel, a top Democratic legislator who chaired the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee and helped lead the first impeachment investigation into former President Donald Trump, lost his seat to Bowman in a bitter 2020 primary.
Foreign affairs: When it comes to issues beyond the district, Engel and Gashi share several priorities. Both have an affinity for Kosovo, whose statehood Engel vocally supported in Congress, earning him celebrity status — and a street named after him — in the Balkan country. Gashi also aided Kosovo in its early days of statehood, flying to his birthplace to help draft some of the country’s foundational legal documents. “I’ve gotten to know [Engel] a little bit through the work in Kosovo,” Gashi said. Additionally, the two are strong supporters of Israel. Engel, who was known as a staunchly pro-Israel member of Congress, opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and once sponsored a resolution declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. Gashi supports legislation aimed at expanding the list of Arab nations that have normalized relations with Israel as a result of the Abraham Accords.
Pro-Israel PACs break down primary strategy
As the first primary season of AIPAC’s newly formed PAC and super PAC — in which the two frequently dominated conversation in political circles — begins to wind down, AIPAC PAC Director Marilyn Rosenthal and United Democracy Project CEO Rob Bassin spoke to Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod in a joint interview on Wednesday to discuss their results and explain their strategies.
Victory lap: UDP, Bassin noted, has become “the largest bipartisan super PAC in the country” — it has spent $24.3 million, second only to the conservative Club for Growth in total outside spending — and has won seven of the nine races in which it has spent money. “By any measure, we’ve had a very successful start to our operations,” he told JI. Rosenthal said, “We’ve achieved some extraordinary results in a very short period of time.” The PAC “is allowing us to clearly define who is and who is not pro-Israel. And that is the objective, essentially, of what we’re trying to achieve,” she added.
Politics and policy: The groups’ wins show “being pro-Israel is both good policy and politics,” Rosenthal argued. Israel has not, however, been a primary deciding factorfor voters in many of the races in which UDP has been involved, and its messaging in the races has not revolved around Israel. “I would just say about that, first of all, the issues that UDP has focused on have been the issues that are foremost on the minds of voters,” Bassin responded. “That being said, I think the views of the candidates on the U.S.-Israel relationship have been made clear on their websites and their position papers and in their voting records.” Rosenthal added that pro-Israel candidates “have raised great deals of dollars from AIPAC members because of their support for Israel.”
What’s next: Bassin declined to say whether UDP plans to get involved in any other races this cycle, but left the door open to the possibility. Incumbent members of Congress make up the large majority of AIPAC PAC’s endorsements, as well as a dozen non-incumbents, mostly from safe districts. Rosenthal said the group is “looking at opportunities” in the remaining primary races and the general election, but hasn’t yet decided whether it’s going to make endorsements in highly competitive general election races.
Strategy session: Bassin explained that UDP has honed in on races where “there is a sharp contrast between a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship… and a detractor of that relationship” and where “we believe our involvement can make a difference in the outcome of that race.” He continued, “The super PAC has been focused on detractors of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Friends of the U.S.-Israel relationship have been supported through the PAC and the portal.” Rosenthal explained that, in addition to races where there are clear divisions among candidates on Israel, the PAC’s endorsements also take incumbency into consideration, as well as backing open-seat candidates who have “identified themselves as champions and leaders if they were to get elected.”
🗳️ Getting Greitens:Politico’s Alex Isenstadt looks at the successful GOP effort to keep former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens from winning the party’s nomination to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). “‘There can be no question that Greitens’ candidacy threatened Republican control of this Senate seat. Nominating him would have put in play a seat that Republicans absolutely shouldn’t have to worry about,’ said Peter Kinder, a former Missouri lieutenant governor. ‘There was clear need for someone to assemble the resources to tell the truth about him that had never been told.’” [Politico]
🤝 The Arab Initiative: In The Hill, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s David Makovsky and Dennis Ross suggest that Arab states could play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “Consider how the UAE approached the issue of full normalization: Its leaders tied it to Israel not taking a negative step toward the Palestinians. Other Arab states could offer variations of this model. For example, the Saudis could offer to open a commercial trade office in Tel Aviv, something that would serve their interest in building a resilient, tech-driven economy; for this, they could ask the Israelis to stop building to the east of the security barrier in the West Bank, meaning Israel would not build on 92 percent of the West Bank. That would preserve the two-state outcome, even as it demonstrated to the Palestinians that the Saudis were preventing incremental Israeli annexation.” [TheHill]
✍️ Language Barrier: In The Atlantic, Cynthia Ozick reflects on her post-WWII letter exchange with a former German soldier, who, she would learn decades after his death, would go on to be a renowned sociologist. “Together with nearly everyone else, I had opted for French. German, especially for a Jewish student in 1942, was a sinister tongue contaminated by its criminal speakers, repellent in its very substance. The massive murders of European Jews were already in progress when, in that same year, the infamous 90-minute Wannsee Conference systematized and codified the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question,’ a concealing German euphemism among others equally flagrant. The term deportation invokes a kind of authoritarian dignity — Napoleon on Elba, say — papering over the terror of outright savagery in the abduction of millions of defenseless Jews torn from their homes. Was I to be condemned to the penalty of learning German solely for the sin of flunking algebra?” [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
👍 Armed Against Iran: The White House approved two arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia worth more than $5 billion collectively, for weapons that will be used to defend against Iran.
🚗 Tragic Accident: Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) was killed, along with two staffers, in a car accident in her district.
📺 Attack Ad: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker released an ad attacking his Republican challenger over comments equating abortion to the Holocaust.
🧊 On Ice: Unilever froze the salaries of the directors of its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s, ahead of mediation between the two over Unilever’s sale of its Israel-based Ben & Jerry’s operation to a local manufacturer.
🇨🇦 Not-so-nice Neighbors: An official Canadian report found that Jews in the country were the most-targeted minority group, despite making up 1% of the population.
🔍 Ratings Wrongdoing?: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is looking into whether Morningstar violated state law through environmental, social and governance evaluations, which have come under fire for past biases against Israel.
🎓 Campus Beat: Michael Steinhardt will step down from New York University’s board of trustees.
🤣 Laugh Track:Varietylooks at how Larry David’s hit show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” incorporates Jewish themes into its storylines.
🚀 Sky Safety: Israel plans to spend $150 million on the development of its Iron Beam laser-defense system.
☢️ Back On: Nuclear talks will resume in Vienna this week following a months-long stalemate between Iran and Western powers.
🕯️ Remembering: Former Warner Records executive Mo Ostin died at 95.
Pic of the Day
A 4-year-old in Israel receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Tel Aviv health center on Tuesday, following the launch on Sunday of a nationwide vaccination campaign for children ages 6 months to 5.
CEO of Aspiration financial services firm), author and former White House speechwriter, Andrei Cherny turns 47…
Professor emerita of American history at Yeshiva University and Stern College, she is an expert on the history of McCarthyism, Dr. Ellen Wolf Schrecker turns 84… Talmudic scholar and a leader of New York’s Sephardic Jewish community, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim turns 82… President at Salco Mechanical, Michael Salzberg… Board chair of the Jewish Funders Network, Marcia Riklis… SVP and chief growth officer at the NYC HQ of the Anti-Defamation League, Frederic Lewis Bloch… Retired professor in Memphis, Sheldon Dan… Longtime former member of the Knesset for Likud, Silvan Shalom turns 64… Executive producer of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” Michael Gelman turns 61… 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama turns 61… Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot turns 60… Attorney general of Minnesota, Keith Ellison turns 59… Administrative manager at Edelman, Helen Lapkovsky… Editor-in-chief of PwC’s management magazine “strategy+business,” Daniel Gross turns 55… Editor-in-chief of Cuepoint at Medium, Jonathan Miles Shecter (also known as Shecky Green) turns 54…
U.S. Representative (D-NY), he is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Hakeem Jeffries turns 52… Chief political correspondent for Fox, Bret Baier turns 52… Broadcast meteorologist at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., Steven Rudin… Washington director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block… Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay turns 50… Columnist and senior editor at Politico, Michael Schaffer… SVP and head of the D.C. office of Team Lewis, Caren Beth Auchman… CEO of Something Major, a leadership coaching and advisory firm, Randi Braun… Assistant director in the geostrategic business group at EY, Ben-Ari Boukai… Head of sales and operations at Riverside[dot]fm, Jonathan Keyson… Childhood student at the Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, he is now the placekicker for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Greg Joseph turns 28… Natalie Roberts… Evelyn Murphy…