👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Ed. note: The next edition of the Daily Kickoff will arrive on Tuesday morning. Enjoy the Labor Day weekend!
Nearly 30 House Democrats have signed onto a draft letter expressing fresh concerns about the Iran nuclear deal, which appears to be moving toward a conclusion following months of stalled negotiations, Jewish Insider has learned.
The letter is being circulated by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), who previously marshaled the support of 18 House Democrats to publicly express varying degrees of concern about the negotiations. Twenty House Democrats have publicly expressed concerns about the looming agreement, with others who opposed the original 2015 deal staying silent pending the finalized text.
The most recent letter, addressed to President Joe Biden, has picked up more than 40 signatories, a majority of them Democrats, an individual familiar with the letter told JI. The letter began circulating on Sunday and will close for signatures on Wednesday, the individual said.
JI has learned that the letter expresses concerns about specific alleged provisions of the proposed agreement text that have been publicly reported. The lawmakers are set to argue that, given recent Iranian attempts to attack U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, any reduction or loosening of U.S. sanctions would be inappropriate. Without any sanctions relief — a key element of the 2015 nuclear deal — Iran would be unlikely to agree to a new deal.
The letter voices specific objections to reported provisions modifying U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and lifting sanctions on Iran’s central bank, national development fund and national oil company.
The lawmakers further contend that Russia should not be allowed to serve as the repository of Iran’s enriched nuclear material, nor be allowed to engage in any nuclear projects with Iran — including a $10 billion civilian nuclear project for which the administration has reportedly agreed to waive sanctions.
The letter requests that the administration not sign any deal before releasing the complete agreement to Congress, briefing lawmakers and seeking input from other stakeholders.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR, died in Moscow yesterday at age 91. The reforms that the Soviet leader ushered into his country ultimately pushed it to collapse, effectively ending the Cold War and ushering in a new global era.
In Clyde Haberman’s 1992 New York Times write-up of Gorbachev’s visit to Israel — with the headline “Israel Welcomes Gorbachev as a Hero” — he noted the influx of hundreds of thousands of Russians to Israel in the previous three years and quipped, “so one more Russian arrival should probably not cause heads to turn.” At the time, Haberman reported, the Israeli daily Maariv referred to Gorbachev as “the most important person who ever visited the land of Israel,” citing his efforts to loosen emigration laws, enabling the exodus of Russian Jews to Israel and the West.
Why the Biden administration stopped talking about a ‘longer and stronger’ nuclear deal with Iran
Not long after Joe Biden clinched the Democratic nomination in 2020, he and his team of foreign policy advisors began to use a new phrase to describe their vision for a renewed nuclear deal with Iran. “I’ll work with our allies to make it longer and stronger,” Biden said at a 2020 fundraiser, one of dozens of public instances in which top administration officials — on the campaign trail and then in the White House — would call for a “longer and stronger” deal to last longer the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and curb not just Iran’s nuclear program but also its malign regional activities. Now, as Washington awaits a response from Iran on America’s comments on a draft nuclear agreement negotiated by the European Union, top U.S. officials are no longer calling for a “longer and stronger” deal, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Official outlook: In the early months of the Biden administration, everyone from the president to Secretary of State Tony Blinken to Jen Psaki, the former White House press secretary, had used the phrase. And for a presidential administration that strictly sticks to fine-tuned, top-down language on controversial policy issues, it was clear that “longer and stronger” was administration policy for a time. When those same officials ceased using the term, it suggested something had shifted.
What changed: A review of statements from the White House and the State Department shows that Biden administration officials stopped using the phrase in June 2021, amid an Iranian election campaign that would result in the election of a president whose foreign minister said in September that the country would not sign onto a “longer and stronger” agreement. But the Biden administration never explained publicly what changed for them. JI did not receive a response to an inquiry sent to the State Department seeking an explanation about the policy change.
Messy reality: “Campaigning is about telling people what they want to hear. Governing is usually a much messier process, determining what exactly you’re going to get,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has served in Democratic and Republican administrations and who supports reentering the JCPOA. “I think that when ‘longer and stronger’ was enunciated, I think there wasn’t much conviction that in fact it could be achieved.”
Jamaal Bowman, the incumbent
Two summers ago, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) scored a major victory for the progressive left when he prevailed over a Democratic incumbent who had been safely ensconced in his Bronx and Westchester County district for more than three decades, writes Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. In his upset against former Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), an outspoken supporter of Israel who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Bowman also delivered a blow to the pro-Israel establishment, which invested heavily in the race. Democratic Majority for Israel spent nearly $2 million on Engel’s behalf alone, to no avail. He lost by 15 points.
Bellwether battle: The bitter primary helped set the stage for an emerging Democratic conflict between the party’s mainstream and activist wings, which has shaped a growing number of races where opposing approaches to Israel have figured prominently. This cycle, however, Bowman’s campaign for a second term in New York’s redrawn 16th Congressional District was largely devoid of such tensions, at least at the national level. Even if his Middle East policy positions have shifted leftward since he entered the House, pro-Israel groups determined that Bowman was likely unbeatable and stayed out of the race, resisting invocations from local Jewish leaders who believed otherwise.
DMFI declines: Far from it, as last Tuesday’s results showed. Bowman won decisively with 57% of the vote, trouncing his moderate challengers, Vedat Gashi and Catherine Parker. With a total of 41% between the two Westchester County legislators, the outcome suggested that Bowman would likely have clinched the nomination even if he had faced only one opponent. For DMFI, the result was proof that pursuing a rematch with Bowman would almost certainly have been ill-advised. It was “clear that this was not a race in which” DMFI was “going to make a difference,” a pro-Israel strategist familiar with the group’s thinking told JI. “Obviously, other people disagreed with that assessment.”
Behind the scenes: Meanwhile, AIPAC conducted polling in the district and came to a similar conclusion, several sources told JI. The polling broadly indicated that Bowman would win unless one of his opponents dropped out. But as both candidates remained in the race, Jewish leaders concluded that their second best course of action was to unite behind one of them, according to an email chain where local activists discussed their options — and ultimately failed to arrive at an agreement. “There is still time to rid ourselves of our anti-Israel representative, if we can get out of our own way,” wrote one frustrated Jewish leader.
‘Harder to dislodge’: Jake Dilemani, a Democratic strategist who worked on Parker’s campaign, said Bowman will no doubt be even more firmly established when he defends his seat next cycle. But he acknowledged that there is always an element of unpredictability, as Bowman’s first campaign demonstrated. “Each successive term it becomes harder to dislodge an incumbent,” Dilemani told JI. “That said, he dislodged an incumbent.”
on the hill
Just over half of 2022 Nonprofit Security Grant Program applications approved
Just over half of the applications submitted for Nonprofit Security Grant Program funding in 2022 were approved, according to new data for the 2022 application cycle — a slight improvement from the prior year, even as funding shortfalls for the program continued, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
By the numbers: The program, which provides federal funding for nonprofits and houses of worship to improve their security, received 3,470 applications and granted 1,821, according to a source familiar with the data, for an overall acceptance rate of 52%. The applications totaled slightly over $447 million in funding requests, well outstripping the $250 million available for the program; 5% of that $250 million was also set aside for the states that play a role in distributing the funding.
Year over year: Funding was increased to $250 million in 2022 from $180 million in 2021, leading to a slight increase in the proportion of applications accepted, even as the volume of applications and the total funding requested also increased. In 2021, 46% of the 3,361 applications submitted — totalling nearly $400 million — were funded.
Up next: Congressional leaders and Jewish community groups are pursuing $360 million in funding for the program in 2023 — which has been the Jewish community’s funding target for multiple years. But the $360 million target would likely still leave many applications unfunded — even if application volume does not continue to increase. Lawmakers and advocates for the program emphasized that this year’s data highlights the need for the 2022 funding increase and the importance of efforts to increase funding to $360 million for 2023. But some also signaled openness to upping their funding goals in future years.
Quotable: “While I’m proud of our work to raise the Nonprofit Security Grant Program funding to a historic level last year, I also understand that it still isn’t enough to meet the growing need for this program,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) told JI. “I will continue working to increase our investment in this program for the next fiscal year so we can help save lives and keep communities safe.”
Looking ahead: Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy, noted that even with record-high funding, “demand outstripped” supply, which “points the need for increasing the funding at least to the $360 million level that we’ve been advocating for.” Diament said that he’s prioritizing hitting the $360 million mark for 2023, which has been “in the range” of the necessary funding in past years. “It’s the kind of thing that could potentially go up and down depending on circumstances so I think if we get to $360 [million], we’ll be much closer to meeting demand on a consistent basis,” he said.
🇺🇳 Biased Body: In the New York Daily News, Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff calls for the dissolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry against Israel in the wake of antisemitic comments by Miloon Kothari, one of its members. “The UN could play a productive role in fostering peace in the Middle East. Instead, it is bent on producing biased reports against the state of Israel and serving as a hotbed for the new antisemitism, in which hatred of Jews is presented as human rights activism. From the notorious 1975 General Assembly resolution equating Zionism to racism, to the Goldstone report in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the UN has a miserable record on these matters. It could start down the long road to improving its reputation by sacking Kothari and disbanding this kangaroo-court panel.” [NYDailyNews]
🗳️ Mastriano’s Methods: The New York Times’ Charles Homans looks at far-right Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s untraditional run for governor, which began in the early days of the pandemic, when the state senator would take to social media to directly address people at home. “Mr. Mastriano has continued to run a convention-defying campaign. He employs political neophytes in key positions and has for months refused to interact with mainstream national and local reporters beyond expelling them from events. (His campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this article.) He grants interviews almost exclusively to friendly radio and TV shows and podcasts that share Mr. Mastriano’s far-right politics, and continues to heavily rely on Facebook to reach voters directly. ‘It is the best-executed and most radical “ghost the media” strategy in this cycle,’ said Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser, who said other Republican strategists were watching Mr. Mastriano’s example closely.” [NYTimes]
💰 Firming Up: TechCrunch’s Rebecca Szkutak talks to Kli Capital partner Elias Davis about the VC’s evolution from its origins as a family firm. “While every VC touts their ability to add value beyond the check, Kli’s portfolio company founders are willing to come to bat for them. Micha Breakstone, the founder of heath tech company NeuraLight, said that Davis invested in NeuraLight’s seed round and helped them structure the round after one of the investors had backed out. This was before Kli was technically on the cap table. The support didn’t stop there. ‘When I moved to Austin he flew out and spent the weekend with me and my wife,’ Breakstone told TechCrunch. ‘It’s white-glove service. We are part of the team in a deep meaningful way. I know very few investors that would fly out and help you set up an HQ in Austin.’” [TechCrunch]
Around the Web
🧯 Hate Charge: A Brooklyn teen accused of spraying two Hasidic men with a fire extinguisher has been charged with harassment and assault as a hate crime.
🏀 Full-Court Mitzvah: eJewishPhilanthropyreports on how a friendly basketball tournament among day school students in Baltimore has grown into an annual fundraiser in support of Maryland’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
👮 Campus Beat: An antisemitic banner found hanging at the University of California, Davis, has prompted an investigation by campus police.
🥯 Getting Shmeared: Canadian food distributor Liberté discontinued its cream cheese, a popular product within Montreal’s Jewish community.
🧬 Deep DNA: Researchers in England found the remains of medieval Jewish pogrom victims in an abandoned well in Norwich.
💊 Pill Power: An Israeli study revealed Pfizer’s COVID-19-fighting pill, Paxlovid, reduced death and hospitalization rates in individuals over 65, but made little difference among other groups.
🤝 Defense Pact: Israel and Japan signed an agreement to ramp up military ties between the countries amid increased tensions in Asia and the Middle East.
📄 Stampede Probe: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be held partially responsible for the stampede deaths of 45 Lag B’Omer celebrants killed at Mount Meron in 2021, according to an incident investigation.
🇮🇶 Iraqi Attack: U.S. officials say the drones used in an Aug. 15 attack on an American military compound in Syria were sent by Iraqi militants.
⚓️ Capture and Release: A sea drone operated by the U.S. Navy was captured by Iran and then immediately returned when American forces approached, according to Navy officials.
Pic of the Day
Visitors are seen inside the former Nazi concentration camp of Krakow-Plaszow in Poland this week.
World-renowned violinist and conductor, Itzhak Perlman turns 77…
Howard Crim… Attorney and a member of the boards of UJA-Federation of NY, JCRC-NY and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Joseph Rafalowicz… Screenwriter for television and film, Lowell Ganz turns 74… Member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Steve Soboroff turns 74… Health care policy expert and brother of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), David Blumenthal turns 74… 2004 Nobel laureate in Physics and professor at California Institute of Technology, Hugh David Politzer turns 73… Professor emerita of journalism and women’s studies at American University and author of seven books on marriage and relationships, Iris Krasnow turns 68… Owner of thoroughbred racehorses including the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Ahmed Zayat (a/k/a Ephraim David Zayat) turns 60… Television host including “Antiques Roadshow” and “Temptation Island,” Mark L. Walberg turns 60… Gold medalist in volleyball at the Maccabiah Games in 1997, she is currently the athletic director at Seattle University, Shaney Fink turns 50… Physician assistant now serving as a senior clinical director at NYC’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, Lyudmila Milman… Israeli poet, translator and literary editor, Sivan Beskin turns 46… Communications director at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Jessica Levin Raimundo… Senior account director at W2O Group, Nick Horowitz… Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud turns 37… SVP for critical infrastructure at Venn Strategies, Bennett E. Resnik… Political reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan… Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir turns 42… Southwest regional political director of AIPAC, Deryn Sousa… Israeli fashion model, Yael Shelbia Cohen turns 21…