👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we cover Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s meeting with President Joe Biden, as well as an upcoming trip to Israel for Bronx civic and political leaders being led by Rep. Ritchie Torres. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Asher Bennett and David Rubenstein.
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is slated to present its controversial report at 10 a.m. ET. Ahead of the session, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan is scheduled to speak at an event hosted by the activist group StandWithUs, where he will address issues surrounding the commission, which has been denounced by both American and Israeli officials in recent months for its biases against Israel and for including members that have trafficked in antisemitic stereotypes. A cohort of Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is co-sponsoring the event.
The Conference of Presidents called on diplomatic representatives at the U.N. to reject the commission’s findings. The letter, obtained by JI and sent to every U.N. member state, refers to the commission as a “malicious and illegitimate body,” citing antisemitic and anti-Israel comments made by its members.
Efforts to denounce the report extended to Washington, where a readout from President Joe Biden’s meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog noted Biden’s condemnation of “the persistent scourge of anti-Semitism, including anti-Israel bias in international fora.”
And on Capitol Hill, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), the new chair of the House’s Middle East subcommittee, issued a statement rejecting the findings of the commission, which he said was established “to cherry-pick and work to damage the Jewish State.” In a joint statement, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the leading voices on the subject in the Senate, called the report “as unsurprising as it is distorted and incomplete,” noting that the document does not address Hamas’ actions during the 11-day conflict in May 2021.
Yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield met in New York with representatives from roughly a dozen Jewish organizations. “The ambassador certainly discussed broadly the importance of combating the resurgence of antisemitism,” including at the U.N., said Elana Broitman, senior vice president for public affairs at Jewish Federations of North America, who attended the off-the-record meeting. The group discussed the Commission of Inquiry, but Broitman and other participants declined to share specifics from the conversation. Read more here.
The most in-demand ticket for D.C.’s Jewish community last night was a standing-room-only reception for President Herzog, hosted in the scenic waterfront penthouse residence of his brother, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Mike Herzog, with balcony views of the Potomac River, the Washington Monument and the Kennedy Center.
Among those who packed into the Herzogs’ living room were Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and UNESCO Secretary General Audrey Azoulay.
In remarks at the reception, Ambassador Herzog joked that he “slightly know[s]” the Israeli president, with President Herzog responding that “the real purpose of this trip is that I get a free meal with my brother.” He also thanked President Joe Biden for a “productive and warm and affectionate and open meeting.” More below on Herzog’s second and final day in Washington.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed the maritime boundary agreement between Israel and Lebanon at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem this morning, alongside Israel’s negotiating team, after the Israeli government approved the deal earlier this morning.
At the start of the special cabinet meeting, Lapid hailed the agreement as a security, diplomatic and economic achievement. “It is not every day that an enemy country recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, in view of the international community. It is not every day the United States and France stand behind us and provide security and economic guarantees for an agreement,” he said.
A signing ceremony is set to be held at the U.N. Base in Naqoura, Lebanon, later today with the participation of Israeli, Lebanese, American and U.N. delegations.
Herzog emphasizes Iran concerns, defends Israel’s stance on Ukraine on second day in U.S.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with President Joe Biden in the Oval office on Wednesday for a meeting that focused “mainly” on Iran, the Israeli leader told reporters outside the West Wing. The Iran discussion touched on a variety of subjects, including its nuclear ambitions, its crackdown on protesters domestically and its provision of weapons to Russia, which, Herzog added, Russia has used in Ukraine, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Nuclear no-go: A senior Israeli official speaking to reporters said that the Biden administration views talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as irrelevant at the current time, having concluded, as Israel has, that there are no serious negotiating partners in Iran’s government. Secretary of State Tony Blinken also offered a pessimistic outlook on the status of talks yesterday, saying that he doesn’t expect a return to the deal in the “near-term.”
Antisemitism awareness: Asked by a reporter outside the West Wing whether he was concerned about rising antisemitism in the United States, Herzog confirmed that he and Biden had discussed the subject. “It’s a major issue which we see as the main challenge in various frontiers all over the world,” he continued. “Clearly, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, we care for our brothers and sisters all over the world.” The Israeli president told CNN that Biden had been “crystal clear, was on target in fighting antisemitism with all tools possible” and said he was “extremely pleased to see this overwhelming reaction against the comments by Kanye West.”
Elections watch: Ahead of hotly contested elections in both countries next month — which some fear could sweep far-right extremists into power in Israel — Herzog has emphasized the durability of the U.S.-Israel relationship, regardless of political changes, a message he reiterated in the Oval Office on Wednesday. “One thing is clear, and I think this visit epitomizes it best, is that our friendship and strong bond transcends all political differences and opinions and parties,” Herzog said. Biden offered a similar message, saying, “I’ve said this 5,000 times in my career, the ironclad commitment the United States has to Israel is based on our principles, our ideas, our values.”
Hochstein’s home run: Herzog, who also met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan yesterday, said he and Biden also discussed the maritime border agreement with Lebanon, regional integration and normalization. Biden praised Israel for agreeing to the deal, which was brokered by Amos Hochstein, the U.S. special energy envoy. “I think it’s a historic breakthrough. It took a lot of courage for you to step up,” Biden said. “It takes real guts and I think it took principle and persistent diplomacy to get it done. And I compliment you and I compliment the government.” A White House readout following the meeting noted the deal would “harness vital new energy resources for the world.”
Ritchie Torres to bring Bronx leaders to Israel
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), the freshman congressman who has gained a reputation as an outspoken progressive supporter of Israel, will lead a delegation of civic and political leaders from the Bronx to Israel in the coming days, he confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Community relations: The trip is organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the organization that brought Torres on his first trip to Israel nearly a decade ago when he was on the New York City Council. The five-day delegation is meant, in part, as a response to efforts by the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America to persuade elected officials not to travel to Israel.
Fight BDS: “A few years ago the DSA circulated a questionnaire pressuring elected officials to agree to a travel ban on Israel,” Torres told JI on Wednesday afternoon. ”There’s nothing the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement fears more than people traveling to Israel, and forming a broader view of Israel that transcends the caricature on Twitter.”
Local leaders: Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, the borough’s top two officials, will attend the trip. The other participants come from the private sector and the nonprofit world. Most are not Jewish, but the Bronx has a heavily Jewish enclave in Riverdale, a neighborhood that Torres will represent starting next year as a result of redistricting. He declined to say whether Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who also represents parts of the Bronx and has been a vocal critic of Israel, was invited to be part of the delegation.
Build bridges: Gideon Taylor, CEO of JCRC-NY, said that his colleagues “organized this study tour as a way to build bridges between Jewish and non-Jewish leaders in the Bronx.” Given the “complex diversity” in both Israel and New York, the trip will “demonstrate the ways in which different communities reach out and build bridges,” Taylor added.
Israeli e-truck maker hunts for prospects at Saudi conference
It sounds counterintuitive, even like the start of a gag: an Israeli tech entrepreneur comes to an Arab desert kingdom that is the largest oil producer in the Middle East, and whose entire economy is tied to crude, and he’s hawking zero-emission e-trucks. But Asher Bennett, the brother of former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the founder of the London-based e-truck maker Tevva Motors, may be looking down the road clear-eyed and he may just have the right vehicle, and the right technology, at the right time. Even Saudi Arabia is setting new environmental standards to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, The Circuit’s Jonathan H. Ferziger reports.
Expanding horizons: “There’s a lot of interest in the Gulf for our technologies, so I’m here from time to time,” Bennett, 53, told The Circuit on the second day of the Future Investment Initiative conference, often called “Davos in the Desert” because it’s patterned after the annual World Economic Forum event in Davos, Switzerland. “I was invited here last year and it was an eye-opener,” he said, talking to The Circuit at the coffee bar at the King Abdulaziz Convention Center, the site of the conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. While close with his brother, he says he prefers not to discuss family matters.
Unofficial policy: Israeli companies are increasingly being allowed to operate in the Saudi kingdom though Riyadh has yet to join the 2020 Abraham Accords that normalized diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Like Bennett, who has American parents, many Israelis are dual citizens and face few restrictions on entering the country. In other cases, Saudi officials have granted special visas to admit Israelis, particularly tech executives, without a second nationality. The new unofficial policy toward Israelis reflects the drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recently appointed prime minister, to overhaul the country’s economy and wean it off dependence on oil.
Building up: Unlike other successful Israeli companies such as Mobileye, the maker of sophisticated navigation systems and software for self-driving cars that was bought by Intel for $15 billion, Tevva builds vehicles, Bennett said. “I’m the Israeli tech entrepreneur who figured out the one business step that we’re not good at in Israel and that’s automotive, the hardware side,” he said. “We don’t build cars in Israel, we don’t teach the engineering side in Israel, so I moved to the U.K.” Tevva, which developed a dual-motor system that includes a hydrogen fuel cell to extend the vehicle’s range, produced a small fleet of trucks for the UPS package delivery service in London.
Bonus: Bank Leumi President Samer Haj-Yehia, speaking in Riyadh, noted the potential for business operations in Saudi Arabia “to tap into that kind of investment, whether it is on the payment side, whether it is in the cryptocurrency side, anything we can leverage from the micro-services and the cloud. We would love to do that.”
🚗 Wheel of Fortune:New York magazine’s Matthew Schneier spotlights driving instructor Shanti Gooljar, who has become a household name among well-heeled New York families with teenagers looking to get on the road. “But a drive with Shanti is not only an education in the rules of the road; it is an immersion in the interconnected waterways of the elite. As she is happy to tell you, various offspring of the Chetrits and Ashkenazys (real-estate-development families), Katie Couric, Jerry Seinfeld, David Remnick, Lorne Michaels, and Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng have been through her car on the way to (and in some cases, when back from) Ivy and Ivy-adjacent colleges. Charley, niece of Kenneth Cole, is the one who got Shanti on TikTok (@shantiontheroad) and filmed her first video; [Fieldston grad Serena] Kerrigan commented, ‘The girls that get it, get it.’ Shanti’s fleece jacket, a gift from a happy parent, is embroidered with the NBC News logo. ‘You know the Zuckers? He was CNN,’ she says. ‘His son, Andrew’ — a Shanti alum — ‘went to Harvard. I got a lot of stuff from CNN …’ She pauses dramatically. ‘Oh my God. As a matter of fact, I’m teaching one of the kids now. I forgot everything about him. I got an active Zucker right now!’” [NYMag]
🌹 No Bed of Roses: The New York Times’ Michael Gold looks at the congressional race in New York’s 11th District, comprised of Staten Island and parts of South Brooklyn, where former Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) is challenging Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) for the seat he previously held. “Across the country, a number of Democrats in crucial swing districts are trying to carve out identities independent of their party that will help them draw the moderate and unaffiliated voters they need to win, and help keep their party’s narrow majority in Congress. But few have had to navigate this balancing act quite like Mr. Rose. In 2018, he defeated an incumbent Republican to take a House seat, only to lose it two years later to Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican whose re-election bid features an endorsement from Mr. Trump… ‘This is not a Trump district, it’s not a Biden district, it’s not a Republican district, it’s not a Democratic district,’ Mr. Rose said this month, as he handed out fliers to voters at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, repeating what has become a mantra of his recent campaigns.” [NYTimes]
🗳️ Knockin’ on Hasids’ Doors: The New York Times’ Katie Glueck travels to New York’s Hudson Valley, where DCCC Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) is facing a serious challenger, Republican state Assemblyman Mike Lawler, who is rising in the polls with less than two weeks before Election Day. “Mr. Lawler and Mr. Maloney are directly competing for Hasidic Jewish voters who often vote, to varying degrees, as a bloc. Mr. Lawler represents portions of those communities in his Assembly district. Mr. Maloney confirmed that he had invited the mayors of the Hasidic villages of New Square and Kaser, N.Y., to an event with Mr. Biden when he visited Poughkeepsie. He has also sought to link Mr. Lawler, who has worked as a political consultant, to an antisemitic video from the Rockland County Republican Party. Mr. Lawler, a former lobbyist who has faced scrutiny over his business, has disavowed the video and said that he asked at the time that it be removed.” [NYTimes]
🇮🇷🇷🇺 Double Trouble: In Foreign Policy, Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Behnam Ben Taleblu and John Hardle caution that deepening military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow could have global implications. “By fueling the crisis in Ukraine, Iran likely hopes to lead the United States to continue diverting its attention from the Middle East. Under three successive presidents, Washington has signaled it would prefer to largely divest from the region to shift military resources elsewhere and focus attention on problems at home. Now that Putin’s war in Ukraine is absorbing Western attention and resources, Tehran sees an opportunity to feed this trend. Instead, Washington should make clear that Iran’s support for Russia’s war will only invite stronger U.S. resolve in the Middle East. Particularly as protests continue to rage across Iran, now would be a good time for the Biden administration to revise its Iran policy to focus on rolling back Iranian influence in the region. U.S. condemnations and sanctions are welcome but will achieve little if not part of a larger strategy.” [FP]
Around the Web
🎭 Biden Nominations: President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint The Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein to the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
☎️ On the Phone: U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said he had a “good discussion” with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan about regional matters including support for Ukraine and the need for a cessation of hostilities in northern Ethiopia.
💪 Going Strong: Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, told CNN that the relationship between Washington and Riyadh “is more than the sale of arms and it is more than the exchange of oil.”
🔍 Under Investigation: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is facing a new federal corruption investigation, five years after the federal government dropped charges against him.
🚫 Sanctioned: The U.S. is leveling sanctions against 21 people, including an Israeli-Moldovan man, for engaging in Russian-backed election interference in Moldova.
🗳️ Saving Masters: Peter Thiel’s Saving Arizona super PAC made a $3.7 million ad buy backing Arizona GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters.
💲Bloomberg Bonanza: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $10 million to House Majority PAC, bringing to more than $70 million his total giving to Democrats this cycle.
🗓️ Marking the Day: CNN spotlights the efforts of the survivors of the Tree of Life shooting to address hate and antisemitism, four years after the deadly attack.
🗞️ Roll Up: Media entrepreneur Jimmy Finkelstein has raised $40 million to launch what he has described as a combination of The Washington Post and Daily Mail.
🖊️ First Steps: The American Jewish Committee’s new CEO, former Rep. Ted Deutch, penned a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging the administration to lead efforts to convene a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Iran’s human rights abuses.
🚓 Never Again: Police in Los Angeles are investigating an incident in which an individual gave the Nazi salute outside the home of a Jewish family.
👩 Envoy Weighs In: Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt addressed the recent spate of antisemitism, praising companies and social media platforms for “ensuring their platforms are not used to speed hate, and cutting ties and ending lucrative business relationships with partners who engage in it.”
👟 Sketchy: After Adidas ended its partnership with Kanye “Ye” West, the rapper showed up uninvited at the Skecher’s headquarters, but was escorted away after a brief conversation with executives of the shoe company.
👨💻 Investor Calls: In conversation with Calcalist, CEO and founder of the Third Point hedge fund Daniel Loeb explains why he prefers investing in Israeli startups rather than in others.
🎯 Target Time: Israel reportedly launched additional airstrikes around Damascus, the third time in less than a week that Syria accused Israel of launching strikes.
🤝 Upswing: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that relations with Israel are on a “positive trend” following the sharing of intelligence between Jerusalem and Kyiv on issues relating to Russian-Iranian cooperation.
Pic of the Day
CEO of OurCrowd Jonathan Medved and venture partner Sabah Al Binali at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh today.
Author, actress and comedian, Fran Lebowitz turns 72…
Pacific Palisades, Calif., resident, Gordon Gerson… Senior U.S. District Court judge in Maine, he was born in a refugee camp following WWII, Judge George Z. Singal turns 77… Rabbi emeritus at Miami Beach’s Temple Beth Sholom, Gary Glickstein turns 75… SVP at MarketVision Research, Joel M. Schindler… CEO of Jewish Creativity International, Robert Goldfarb… Co-chair of a task force at the Bipartisan Policy Center, he is a former U.S. ambassador to Finland and Turkey, Eric Steven Edelman turns 71… Television writer, director and producer, best known as the co-creator of the 122 episodes of “The Nanny,” Peter Marc Jacobson turns 65… Specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service, Dr. Kenneth Katzman… Co-owner of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and English soccer club Manchester United, Bryan Glazer turns 58… New York State senator from Manhattan, Brad Hoylman turns 57… Creator and editor of the Drudge Report, Matt Drudge turns 56… Hasidic cantor and singer known by his first and middle names, Shlomo Simcha Sufrin turns 55… Managing partner of the Los Angeles office of HR&A Advisors, Andrea Batista Schlesinger turns 46… Television meteorologist, currently working for The Weather Channel, Stephanie Abrams turns 44… Recent member of the Knesset, up for reelection next Tuesday, Idit Silman turns 42… Deputy chair of the Open Society Foundations, Alexander F. G. Soros turns 37… Israeli actress best known for playing Eve in the Netflix series “Lucifer,” Inbar Lavi turns 36… Senior advisor and strategic engagement lead at USAID, Elizabeth (Liz) Leibowitz… Executive producer of online content at WTSP in St. Petersburg, Fla., Theresa Collington… Senior manager of social media and content marketing at Marriott International, Stephanie Arbetter… Senior strategist at Red Balloon Security, Andrew J. Taub… Co-founder of NYC-based Arch Labs, Ryan Eisenman… Founder and partner at Oak Grove Advisors, Andrew Hanover…