👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we speak to Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and look at his campaign to hold onto his Senate seat in Georgia and spotlight a bipartisan effort to push Secretary of State Tony Blinken to investigate instances of antisemitism at the State Department. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Bari Weiss, Amb. Dennis Ross and Boris Epshteyn.
President Joe Biden will host Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House next Wednesday, marking Herzog’s first trip to Washington, where his older brother serves as ambassador, since assuming the presidency.
At least four people, including a pregnant woman and her husband, were killed in Kyiv on Monday as Russia deployed Iranian-made drones across the Ukrainian capital. Tehran had long denied supplying Russia with the weapons, despite claims from Ukraine that Moscow has ordered 2,400 drones, as well as social media posts linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that boasted of the sales. Ukrainian officials said more than three dozen of the drones were fired by Russia, the majority of which were intercepted by Ukrainian air-defense systems.
Meanwhile, IRGC drone trainers have been deployed to Crimea to troubleshoot issues with the shipment and to train Russian forces to operate the weapons. Following the attack, a U.S. official said that the Biden administration is considering a further crack down on Iran, a move that is likely to include additional sanctions.
The increased cooperation between Moscow and Tehran has heightened concerns in Israel, which has so far refrained from providing military assistance to Ukraine, the Associated Press reported this morning. Israeli Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai took a hard line against Russia over the weekend, posting on Twitter that Jerusalem should provide military assistance to Kyiv. “There is no longer any doubt where Israel should stand in this bloody conflict,” he tweeted.
Israeli Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the morning after the attacks, criticized Iran, calling the country “perhaps the preeminent terrorist state of our time.” Netanyahu, whose memoir hit bookshelves yesterday, warned that the fighting between Russia and Ukraine poses a global threat. “The greatest danger is that this conflict would unravel to a global conflict with ominous proportions and the possible use of nuclear weapons.”
Former President Donald Trump spoke with artist Kanye West following controversies in which both were charged with employing antisemitic stereotypes in social media posts. In a post on his social media site Truth Social, the former president suggested that American Jews should “get their act together” before “it is too late.” West, for his part, drew criticism for comments made on a resurfaced episode of the “Drink Champs” podcast.
The two reportedly discussed West’s recent acquisition of the conservative social media platform Parler, which is under the umbrella of Parlement Technologies. Parlement’s CEO, George Farmer, is married to conservative activist Candace Owens, who has appeared with West in recent weeks and defended his comments.
peach state politics
In Georgia, Raphael Warnock makes the case for a full Senate term
One evening in early October, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) took the stage at a Jewish campaign event in suburban Atlanta to celebrate the recent conclusion of Rosh Hashanah. “It’s great to be among friends,” he said warmly. “Because you sent me to the Senate, we were able to get great things done for our state and for our families,” Warnock said of his efforts to boost infrastructure spending and combat climate change, while invoking the Jewish concept of tikkun olam — repairing the world. “That is the sensibility and conviction,” he averred, “that I bring to my job every single day.” Left unaddressed was his approach to Israel, which he has otherwise frequently sought to highlight as an elected official. Rather than an avoidance of what had once been a somewhat uncomfortable issue, however, the omission, intentional or not, suggested that Warnock is confident his Jewish supporters are largely comfortable with his Middle East policy positions, a subject of intense scrutiny during his first bid for public office nearly two years ago, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Community outreach: “I’m a strong ally of Israel, and I’ve built relationships in the Jewish community that have nothing to do with politics,” Warnock said in a phone interview with Jewish Insider, just minutes before his appearance at the recent Jewish community event. “They are built on my lifelong career and service in mainly building coalitions to do good work together on a whole range of issues, from criminal justice reform to voting rights to a livable wage. I think, in the midst of doing that work, you build good, meaningful relationships that are much deeper than politics.”
For the record: “Now that he’s been in the Senate, he’s got a genuine voting record,” Steve Oppenheimer, a pro-Israel activist in Atlanta who has conferred with Warnock multiple times, told JI. Among other things, he commended Warnock as an original co-sponsor of the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which seeks to bolster the Abraham Accords, while praising his involvement with legislation to prevent Iran from acquiring combat drones. “He absolutely gets the uniqueness of Israel, the security requirements of Israel and the importance of the U.S-Israel strategic relationship,” Oppenheimer added. “He really gets how the issues are tied together.”
Walker stumbles: That hasn’t kept Republican challenger Herschel Walker from occasionally seeking to denounce Warnock’s approach to Israel, albeit rather vaguely. “Raphael Warnock has done more for our enemies than he has done for our strong allies like Israel,” he charged in one August tweet, after speaking at a local event in Sandy Springs, Ga., hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, which has endorsed his campaign. For his part, Walker, a 60-year-old former football star, had initially struggled to relate to Jewish voters during the primary, when he first appeared at an RJC event billed as a “job interview” for Georgia’s Republican Senate candidates. In conversation with JI, Warnock declined to contrast his approach to Middle East policy with Walker, whose campaign has yet to promote his positions publicly. “I’m not going to try to speak for him,” Warnock said. “I can only speak for myself.”
Read the full story here.
call to action
House lawmakers raise concerns about antisemitism inside the State Department
A bipartisan group of 75 House members is urging the State Department to take further action to address a series of antisemitic incidents within its own workforce, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Gridlock: The lawmakers, led by the co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken late last week highlighting a series of antisemitic incidents with the department, including a foreign service officer who was found to be running an antisemitic blog, but is still employed, and two separate incidents of swastikas found drawn inside State Department facilities.
In the text: “We appreciate the steps taken immediately by you and President Biden following these incidents to make clear that antisemitism has no place in the State Department, in the Biden Administration, or anywhere in the world,” the signatories write. “However, more can and must be done to protect the Jewish community, and other religious minorities, at the State Department. We understand and are grateful that an internal review of these incidents is underway. We urge you to continue to investigate and address any and all incidents of antisemitism and hate within the Department.”
Speed boost: While draft appropriations legislation for 2023 requires the department to report to Congress on the status of these investigations, the lawmakers argue that “this issue is too urgent, and it cannot wait for the appropriations process to finish. Instead, it needs immediate attention.” The lawmakers urge the department to report to Congress on the status of its investigations and antisemitism within the department more broadly, as well as on how they plan to improve training and prevent discrimination at the department.
Israeli startup funding cut in half amid global slowdown
Funding for Israeli startups slid further from last year’s record heights as sinking technology stocks, rising interest rates and renewed geopolitical conflict chill enthusiasm for investment, The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger reports.
Money moves: The torrent of cash once lavished on Israel’s emerging tech companies fell to $2.8 billion in the third quarter, a 56% drop from the same period in 2021, and a 36% decline from the previous quarter, according to a report by the Herzliya-based Viola Ventures. The slowdown was especially pronounced in so-called mega deals, valued at more than $100 million, which fell 69% from last year’s third quarter, Viola’s analysts said in a report released last week. “Prophecy is for fools, but we do believe that technology will continue to be a massive driver for global transformation, and VCs will continue to invest in disruptive companies,” Tomer Meridor, a member of Viola’s investment team who wrote the report with colleague Rotem Shacham, told The Circuit.
Nasdaq problems: New York’s tech-heavy Nasdaq stock market, where Israeli companies represent the second largest number of foreign members after China, reflects the darkening sentiment. The Nasdaq Composite Index has fallen 33% since the end of last year, and Nice Systems, one of the biggest Israeli companies trading on the exchange, is down 30%. Israeli startups, in turn, have been laying off employees and cutting back on other expenses. Otonomo Technologies, which collects data from network-connected cars, dismissed dozens of its employees after losing 95% of its value on the Nasdaq. Digital advertising platform Taboola, whose shares have fallen 78%, and website maker Wix, down 54%, both reportedly laid off more than 100 employees each.
Gulf pivot: Among the ways Israeli companies have sought to contend with the decline in U.S. investment has been to find new partners in the Gulf Arab states that signed the Abraham Accords in 2020, normalizing ties with the Jewish state. Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a free trade agreement in May that is expected to increase trade between the two countries to $10 billion within five years. OurCrowd, Israel’s most active venture capital platform, was licensed last year to operate as a fund manager in the Abu Dhabi Global Market. Affinity Partners, a private equity firm founded by Jared Kushner, the former White House adviser, plans to invest millions of dollars in Israeli startups from the $2 billion it raised from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, The Wall Street Journal reported in May. Saudi Arabia’s Mithaq Capital has become the largest investor in Otonomo, amassing a 20% stake as the company’s stock sank.
Read more here and sign up for The Weekly Circuit newsletter here.
🌊 Border Politics: In The Hill, Ambassador Dennis Ross praises the recent U.S.-facilitated maritime agreement between Israel and Lebanon, which was reached with weeks to spare before both countries face a potential reshuffling of top leadership. “The timing of the Israeli election on Nov. 1 was bound to trigger controversy over the agreement and make it a political football. But there was a political clock in Lebanon that argued strongly for finalizing the deal now and having Lebanese President Michel Aoun sign it. His term ends on Oct. 31, and there is no agreement on who will replace him much less when that might happen. The U.S., Israel, and the Lebanese recognized the danger of leaving the deal unsigned and in limbo. One rule of thumb in the Middle East is always lockdown an agreement when you can because events may erupt and undo it.” [TheHill]
🎙️ Reality Check: In Common Sense, Bari Weiss reflects on how Kanye West’s recent tirade against Jewish people is part of a new norm for American Jews. “[T]he wealthiest musician in the world appears to hold deeply conspiratorial views about Jews informed by the antisemite Louis Farrakhan and a hate cult called the Black Hebrew Israelites, whose worldview — black people are chosen by God; Jews are pretenders — is disturbingly prevalent in large parts of American culture. And that the former president is criticizing American Jews for being ungrateful, commanding them to show him proper respect — and issuing a veiled threat if they do not…If you are an American Jew who has been paying attention you have long since learned to lower your expectations. We have learned to live with the strange reality that ours is a culture in which major pop stars revise their lyrics when they are accused of committing microaggressions, but cannot muster a single tweet condemning West’s tirade. There will be no hashtags for the Jews.” [CommonSense]
🇮🇷 Tehran Reset?: In Foreign Policy, Roham Alvandi suggests that the U.S. and U.K. revisit their historical involvement in Iranian affairs amid ongoing protests in the Islamic republic, as both countries engage in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. “It would be a gross betrayal of Iranians if the United States, Britain, and the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal were to strike a deal with the Islamic Republic now and ease sanctions on a regime that has lost all legitimacy. It would also be a betrayal of the democratic values that Britain and the United States claim to hold dear to help a regime that shoots protesting women in the streets and sends protesting schoolchildren to psychiatric institutions. The Islamic Republic has shown little enthusiasm for a nuclear deal, but its calculations may change as the situation grows more desperate inside Iran. The suspension of nuclear talks would send a clear message to Tehran that as long as the regime brutalizes protesters, it will not be business as usual in its dealings with Western powers.” [FP]
👨 Spotlight on Sacks: In The New Republic, Jacob Silverman looks at the rise of David Sacks, founding COO of PayPal, and how he and other tech and finance elites are using their wealth and online influence to unite conservatives and former leftists in a reactionary movement against liberalism. “After serving as PayPal’s founding chief operating officer, followed by stints as chief executive of Yammer and Zenefits, Sacks, 50, now leads a venture capital firm called Craft Ventures. While not yet a household name like his pal Elon Musk, he’s a regular across conservative media and on Twitter, where he has more than 400,000 followers, and exerts a growing influence in the political battles playing out in the tech industry. Sacks is part of the Tesla CEO’s ‘shadow crew’ of friends and consiglieri, according to The Wall Street Journal… Sacks is quietly becoming the leading practitioner of a new right-wing sensibility that has emerged in the political realignments provoked by Trumpism and the pandemic.” [TNR]
⭕ Inner Circle: Politico‘s Meredith McGraw spotlights Boris Epshteyn, who has bucked trends by remaining a longtime fixture in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle. “[Epshteyn] is a fixer at heart, tasked with overseeing a wide arrange of political and legal challenges that swirl with worsening velocity around the former president. ‘Once you get President Trump’s confidence and he trusts your judgment, there’s other things he needs done,’ said Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser who frequently has Epshteyn as a guest on his ‘War Room’ podcast. ‘Trump’s on offense across the board on legal strategy, and I think that’s because of Boris.’ But Epshteyn’s main skill may be survival. Former White House attorney Eric Herschmann has called him an ‘idiot’ and some others are, privately, just as unsparing in their assessments. He is increasingly tied to the legal drama surrounding Trump’s decision to store top secret government documents at his Mar-a-Lago home. And half-a-dozen current and former Trump confidantes accuse him of feeding the ex-president’s worst political instincts, among them to vociferously challenge the results of the 2020 election.” [Politico]
Around the Web
🙍 Stung By Abbas: A Biden administration official said the White House was “deeply disappointed” by comments made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Palestinians “don’t trust” Washington.
🗳️ Class of 2018:Politicoreports on concerns in Democratic circles that a number of second-term House Democrats — many of whom are seen as potential candidates for state office — are at risk of losing their seats in the midterms.
Ξ Crypto Concerns: The Texas State Securities Board is investigating whether cryptocurrency firm FTX and its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, have broken the state’s securities law by offering unregistered securities to residents.
🏫 Banished in Berkeley: In The Daily Beast, a group of Jewish students at the University of California Berkeley’s law school responded to the recent uproar over the decision of nine student groups to reject engagement with pro-Israel speakers and individuals.
🏨 Art of Hospitality:The New York Timesspotlights 95-year-old hotel proprietor Rita Paul, who fled Nazi Europe as a teenager and would go on to run, with her husband, Manhattan’s storied, art-filled Earle Hotel.
📺 Getting Real: Online influencer and pro-Israel activist Lizzy Savetsky is among the new cast of the rebooted “Real Housewives of New York City” franchise.
📱Time Out: A Swedish politician was suspended for a since-deleted Instagram post denigrating Anne Frank.
🚓 Arrest Request: Argentina has asked Qatar to arrest a top Iranian official accused of involvement in the deadly 1994 attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
↩️ Reversing Course: Australia’s foreign minister reversed the country’s previous government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who said he hoped Canberra “manages other matters more seriously and professionally.”
📸 Caught on Camera: Far-right Israeli MK Itamar Ben Gvir was photographed pulling out a gun in East Jerusalem’s contentious Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
🪧 Iran Protests: In a shift in tactics, Iranian authorities are using plainclothes security officers, digital surveillance and drones to crack down on anti-regime protesters.
🪖 Standing Firm:The New York Timesexplores how Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are a key element in the regime’s fight to preserve the ruling system.
🛫 Shady Business: Hundreds of retired U.S. military personnel have taken senior jobs working for foreign governments known for human rights abuses and political repression, according to a Washington Postinvestigation.
🥂 Mazal Tov: Patriots owner Robert Kraft married Dr. Dana Blumberg in a surprise wedding in New York City on Friday, in a ceremony that included the traditional breaking of the glass.
🕯️ Remembering: Playwright Jeffrey Weiss died at 82.
Pic of the Day
A Jewish man prays at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Mount Meron in northern Israel earlier this week on Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot.
Founder and former ringmaster of the Big Apple Circus, Paul Binder turns 80…
Longtime CEO of Aramark Corporation, he is the immediate past chairman of the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees, Joseph Neubauer turns 81… Pulmonologist in Plano, Texas, he is also the author of six mystery novels, Dr. Kenneth L. Toppell turns 80… Writer, scholar and former Israeli ambassador, Yoram Ettinger turns 77… Obstetrician and gynecologist at the Center for Fetal Medicine in Los Angeles, Lawrence David Platt, MD… Retired hospitality executive, Michelle Fischler… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, she directs the journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Deborah Blum turns 68… Founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist turns 66… Retired supervisor for Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency, David Alan Cera… Member of the Knesset and former mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat turns 63… Co-owner of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and English soccer club Manchester United, Avram A. “Avie” Glazer turns 62… Social psychologist and professor at New York University focused on the psychology of morality and moral emotions, Jonathan David Haidt turns 59… A chief rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich turns 58… Founder of Global Policy Associates where he is now an advisory board member, he was the White House Jewish liaison in the Clinton administration, Jay Footlik… Ritual coordinator at Congregation Emanu El in Houston, Shira Kosoy Moses… Actor, director, producer and screenwriter, his television production company is Golem Creations, Jon Favreau turns 56… Former mayor of Portland, Maine, now a nonprofit executive, Ethan King Strimling turns 55… Technology journalist and record producer, Joshua Ryan Topolsky turns 45… Film director, screenwriter and producer, Jason R. Reitman turns 45… Chief growth officer at itrek, Evan Majzner… Executive at Nefco, David Ochs… Pittsburgh-based founder and CEO of Mamalux, Lindsay Applebaum Stuart… Founder of iTrade[dot]TV, equities trader and financial marketer, Elie Litvin…