👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we have the exclusive on the N7 Initiative’s efforts to further collaboration between Israel and the Arab countries with which it has normalized ties. We also talk to Israeli elections analysts about the voters who are planning to cast their ballots for Itamar Ben-Gvir’s party. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog is set to travel to the U.S. tonight ahead of two days of meetings in Washington.
Herzog, who is making his first trip to Washington since becoming Israel’s president last year, will meet with Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Tuesday and President Joe Biden at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon he is scheduled to speak at an N7 Initiative event hosted by the Atlantic Council and the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation.
Kanye West continued to dominate the news cycle over the weekend, following the decisions by Vogue and Balenciaga to sever ties with the artist, who has faced criticism in recent weeks for repeatedly making antisemitic comments.
Concerns over West’s influence grew when a banner reading “Kanye is right about the Jews” was displayed by demonstrators making Nazi salutes over the 405 highway in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Sportswear company Adidas, which has enjoyed a yearslong partnership with West and is facing increased pressure to cut ties in the wake of his latest comments, has not commented. Gap sent an email on Friday afternoon promoting its “Yeezy Gap Hoodie,” despite West saying last month he was walking away from his partnership with the clothing company.
Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel called on companies to end their relationships with West, noting, “Those who continue to do business with West are giving his misguided hate an audience. There should be no tolerance anywhere for West’s anti-Semitism.”
High-level Mideast conferences to connect Israelis, six Arab nations to advance normalization
More than two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, collaboration between Israel and its new Arab partners has flourished. A new series of high-level conferences that will convene government officials, NGOs and private sector leaders in the “N7” — Israel and the Arab nations with which it has normalized ties — intends to formalize that cooperation and lay the groundwork for enhanced regional partnerships, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch has learned.
Normalization nations: The conferences will serve as the cornerstone of the newly expanded N7 Initiative, a regional program that intends to bolster cooperation between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, the organizers said. The initiative grew out of the October 2021 N7 Conference in Abu Dhabi, the first-ever multilateral meeting between senior representatives of Israel and all of its Arab partners. The initiative will be operated by the Atlantic Council think tank and principally supported by the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation, who together organized last year’s conference.
Regional benefits: “The goal of N7 is to continue driving normalization forward and to help make sure that everyone in the region sees the benefits,” Talpins Foundation President Oren Eisner told JI.
Conference circuit: The first N7 Initiative conference will take place Dec. 5-7 in Rabat, Morocco, with a focus on education and coexistence. The second, about water, agriculture and food security, will be held in the UAE early next year. A third conference, focused on the development of a regional free-trade zone, will also meet early in 2023. Each conference is expected to be relatively small, with 50-60 people — subject-matter experts, and decision-makers in government agencies that handle those issues.
New ideas: The convenings will focus on areas where cooperation between Israel and its new Arab partners have lagged. “We don’t need to help entrepreneurs and startup CEOs from Israel go to connect with the Gulf for a partner. That’s happening already,” said William F. Wechsler, who directs the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs and its Rafik Hariri Center. Wechsler is overseeing the initiative with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Dan Shapiro.
Plant the seed: Organizers also expect the conferences to draw participants from Arab and Muslim nations who may be rethinking their relationship with Israel. “We have reason to believe that as a non-government convener, we are a platform that countries who have not yet normalized with Israel but are interested in what’s going on, and who are maybe thinking about taking a step in that direction, who are trying to lay the groundwork, normalization-curious, could dip their toes in the water before they’re ready to take the take the final step,” Shapiro said.
Schumer gives a Yiddish lesson in new campaign ad
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) takes a trial run as a Jewish day school teacher in a new campaign ad, “Yiddish Lessons with the Majority Leader,” launching today, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Schooled: Standing in front of an animated blackboard, the longtime New York senator ticks off a number of common Yiddish terms as he criticizes Republicans and touts Democrats’ policy victories. Schumer describes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as “schmos,” the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a “shande” and “the horrible games those MAGA Republicans play” as “mishegas.”
Hitting the books: Highlighting Democratic policy victories, Schumer says that they “kvell[ed]” about passing pension and gun control legislation, and that they felt “naches” when they passed the Inflation Reduction Act.
In closing: “I’m Chuck Schumer and I approve this message because fighting for New York is no schtick for me,” Schumer concludes.
Elsewhere: It was not a good night for Schumer’s New York Yankees, who were swept by the Houston Astros at home last night, ending their World Series hopes. One person who was happy with the game’s outcome? Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who posed for a selfie with a Jewish fan as he left Yankee Stadium.
the next kingmaker?
Who are the Israelis voting for Itamar Ben-Gvir?
Last week, Britain’s Jewish News attracted international attention for a front page featuring a photograph of two controversial Israeli politicians with the headline: “They hate Arabs, LGBT people, and even some Jews. They are heading for power in Israel. Where is the outrage?” Others have similarly expressed concern, although maybe in more discreet tones, over the rise of the far-right lawmakers: Itamar Ben-Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich, heads of two separate parties that are united in a faction called Religious Zionism. According to political pundits and consistent polling, however, this band of vocal and sometimes vulgar nationalistic agitators, appears poised to win big. Religious Zionism could become the country’s third-largest political party and even the kingmakers in the Nov. 1 election, Israel’s fifth in less than four years, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Range of supporters: With Jewish communities around the world looking on anxiously, the question remains: Who are the Israelis planning to vote for this once-marginalized motley crew and even afford them an opportunity to wield significant influence in the country? Professor Tamar Hermann, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, told JI that support for Smotrich and Ben-Gvir comes from a broad, and somewhat unexpected, cross-section of Israeli society. But, she said, the duo’s rise has left many traditional right-wing voters, turned off by the faction’s radical views, in electoral limbo.
Key characteristics: Hermann identified some of the key characteristics shared by the growing army of Religious Zionism supporters. “Most of their voters are young men,” she explained, adding they are mainly — but not solely — non-Ashkenazi and from “the social-economic periphery.” “Many come from the ultra-Orthodox community, usually young men who have dropped out of their yeshiva studies,” Hermann continued. There are also many young people from the national religious camp, including those referred to as “the hilltop youth” – a radical group that lives beyond the law in parts of the disputed West Bank – as well as secular soldiers, “who are apprehensive about their personal future,” she said.
Global phenomenon: Josh Hantman, an Israel-based consultant for Number 10 Strategies, who has worked closely with multiple political leaders and parties in Israel and abroad, agreed, telling JI that Ben-Gvir “has successfully captured the imagination of a decent chunk of the youth – a group who are much further to the right than older demographics.” Hantman said it is important to view the rising popularity of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in a global context. “The rise of anti-establishment ‘shocking entertainers’ is a global phenomenon which sees disenfranchised and disillusioned voters from the traditional center moving to the extremes,” he said. “It is no surprise that we’re seeing it here too.”
Bonus: In Liberties, Celeste Marcus looks at the evolution of Israeli politics through the lens of A. B. Yehoshua’s short story Facing the Forests.
UAE unlocks more of Gulf to Israeli companies, envoy says
A year after beginning his posting as Israel’s ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek has a new office, a track record for boosting trade and a view that the tiny Gulf country is an ideal perch for Israeli companies to do business throughout the Arab world. “You would like to sell to the Saudi market, to the Qatari market, to the Indonesian market? You can do it easily,” Hayek told The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger in an interview last week at the Israeli Embassy’s sprawling new location in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.
Desert dreams: The 58-year-old ambassador spoke days before Saudi Arabia hosts its sixth Future Investment Initiative conference, a gathering of 6,000 investors, business executives and government policymakers that is often referred to as “Davos in the Desert.” Israeli hopes that the kingdom might join the 2020 Abraham Accords that were signed by the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have receded, though some Israeli companies are reportedly operating in Saudi Arabia with third-country registrations. Hayek’s advice to Israeli executives doing business there, however, is not to discuss it publicly. “As much as you’ll talk less, you’ll do better,” he said.
Taking it slow: Hayek describes a winnowing-out process since the initial enthusiasm that followed the normalization agreements and brought a torrent of Israeli executives fishing for opportunities in the UAE and nearby Bahrain. “On day one, everybody came here and thought they could do business,” Hayek said. “But the Emiratis learned the Israelis and the Israelis learned the Emiratis. Those who would like to do business here need to come, look the Emiratis in the eyes, build trust and then build cooperation.”
Read more here and sign up for The Weekly Circuit newsletter here.
✋ No Nod for Squad: Puck’s Tara Palmeri questions the future of the “Squad,” as incoming progressive members of Congress distance themselves from the original quartet of legislators who came to Washington in 2018. “One progressive member of Congress conveyed the situation succinctly. ‘The Squad is a damaged brand among the members of Congress. The newcomers want to be progressive, but want to be effective, and want to have good relations with their colleagues without the baggage of the Squad,’ this person told me. ‘What makes the Squad controversial is not their beliefs — it’s their style, declaring war with their colleagues and leadership. There are a lot of members who have no interest in a hostile takeover.’ Indeed, many progressives complain that the Squad’s anti-Israel position, in particular, has put a target on the backs of candidates who seem too Squad-adjacent. This may explain why [Greg] Casar lost the endorsement of the Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America when he said he supported Israel’s self-defense and opposed B.D.S. But he ended up having a relatively uneventful primary because AIPAC did not get involved in his race.” [Puck]
🔐 Turning Off the Spigot:The Atlantic’s Will Gottsegen interviews FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried following the crypto giant’s walk-back of a pledge to give up to $1 billion in political donations over the next two years. “There are nonconstructive people on both sides of the aisle, and there are constructive people on both sides of the aisle,” Bankman-Fried said. “And I don’t necessarily want to make a claim that those are exactly equal or anything like that, but that is the case. It’s not just which party that matters — it’s who within each party is setting the tone that matters. And of course you could imagine duking that out in a general election. You see races in the general election where you have a constructive candidate running against a constructive candidate; you see cases where it’s nonconstructive against nonconstructive, and everything in between. And the same thing is true in primaries. I think that there are opportunities in both to push things in the right direction — and then we’re back to the question of where can you do so more effectively? And my sense remains that on average, it is more frequently the case in a primary than in a general election that you can do a lot of that pushing.” [TheAtlantic]
🎮 G4Gone:The Washington Post‘s Nathan Grayson explores the lead-up to the fall of the G4 video games-focused TV and digital network owned by Comcast Spectator. “In interviews with The Washington Post, 11 former G4 staffers described their experiences at the network leading up to its recent closure. Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the signing of nondisclosure agreements, they described a work environment with ever-shifting priorities from leadership that never settled on a strategy to develop their audience…Among the multiple causes employees believe sunk G4, several ex-employees pointed to Tucker Roberts, son of billionaire Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and then-president of Comcast Spectacor’s gaming brand. While G4′s revival was largely the younger Roberts’s brainchild, former employees described him as fickle and absent. One employee familiar with Roberts’s decision-making said the executive would regularly change his mind about crucial decisions — for example, the number of separate YouTube channels G4 needed, which spread out audiences and hurt viewership, or the direction of the network’s esports coverage, which changed numerous times.” [WashPost]
🧳 Business is Business: The New York Times‘s Kate Kelly eyes “Davos in the Desert,” where top American executives are attending the Future Investment Initiative business conference, while White House officials keep their distance due to recent tensions with Saudi Arabia. “But ultimately, the Biden administration has done little so far to dissuade companies like JPMorgan and Blackstone, which have longstanding business relationships in Saudi Arabia, or smaller companies hoping to attract investments from deep-pocketed funders in the kingdom by attending this week’s forum… Last week, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, reminded American companies to take into account ‘reputational concerns that can arise from public policy choices made by host countries’ when making decisions about where to invest. Still, Richard Attias, the organizer of the Saudi conference, made a point of telling reporters in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, last week that he had received so many requests from Americans to attend the event that his team had begun turning them down for lack of space. At the same time, Mr. Biden’s plan for meting out the threatened consequences against Saudi Arabia has remained vague in the weeks since he delivered the warning.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
✋ No Thanks: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said she has “no interest” in holding the Senate president pro tempore role, which would leave her third in the line of presidential succession, should Democrats maintain control of the Senate after the midterms.
💵 Kushner Cash: Kushner Cos. made an offer to purchase Veris Residential Inc., in a deal valued at $4.3 billion.
👶 Bundle of Joy: The Lakewood, N.J.-based baby transport and accessory company PishPosh filed for an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
💲Cyber Sale: Israeli security software company Cybereason hired JP Morgan to find a buyer after the company was valued at $2.5 billion.
👀 Mar-a-Lago Find: Documents with information about Iran’s missile program were reportedly among the files recovered by the FBI from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago earlier this year.
📡 Connecting: The White House has been talking to Elon Musk about potentially setting up SpaceX’s satellite internet service Starlink inside Iran, officials have told CNN.
💢 Fighting Words: Jenna Ellis, the senior legal advisor to Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, received blowback on Twitter when she described Mastriano’s Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, as “at best a secular Jew.”
👨⚖️ Guilty: An Arizona court found Anthime Gionet, the white nationalist internet troll known as Baked Alaska, guilty of criminal damage for vandalizing a Hanukkah display in Phoenix in 2020, which he broadcast on a streaming site.
🏡 Tempe Tempest: Antisemitic flyers were reportedly left in front yards and on doorsteps in Tempe, Ariz., in recent days.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson withdrew from the race to succeed outgoing PM Liz Truss, giving a boost to Rishi Sunak’s candidacy, just months after Truss beat out Sunak to nab the top spot.
🇦🇱🇮🇱 Cyber Chat: Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is on a three-day visit to Israel; he met with Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid yesterday and is set to meet with cyber and defense officials.
🐕 Man’s Best Friend:The Wall Street Journaltalked to Israeli adopters of feral dogs about the challenges of trying to tame their furry friends.
🚀 Rocket Review: Former longtime Israel diplomat Alon Liel weighed in on Israel’s decision not to supply Ukraine with Israeli weapons to defend against Russian attacks.
💣 Would-be Weapons: Former Israeli Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu toldUSA Today that if he wins the upcoming election he will “look into” supplying weapons to Ukraine.
🪖 Changing of the Guard: The Israeli government approved the appointment of Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi as the 23rd chief of the general staff of the IDF.
🔥 Targeted Explosion: A senior official of the Palestinian “Den of Lions” terrorist group was killed in an explosion in Nablus.
🇮🇷 Strike While It’s Hot: Iranian labor unions are calling for strikes at the country’s oil production plants, schools and factories.
➡️ Transition: Tali Farhadian Weinstein is joining Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP as of counsel.
🕯️ Remembering: Radiologist Dr. Beryl Benacerraf, a relative of Alfred Dreyfus who pioneered the use of ultrasound technology for pregnant women, died at 73. Lenny Lipton, the lyricist behind “Puff the Magic Dragon” who put the proceeds from the hit song to fund 3-D technology research, died at 82.
Pic of the Day
Secretary of State Tony Blinken visited chef and restaurateur Mike Solomonov’s Federal Donuts in Philadelphia last week. Blinken was in the city to open a new passport agency and to officiate a swearing-in ceremony for 24 new citizens.
Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor, born to a Jewish mother in Toronto, he celebrated his bar mitzvah, Aubrey Drake Graham, now known as Drake, turns 36…
Genealogist who specializes in the research of Jewish roots in Poland and the former Soviet Union, Miriam Weiner turns 80… Writer and adjunct instructor at Queensborough Community College, Ira Greenfest… Stock market analyst who has published books and appears regularly on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Charles Biderman turns 76… Retired Pentagon official, Judy Gleklen Kopff… Financial planner and president of Laredo, Texas-based International Asset Management, Joseph Rothstein… Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Southern California, Brad Sherman turns 68… Retired executive editor of The Washington Post, Martin “Marty” Baron turns 68… Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CEO of Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring company, Jeffrey S. Lorberbaum turns 68… U.S. senator (R-SD), Mike Rounds turns 68… U.S. senator (D-OR), Jeff Merkley turns 66… Program director at the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, Alan Divack… Co-founder and former CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio, he made aliyah in 2002, David Margolese turns 65… Producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Henry Schuster turns 65… Russian-Ukrainian oligarch and a co-founder of the Genesis Prize, German Khan turns 61… Professor of politics at the University of Hull in the U.K., Raphael Cohen-Almagor turns 61… Deputy Washington editor of The New York Times and author of (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, Jonathan Weisman… Russian oligarch and former owner of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich turns 56… Co-founder of the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation, focused on pediatric cancer research and care, Evan Sohn… Political communications consultant, Tovah Ravitz Meehan… Israeli author and editor of science fiction and fantasy, Vered Tochterman turns 52… Fashion designer, Zac Posen turns 42… Founding partner of Be Clear Communications, Matt Lehrich… Executive director at Flatbush Community Fund, Yitzy Weinberg… Director of community engagement at Friends of the IDF, Yehuda Joel Friedman…