👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we bring you the latest from Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s trip to Washington, and report from Riyadh, where “Davos in the Desert” began yesterday. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Brad Schneider, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Taffy Brodesser-Akner.
It’s Jonathan Ferziger here, The Circuit’s managing editor, reporting from the Saudi capital, where more than 7,000 people are attending the country’s Future Investment Initiative conference, better known as “Davos in the Desert.”
The annual extravaganza in Riyadh’s palatial Ritz Carlton Hotel aspires to set the world’s financial agenda like its older counterpart in the Swiss Alps. To get to last night’s opening dinner party, one had to walk through the vaulted marble hallways and between bronze statues of four life-size, wild horses rearing on their hind legs. At the buffet table were endless platters of seared tuna sushi, slow-cooked beef cheeks, lamb mansaf and pistachio baklava for dessert. Non-alcoholic mojitos and lavender spritzers were served at the bar.
Speakers during the three-day confab include FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried, Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Third Point’s Dan Loeb, Starwood’s Barry Sternlicht, Trian’s Nelson Peltz, Canyon’s Joshua Friedman, MizMaa’s Yitz Applbaum, former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), LionTree’s Aryeh Bourkoff, MHR Fund Management’s Mark Rachesky, Oak Hill Advisors’ Glenn August, Visions of Peace founder Cheryl Halpern, former Trump administration official Brian Hook, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Ivanhoe Mines’ Robert Friedland and Aerofarms’ David Rosenberg. More on Davos in the Desert below.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog will meet with President Joe Biden this afternoon at the White House, as well as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and this evening he will attend a reception at the home of his brother, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog. Yesterday, the Israeli president met with Jewish leaders and spoke at an N7 Initiative event hosted by the Atlantic Council and the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation. More below.
In New York this morning, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is meeting with Jewish communal leaders to discuss the recent U.N. General Assembly.
Tonight in Los Angeles, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Rick Caruso will address voters in a mayoral candidate forum hosted by the Anti-Defamation League’s Los Angeles office, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and L.A. branch of the American Jewish Committee. Last week, JI’s Gabby Deutch took a look at the closely watched race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti. Read more here.
In D.C., Herzog highlights Arab-Israeli normalization, Iranian drones in Ukraine
Israeli President Isaac Herzog focused on Arab-Israeli normalization and the Iranian drone threat to Ukraine yesterday on the first day of a two-day visit to Washington, D.C, his first since becoming Israel’s president. Herzog met on Tuesday with leaders from the Jewish Federations of North America, the leadership of dozens of American Jewish groups, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and other senior State Department officials and House leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He also participated in an N7 Initiative event co-hosted by the Atlantic Council and the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation to discuss Arab-Israeli normalization, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Hopeful Herzog: During the N7 event, moderated by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Herzog expressed confidence that there will one day be a Middle Eastern treaty alliance, akin to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “It may take a generation to get there, but we’re not far away on so many issues,” he said, particularly highlighting the region’s potential as a source for renewable energy.
Sights on Saudi Arabia: Herzog praised President Joe Biden for visiting Saudi Arabia during his summer trip to the Middle East, during which Biden worked to advance Saudi-Israeli normalization. Experts, including Shapiro, told JI last week that recent Saudi-U.S. tensions make normalization between the two countries a more difficult goal to achieve. “I commend President Biden for taking that trip in the region, including going to Saudi Arabia, because I truly believe that Saudi Arabia is a very important player in the region and also a very central pillar in the Muslim world,” Herzog said. “I say that from an Israeli perspective, not related to the American argument with Saudi Arabia these days, but I’m looking at the grand picture. It was an important step moving forward in many respects.”
Eye on Iran: Throughout the day, Herzog highlighted additional evidence that Israel has collected of Russia’s use of Iranian drones in its invasion of Ukraine, and said he plans to discuss the issue with Biden on Wednesday as well. The comments come as Israel faces criticism from some in the U.S., as well as Ukrainian leaders, for refusing to provide weapons to Ukraine. “We all identify with the plight of citizens in Iran who wish simply to express their desires and liberties,” Herzog said. “And if you take this record of spreading terror, weapons, hate all around the region, and now try to apply it in Ukraine, you see that innocent civilians in Ukraine are killed and hurt and wounded and suffering from Iranian weapons.
Kushner hails Saudi Arabia as another startup nation
In the absence of any Biden administration officials, veterans of the Trump White House took to the stage at Saudi Arabia’s flagship international conference in Riyadh on Tuesday to remind investors of their accomplishments in connecting Israel and the Arab world. Jared Kushner, who as a White House senior advisor brokered the Abraham Accords on behalf of former President Donald Trump, his father-in-law, went so far as to hail Saudi Arabia as a “startup nation,” using the nickname Israel earned by generating thousands of technology companies. Kushner, who now runs a private equity firm backed by $2 billion in Saudi investment, is reportedly putting some of the cash in Israeli startups, The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger reports.
Startup nations: “The Abraham Accords peace that was made in 2020 has unleashed a lot of connectivity in the region,” Kushner said at the Future Investment Initiative conference. “You see this region now, where Israel, which is a startup nation and the [United Arab Emirates], which is a startup nation, and even Saudi Arabia, which is a startup nation, are starting to think about their future generations,” Kushner said. “I think you’re going to see over the next decade a lot of progress and growth coming from this part of the world.”
Slowly and silently: While Saudi Arabia has yet to sign the normalization agreements with Israel that the Trump administration brokered with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, the kingdom allows some Israeli companies to quietly operate within its borders. “I think the crown prince understands that in order to transform the Saudi economy from an economy that has been almost wholly dependent on oil to one that has a vibrant tech sector, he needs to connect his people to the country that has the most vibrant tech sector in the Middle East, which is Israel,” Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington research institute, told The Circuit.
Elsewhere: In Foreign Affairs, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Yale Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld opine that the U.S. should use the recent rift with Saudi Arabia over oil production cuts to rebalance the relationship between the two countries by pausing its arms sales for a year, legislation that Blumenthal has proposed.
Rep. Brad Schneider joins ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
Politics, Judaism and positive U.S.-Israel relations have been important to Rep. Brad Schneider, (D-IL), since long before he entered Congress. In high school, Schneider was president of his youth group, became active in his college’s AIPAC chapter and then got involved with the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago after graduation, for which he was an officer in its young leadership division. He chaired the Chicago Alliance of Latinos and Jews for four years, and held a position on the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet — he was an inaugural member of AIPAC’s New Leadership Network, which ultimately led him to pursue a congressional career, thanks to the relationships he made as part of the program. Joining the latest episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” Schneider made clear that now, as a member of the House of Representatives, his goals have stayed true.
Dynamic district: “My district is, and I think always will be, a swing district. People living in this district tend to be in the middle, whether it’s center-left, center-right, they’re in the middle. I have always said I’m committed to working with anyone as long as they come to the table with an open mind, bring ideas…I’ve done that before I was in Congress, as long as I am in Congress I will continue to do that, and I think I get a lot of support across my district, and part of that is being able to talk to each other. I have a saying, I raised my kids with this idea, I’ve practiced it in my professional career as well as in politics: I don’t have to prove you wrong to be confident of my beliefs, but I’m not [so] certain of what I know not to listen to what you have to say, and maybe learn and move from where I am. And if you have that philosophy, you can work with anybody. And I do.”
Rising tide of antisemitism: “You know, this is a scary moment, and it’s not a new wave [of antisemitism], this wave has been growing for a number of years. That’s why we formed the Antisemitism Task Force back in 2014, and we’re seeing antisemitism rise across the country and around the world. What Kanye [West] said isn’t just reprehensible, it should strike fear in all of us. Kanye has more followers than there are Jews in the world, and the stuff he is saying is dangerous, it’s threatening, it’s a real concern. It’s not just Kanye, however, I mean, we’re seeing antisemitism across the board.”
Breaking down BDS: “There’s broad support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and condemnation of those who would boycott Israel, who would seek to delegitimize Israel. And as I mentioned before, we have so much turnover in Congress, it’s not enough just to make this statement a few years ago [when the House passed a BDS resolution bill that didn’t make it through the Senate], we’re gonna have to explain to new members why this is an important issue, help them understand the details of it.”
In their words: Israel, Iran and antisemitism at the PA, NY debates
With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, voters and political observers in New York, Pennsylvania and beyond tuned into last night’s Pennsylvania Senate debate and New York gubernatorial debate. The debates — expected to be the only debates in both races — focused largely on domestic policy, but the candidates in each turned briefly to foreign policy.
Deep divides: In Pennsylvania, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman articulated positions on abortion, education, fracking and the 2020 election. Oz, who did not live in Pennsylvania before this year, cast himself as a political outsider and a “candidate for change.” Fetterman, who requested closed captioning as he recovers from a stroke, told voters, “My campaign is all about fighting for anyone in Pennsylvania that ever got knocked down and had to get back up again.”
60 seconds: Asked about the biggest foreign-policy challenge facing the country, Fetterman named China. “I believe China is not our friend, and I believe that we can be able to push back and we need to stand against China,” he said. When asked the same question, Oz said the biggest challenge is “the fact that our country is not projecting strength.” He criticized U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran: “We have gone to them and tried to sign a deal that would allow them once again to have the nuclear power to blow up Israel, which they promised they would do. John Fetterman supports that deal,” added Oz. The solution to what Oz described as America’s foreign-policy weakness is to produce energy at home. “The best way for America to establish its dominance is to unleash the energy here in Pennsylvania and across the country,” he said.
New York state of crime: In New York’s gubernatorial debate, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), the GOP nominee, hit Gov. Kathy Hochul for her administration’s handling of crime-related issues. “People are at home, waiting for action, to make sure that the handcuffs are going on criminals instead of law-abiding New Yorkers. So that people can go walk the streets of Manhattan instead of having to call an Uber just to go two blocks because they’re afraid. People who have changed their behavior, they’re not riding the subway at the same hours. Maybe they’re Jewish, they take their yarmulke off because they’re afraid of being attacked.”
Trump factor: In a segment in which the candidates posed questions to each other, Hochul asked Zeldin, “Is [former President] Donald Trump a great president?” Zeldin responded in part, “Whether it’s our work to secure the southern border, strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, moving the Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, getting the Abraham Accords push, maybe the effort to go after the Iran nuclear deal, which was fatally flawed, and fortunately he stopped it…all of that work is our job.”
Gun laws: Hochul addressed the Supreme Court decision to strike down New York’s concealed carry law. “They took away my right as governor to protect the citizens on our subways, synagogues, or sitting in a classroom from having a concealed-carry weapon,” Hochul said.
Vaccine talk: In a wider conversation about COVID-19 vaccines mandates, Zeldin was asked by moderator Susan Arbetter whether he supports polio vaccine mandates, several months after the state declared an emergency after a confirmed case in an unvaccinated individual in Rockland County. “Right now the position of the state is that there is a polio emergency and I’m not proposing any new changes,” Zeldin said. “Right now there are vaccine mandates that are out there all across the board, on all different kinds of fronts. What I would specifically say is that the COVID vaccine mandate is different than the polio vaccine mandate.”
👰🏻🤵🏻 A Marriage of Ideals: In Commentary, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik, director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, pushes back against critics of the Abraham Accords as he marvels at the fusion of Hassidic Jewish and Emirati Arab culture seen at the September wedding of Chabad Rabbi Levi Duchman and Leah Hadad in Abu Dhabi. “It is striking therefore that as the wedding marked the anniversary of the historic agreement, the astounding success of the Accords still continues to be denied in publications whose own ‘expertise’ was so challenged by the Accords themselves. We are told that the failure of the compact to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a fatal flaw…All this, of course, gets it exactly wrong. The further warming of the Emirati-Israeli relationship in the face of tensions with Palestinians — however regrettable those tensions might be — reflects the strength of the Accords, and their central insight: the fact that one localized conflict over the future of Judea and Samaria need not be ‘solved’ in order to build bridges to the rest of the Arab world and to the Muslim world beyond.” [Commentary]
⛰️ The Last Shtetl: In New Lines Magazine, Evan Pheiffer spotlights the “mountain Jews” who have lived in a village near Azerbaijan’s border with Russia for centuries. “On the one hand, the village is connected to the rest of the world through its own expatriates. While only 500 people live here in the winter, the village balloons to over 3,000 in the summer, when its many sons and daughters return from Moscow, Brooklyn, Tel Aviv and Baku. Indeed, the folks of Red Village are as likely to carry an American passport as they are a Russian or Israeli one. On the other hand, the village remains fairly isolated. It represents the last shtetl in Europe, according to some. Even seven decades of Soviet assimilation policies and 30 years of Azerbaijani nation-building have barely diluted its distinct identity… A little insularity was always going to be needed to keep a distinct community alive for nearly 300 years. Though present-day Azerbaijan is thought to have had a Jewish presence for well over 1,000 years, the Mountain Jews of Red Village, known simply as the Jewish Village under the tsars (“Yevreskaya Sloboda”), have formed a distinct community in Quba since the 1730s.” [NewLines]
🗝️ The Arab Vote: AP‘s Tia Goldenberg and Sam McNeil explore how Arab Israeli voters could sway the outcome of the upcoming election. “Turnout among these voters will be key: High numbers could swing the election in favor of Netanyahu’s opponents, while a drop could pave the way for Netanyahu’s return. ‘I can hardly remember a single election campaign that all depended on the vote of Arab citizens,’ said Arik Rudnitzky, who studies Arab voting patterns at the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank. Most polls predict a historically low turnout among Arab voters, even though the outgoing coalition government included an Arab party, a first in Israel’s history. That first-time participation in government hasn’t generated much excitement among voters disillusioned by rampant crime, the rising cost of living and a loss of hope for change from within a slow-moving political system.” [AP]
🎸 Sister Act: In Glamour, comedic actress Maya Rudolph and friend and fan of rock band Haim interviews sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim about music, their journey to success, sisterhood and the tired questions women in entertainment are sick of being asked. “Maya: I feel like, working in the entertainment industry, there’s always going to be a moment when you’re asked about being a woman in the business. You’re always going to be asked about being a woman in music, being a woman in comedy. It never ends… Alana: Things like that happen still to this day — at least for us. When we were in, I think, Spain, a friend of a friend came to see us play. I was backstage with this man. And there was a language barrier there. So I can’t really pontificate on exactly what he was trying to say, but it was very much along the lines of like, ‘Wow, you can actually play!’ That comment just never gets old for me. It’s so funny. You’re like, ‘What?’ How do you even respond to that? Again, we’re so lucky that we have each other. When something like that happens, you can’t help but fucking laugh. You’re like, ‘Yes, I can actually play, because I’m a musician.’ To your point, it’s so tired. It’s so incredibly tired. And I don’t necessarily know what we do about it. That is why we named our album Women in Music: Pt. Three. Danielle had a dream about it, and that’s where it came from.’” [Glamour]
Around the Web
🇮🇷 Iran Policy Bind: Politico looks at the ongoing diplomatic challenges facing the Biden administration as it considers its response to the ongoing protests in Iran.
☎️ Rebbes to the Rescue: President Joe Biden reportedly held phone conversations with two leading Hasidic rabbis in Rockland County, asking for them to throw their support behind New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), both of whom have seen their leads over Republican opponents shrink in recent weeks.
🖼️ Recovered Art Auction: The descendants of Austrian Jewish performer Fritz Grünbaum, whose artwork was looted by the Nazis before he was killed at Dachau, will auction off two of the reclaimed works, three years after a court determined Grünbaum’s relatives were the rightful owners of the paintings.
💄 Cosmetics Crossover: Forbes spotlights the Jewish founder of Beauty Magnet, who partnered with two Muslim investors to launch the makeup tool.
🚴♂️ Hate Crime Probe: The NYPD is investigating as a hate crime an incident in which a bicyclist assaulted a Jewish man in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
🎧 The Beat Goes On: Spotify CEO Daniel Ek toldReuters that Kanye “Ye” West’s antisemitic comments were “awful” but said his music won’t be removed unless requested by his label.
🟢 Gas Greenlight: The London-based Energean received the all-clear from Israel to begin producing gas at the Karish maritime field, the subject of long-running U.S.-facilitated negotiations between Israel and Lebanon that are set to conclude tomorrow.
🚘 Going Public: Intel’s autonomous driving technologies company Mobileye priced its initial public offering at $21 a share, going slightly over its target range.
😟 ABZ concerns: Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed expressed concerns about far-right extremists being included in the next government, when he met with Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu recently in Israel, Axios reports.
🪖 West Bank: Israeli security forces killed five members of the Nablus-based Lions’ Den group during a raid yesterday, making this the bloodiest year in the West Bank in over a decade.
➡️ Transition: Jonathan Martin will join Politico as the outlet’s politics bureau chief and senior political columnist. Axios’ Sara Fischer is joining CNN as an on-air contributor focusing on corporate media, while remaining as a full-time reporter for Axios.
🕯️ Remembering: Producer Ben Feigin, who was the executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning “Schitt’s Creek,” died at 47.
Pic of the Day
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and UAE Ambassador to the Holy See Omar Ghobash speak at the “Religious Diplomacy: International challenges and opportunities” conference in Abu Dhabi today, hosted by Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the UAE’s minister of tolerance and coexistence, as well as Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy and the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi.
Staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, her 2019 novel Fleishman Is In Trouble hit the best-seller lists and has been adapted into an upcoming limited series, Taffy Brodesser-Akner turns 47…
Former chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the first woman to serve in that position, Deborah Tobias Poritz turns 86… South African judge who led the 2009 U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Richard Goldstone turns 84… Veteran Israeli war correspondent, winner of the 2018 Israel Prize, Ron Ben-Yishai turns 79… Actress best known as one of Charlie’s Angels, she now develops and markets her own brands of clothing and perfume, Jaclyn Smith (family name was Kupferschmidt) turns 77… Chiropractor in White Plains, Leonard Linder, DC… Certified life coach and hypnotherapist, Evie Sullivan… CEO at MDI Real Estate Services in Grand Blanc, Mich., Gary Hurand… Former secretary of state and U.S. senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton turns 75… Media critic at The Baltimore Sun, assistant professor at Goucher College and the author of The Jews of Prime Time, David Lee Zurawik turns 73… Aventura resident, Cecilia Kleiman… Illustrator and graphic memoirist, he is an emeritus professor at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Martin Lemelman turns 72… National director of development at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, Janice Prager… Rabbi of Congregation K.I.N.S. and dean of Ida Crown Jewish Academy, both in Chicago, Leonard Matanky, Ph.D. turns 64… Senior counsel in the antitrust division of the USDOJ, Perry Howard Apelbaum turns 64… Director of communications at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeffrey Rubin… Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Stacy Madeleine Schiff turns 61… Cultural commentator and mathematician, he is a managing director of Thiel Capital, Eric Ross Weinstein turns 57… Founding partner and president of Global Strategy Group, Jefrey Pollock… Screenwriter, director, producer and editor, Jessica Sharzer turns 50… Canadian-born television and film actor, David Julian Hirsh turns 49… Author and broadcast journalist for NBC Katherine Bear Tur turns 39… Figure skater who won a 2006 Olympic silver medal, plus three World Championship medals and the 2006 U.S. Championship, Alexandra Pauline “Sasha” Cohen turns 38… Executive director of product management at Politico, Danielle Feldman… Tel Aviv resident, Dr. Alberto Calo…