👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the scene at the Republican Jewish Coalition confab in Las Vegas, and look at efforts by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to keep Israelis safe during the World Cup in Qatar. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Bob Iger, Bernard-Henri Lévy and Amb. Nikki Haley.
Welcome to the conference comedown, following a whirlwind weekend of events and conferences from Halifax to Manama to Las Vegas and Edison, N.J.
In Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 closed out its 2022 season on Sunday before a packed crowd of more than 100,000 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina. Fans of the motor races and attendees still in town from the Milken Institute Middle East and Africa Summit and Abu Dhabi Finance Week populated the viewing areas around the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Red Bull’s Max Verstappen cruised to victory.
The IISS Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, which began on Friday and wrapped up yesterday, saw a range of speakers from Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata to Colin Kahl, the Biden administration’s undersecretary of defense for policy, to Khalifa Almarar, the minister of state in the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On Sunday, Brett McGurk, the U.S. national security council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, told attendees that collaboration between Washington and Riyadh had prevented an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia. CENTCOM Chief Gen. Michael Kurilla said a U.S. Navy task force planned to have more than 100 unmanned surface and subsurface vessels operating in the Gulf to deter threats by next year.
In Qatar, where Israel has a delegation of diplomats providing consular services to the thousands of Israelis expected to attend the World Cup (Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash has more on that below), officials reportedly backtracked on a promise to allow the sale of kosher food and space for Jewish prayer services. “We were promised to be allowed to create prayer spaces in order for religious Jews who came to see the games to have a place of worship,” a representative of a Jewish organization told The Jerusalem Post’s Zvika Klein. In addition, the individual said, “They were promised to be able to cook kosher food including kosher meat, but at the moment have only been allowed to sell cold bagel sandwiches.”
Bob Iger is back. The announcement last night by the Walt Disney Company that Iger, the company’s former CEO, will immediately replace outgoing CEO Bob Chapek sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry. Iger’s return marks the end of a rocky two-year period for the company in which Chapek grappled with a number of controversies, including a lawsuit with actress Scarlett Johansson, amid a 40% drop in Disney stock. Under the new arrangement, Iger will serve as the company’s CEO for two years, during which time he will work to identify and onboard a successor.
view from vegas
RJC draws presidential contenders at Las Vegas leadership conference
The top echelon of potential Republican presidential candidates made pitches to supporters and donors over the weekend at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership conference at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, with at least 10 potential presidential hopefuls making the event the unofficial kickoff to the 2024 campaign season, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports from Las Vegas.
Star of the show: The clear star of the weekend was the closing speaker, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is riding high following a decisive victory that aided down-ballot Republicans in the Sunshine State on Election Day. He was greeted by the most vigorous cheers and applause of any of the weekend’s speakers. DeSantis hinted only briefly at his future plans, concluding his speech by saying, “We’ve got a lot more to do and I have only begun to fight.”
Haley’s comment: The other star of the final night of the three-day conference was former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Haley repeated a line she used at this summer’s Christians United for Israel Conference hinting at a 2024 campaign, before confirming that she is going to “look at it in a serious way.” “I’ve won tough general elections and tough primaries, and I’ve been the underdog every single time,” Haley said. “I’ve never lost an election and I’m not going to start now.”
Trumped up: Former President Donald Trump, in a video speech, remained relatively disciplined in seemingly scripted opening remarks, rapidly rattling off his accomplishments and grievances with Biden administration policies, but veered off-script during a Q&A, in which he addressed the Abraham Accords normalization agreements brokered by his administration. “We had a very disgraceful election,” Trump said. “Had that been a good election then we would have had many more countries [joining the Abraham Accords] than we had before.” He suggested that up to 14 countries, including Saudi Arabia, were on the verge of joining the Abraham Accords “a short time after the election.”
Walk away: A series of speakers took the opportunity to distance themselves from the former president and cast blame toward him and the fringe GOP candidates whom he promoted in this year’s midterms, many of whom lost. Reactions were somewhat mixed. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — the clearest anti-Trump voice at last year’s RJC convention — once again came out swinging in a speech that received a relatively positive reception from the audience. “It is time to stop being afraid of any one person, it is time to stand up on our principles,” Christie said in closing his remarks, to a standing ovation from the crowd. “I am ready for that fight, I hope you are ready for that fight.”
Bonus: Trump’s Twitter account was reinstated over the weekend, but has not posted anything since Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the former president was back on the platform — nor does he intend to, telling the crowd at RJC that he saw “no reason” to return to the social media site.
soccer + safety
Inside Israel’s diplomatic mission at the World Cup in Qatar
As thousands of Israeli soccer fans pour into Qatar this month for the World Cup tournament, Israel faces a complicated and delicate diplomatic task to secure its citizens’ well-being in a country with which Jerusalem has no formal diplomatic relations or presence. Last week, ahead of Sunday’s opening ceremony, a team of Israeli officials arrived in the Gulf state, setting up a special mission for the duration of the monthlong tournament that will cater to any emergencies or needs that might arise among Israeli nationals who are there. In addition, Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate, together with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Sports, the Israeli Football Association and the Israel Airports Authority, launched an awareness campaign urging Israeli visitors to the conservative Muslim nation to behave in accordance with local rules and, specifically, to avoid friction with other fans, Jewish Insider‘s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Best behavior: Speaking to JI from Doha, Alon Lavi, spokesperson for the temporary Israeli mission set up in the Qatari capital to assist citizens, said that the delegation’s most obvious concerns were relating to the use of alcohol and drugs, which are “strictly forbidden here.” But, he added, that visiting Israelis needed to be conscious of teams and fans from other nations — particularly those from countries considered enemy states — and abide by the rules of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), soccer’s international governing body. One of those restrictions is on the waving of flags of countries not competing in the games — Israel has no team in the tournament.
Influx of Israelis: Lavi estimated that as many as 10,000 Israelis are expected to arrive in Qatar for the games, with nearly a dozen Israeli diplomats on hand to provide them with consular services, including replacing lost or stolen passports, catering to medical emergencies or dealing any criminal incidents. The first-ever direct flight between Tel Aviv and Doha took off on Sunday. “We are working under an agreement that was reached between the government of Qatar, FIFA and the State of Israel to allow a presence of Israeli diplomats to assist Israeli citizens that are coming to watch the games,” Lavi explained, adding that “according to FIFA regulations, when a country is hosting the games it needs to be open for all people around the world.”
Minor bumps: So far, Lavi continued, the Israeli mission has been well-received, with no incidents, although they have faced some basic challenges, such as purchasing a local SIM card using an Israeli passport and credit card, as well as a few surprised reactions from local residents glimpsing an Israeli passport for the first time.
Digital medicine connects hospitals in Gulf and Israel
When Bahrain’s King Hamad American Mission Hospital opens a new $66 million building in January, it will treat patients using advanced medical capabilities that are based on artificial intelligence, virtual reality and digital health care management, Brian Blum reports for The Circuit.
Abraham Accords: Much of the technology employed at the tiny Gulf kingdom’s oldest hospital will come from a partnership with Israel’s Sheba Medical Center that would have been impossible two years ago, before the two countries established diplomatic ties through the Abraham Accords. Sheba’s doctors, managers and homegrown startup companies will help the private, nonprofit hospital offer breakthrough techniques in surgery and rehabilitation while treating a wider circle of patients through telemedicine. “Health care unites us across social and political divides,” Dr. George Cheriyan, CEO of the Bahraini hospital known as AMH, said in an interview with The Circuit. “The Abraham Accords have opened the doors to allow people from both nations to mix freely, with health care as the gateway.”
Healthcare startups: Central to the relationship will be Sheba’s ARC Center for Digital Innovation and Triventures, a $200 million Israeli-American venture capital firm that established a seed fund to nurture med-tech startups within Sheba, Israel’s biggest hospital. The new 125-bed medical center in Bahrain, a few miles south of the capital city of Manama, is scheduled to open in 2023, 120 years after the hospital was founded by Christian missionaries from the United States.The five-story building will become AMH’s flagship, with four satellite facilities across the island country, which is off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia and connected by a causeway.
Global partnerships: Sheba’s ARC program – which stands for Accelerate, Redesign and Collaborate – has developed partnerships for applying new medical technologies at hospitals in Chicago, Houston and Ottawa, Canada. It is also working with Bahrain’s biggest public hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex. In the United Arab Emirates, Sheba physicians have started offering remote consultations over Zoom to 350 diabetes patients from the Gulf state’s military, police and firefighting services. Sheba will also help train obstetrics and gynecology personnel at Dubai’s Medcare Women and Children Hospital.
probing the probe
FBI wades into murky territory with Abu Akleh investigation
The FBI sparked a political firestorm last week when Israel announced that the American law enforcement agency is investigating the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in May during a skirmish between Palestinian militants and Israeli security forces in the West Bank city of Jenin, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Few answers: Whether the Abu Akleh investigation originated with a small team at DOJ, or was authorized by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has not been specified. The scale of the investigation is also not known. The Department of Justice has not commented on the matter, and the White House and State Department told Israeli leaders they were not involved in the FBI’s decision to investigate. “Nobody’s actually mentioned what the potential crime would be. [Supporters of an FBI probe] use terms like accountability and justice, but the FBI doesn’t do accountability. The FBI doesn’t do fairness. The FBI does crimes. And so it’s unclear precisely what crime would be investigated, if indeed any crime is being investigated,” said one person who works on foreign policy in Washington and requested anonymity to speak freely. That individual’s attempts to reach contacts in the federal government, they told JI, have gone unanswered.
IDF investigation: An Israel Defense Forces investigation completed in September found that Abu Akleh, a longtime Al Jazeera reporter, was likely killed unintentionally by Israeli forces, and authorities concluded that no disciplinary actions would be taken. In light of the investigation, the State Department vowed to press Israel to “closely review its policies and practices on rules of engagement,” deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in September.
Past precedents: The FBI probe into Abu Akleh’s death is not the first time the agency has investigated the deaths of American journalists abroad in the past. But the bureau does not have a hard-and-fast policy with respect to investigating the deaths of American journalists killed abroad. For instance, the parents of Christopher Allen, a dual American-British citizen who was killed reporting in South Sudan in 2017, have spent years urging the FBI to take up their son’s case, to no avail. In the instances where the U.S. did investigate the deaths of American journalists killed abroad — like Daniel Pearl, killed by Islamist militants in Pakistan, or James Foley and Steven Sotloff, killed by ISIS fighters in Syria — the entities being investigated were not close American allies.
🏠 Second Home: NPR’s Daniel Estrin spotlights Russian individuals who have fled the country and moved to Israel, based on the Law of Return that allows the descendants of Jews to immigrate. “More than 28,000 Russian nationals have acquired Israeli citizenship since the war began, according to Israeli government figures. They include a pop superstar, a top photojournalist and many other creatives in art, theater, film, music and dance. ‘Staying behind the Iron Curtain was incredibly scary,’ Russian artist Victor Melamed says, comparing Russia’s current isolation to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Melamed, whose portraits have appeared in the New Yorker magazine, fled to Israel in June. He says: ‘I want to be a person of the world.’ Russians are relocating mostly to Turkey, Kazakhstan and Georgia. But Israel offers one big advantage: Those with at least one Jewish grandparent can get Israeli citizenship for themselves and their close family. ‘When the war started, I think, like, everybody literally remembered their Jewish grandma,’ says Liza Rozovsky, a Russian-born Israeli journalist tracking Russian celebrity arrivals for the Haaretz newspaper.” [NPR]
🇮🇷 Talkin ‘bout a Revolution: In The Wall Street Journal, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy recounts his meeting with Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad and her, and three other activists’, subsequent meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron — whom he praises for his response. “As she described the meeting to me, Ms. Alinejad goes on the attack over Mr. Macron’s handshake with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Mr. Macron listens, takes it in, explains that, faced with an uprising of this nature and the repression with which it has been met, the head of a democratic nation can’t forgo the weapon of diplomacy. She answers the French president in the spirit of the duke of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. ‘Is this a revolt?’ Louis XVI asked in 1789. ‘No, sire,’ the duke answered, ‘it’s a revolution.’ Mr. Macron responds in the terms he will use in the press release issued after the meeting: France supports the revolution in Iran. Yes, he said ‘the revolution.’ He is the first head of state in the world to use the word, which changes everything and earns him the fury of the mullahs.” [WSJ]
⛵ In the Same Boat: In The New York Times, Vanderbilt University professor Michael Eric Dyson weighs in on the backlash from the Ye and Kyrie Irving antisemitism scandals, and the dynamic between Blacks and Jews as two groups who have suffered persecution and continue to fight bigotry. “Ye’s Blackness could not rescue him, especially when he made the specious claim that, after all, he was punching up at the all-powerful and controlling Jews who were attempting to make his life hell. Ye met his match on the battlefield of symbolic politics and racial dispute: The people he attacked had just as much cultural cachet as Black folk do, because they too survived trouble, terror and trauma. His Blackness offered no shield from the undoing he faced for recklessly assaulting another group of people whose suffering had inspired the sorrow songs of his own people more than a century earlier. Ye, Irving and the rest of us would do well to remember that African Americans and Jews are passengers on the same ship facing the ferocious headwinds of bigotry and hatred. The author and psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon said he learned to be ‘responsible in my body and soul for the fate reserved for my brother,’ understanding that ‘the antisemite is inevitably a Negrophobe.’ That is a lesson we should all learn.” [NYTimes]
🪖 IDF at the IDFA: Deadline’s Matthew Carey interviews Israeli film director Guy Davidi about his film “Innocence,” which explores the impact the Israel Defense Forces has on Israeli society, and which was played at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in the Best of Fests category. “Davidi is troubled by the depiction of the IDF in entertainment media as an invincible force. These depictions are exported to other countries, including the U.S., where they influence attitudes, he says. ‘I am just surprised… how much Israeli military is portrayed in American film, television. ‘Fauda’ is a big TV series on Netflix and creates an image of a strong Israeli society because of the military. And that, to me, is immoral. If you’re in the science fiction world or whatever, that’s fine — but we’re talking about the reality of lives of people and to just remove what it means to have a militarized society and just present Israel as a successful society because of the military service, because they are strong, because they are controlling their own fate, just for me, it’s a distorted thinking. And unfortunately, a lot of people, especially those who are connected to Israel,’ Davidi says, indicating he means American Jews, ‘they buy this image, strangely. They think that this is a positive image of a successful country.'” [Deadline]
🏆 World Cup Woes: Omer Carmi, a former military fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, looks at the challenges facing Iran at this year’s World Cup. “In the past, sports helped Iran’s leaders marshal some degree of nationalistic unity despite simmering public discontent. Yet the uprising has led many current and former athletes to align with the protesters. Football legends such as Ali Karimi and Ali Daei supported the demonstrations from the very beginning and recently turned down invitations to attend the World Cup. In response, hardliners have publicly threatened their assets and even their lives. Last month, Javan — a newspaper affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — warned Daei that ‘whoever doesn’t know his limits will perish,’ while Karimi was charged in absentia for ‘acting against national security.’” [WINEP]
Around the Web
👋 Twitter Farewell: In a New York Times op-ed, Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter, explained the reasoning behind his recent resignation from the company and concerns over its future under Elon Musk.
🐦 Ye to Stay: Kanye West, who now goes by the name Ye, is back on Twitter after his account was temporarily blocked following his antisemitic tirade. His second tweet was “Shalom,” with a smiling emoji.
🏃♀️ Progressive Pitch: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) announced plans to run for reelection as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, forgoing a run for Democratic leadership.
🗳️ Colorado Concession: Former Aspen City Councilmember Adam Frisch conceded to Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) after finishing roughly 550 votes behind the controversial freshman legislator.
🇮🇳 A Passage to India?: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose nomination to be ambassador to India has languished for 16 months, is spending his last weeks in office pressing for the Senate to move forward with his confirmation.
🚓 Thwarted Plot: Two men were arrested in New York’s Penn Station and charged with making an online threat to a Jewish institution and criminal possession of a weapon.
⛷️ Ski Scandal: Residents of Aspen, Colo., launched a petition calling for a boycott of a line of ski products being sold by a local influencer who has posted antisemitic content on her social media.
📺 You’re Fired: CNN cut ties with a freelancer who had posted tweets glorifying Hamas terrorism.
🏀 Brooklyn Brouhaha: Hundreds of members of the Black Hebrew Israelite sect — whose members believe that Black individuals and other minorities descend from Israel’s 12 Tribes and that Jewish people are engaging in identity theft — demonstrated at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center in support of the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving ahead of the team’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, which marked the point guard’s return from a brief suspension, after Irving apologized for sharing an antisemitic video on Twitter.
🏗️ Risky Bet: A residential project on Brooklyn’s Williamsburg waterfront backed by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries obtained $385 million in construction loans, moving forward the Naftali Group-developed project.
🚍 Crash Casualty: An undergraduate student at Brandeis University was killed and 26 others injured after an accident in Waltham, Mass., involving a bus shuttling Brandeis students from a hockey game at Northeastern University.
📸 Floyd’s Flight: Boxer Floyd Mayweather posted photos from his trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
⚽ Disbanded: Soccer players from England and Wales dropped plans to wear anti-discrimination armbands during their matches after FIFA told seven countries participating in the World Cup that their players would face sanctions if they did so.
🛰️ Drone Sale: New intelligence obtained by Western security agencies indicates that Russia and Iran have inked an agreement for Tehran to sell hundreds of drones to Moscow for use in its invasion of Ukraine.
👨 Bibi’s Back: The New York Timeslooks at how some Jewish Americans are approaching former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power.
🪖 Infighting: An IDF soldier filed a complaint against an Israeli man who allegedly attacked and injured her amid clashes in Hebron over the weekend.
🕯️ Remembering: Michael Pertschuk, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, died at 89. Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, psychiatrist and founder of the Phoenix House drug and alcohol rehabilitation nonprofit organization, died at 87.
Pic of the Day
Chabad shluchim (emissaries) gather for a photo in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the International Conference of Shluchim, which brings thousands of Chabad rabbis from around the world together every year.
Ben Sales, news editor of eJewishPhilanthropy was at last night’s gala in Edison, N.J., where philanthropist George Rohr announced a $2.5 million gift to fund four new Chabad day camps in North America. Read more from the gathering here.
Academy Award-winning actress, director, producer and occasional singer, she founded The Hawn Foundation to help underprivileged children, Goldie Hawn turns 77…
Director-general of the Mossad from 1982 to 1989, Nahum Admoni turns 93… British entrepreneur and philanthropist, Baron Harold Stanley Kalms turns 91… Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) turns 78… Founder, chairman and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse, currently holding these same positions at Generation Tux, George Zimmer turns 74… U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) turns 71… Beverly Hills resident, Julie Shuer… U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California, Judge Beth Labson Freeman turns 69… Chairman of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, Thomas Rothman turns 68… Israeli media personality, Avri Gilad turns 60… Business development officer at the San Francisco office of Taylor Frigon Capital Management, Jonathan Wornick… VP of planned giving and endowments at UJA-Federation of New York, William Samers… CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan A. Greenblatt turns 52… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, New York Times columnist and editor-in-chief of Sapir, Bret Stephens turns 49… Founder and publisher of the business magazine The Real Deal, Amir Korangy turns 49… Former NFL running back for the Raiders and Rams, he is now a real estate entrepreneur, Chad Levitt turns 47… Political director of ABC News, Rick Klein turns 46… Director of global government relations at the Hershey Company, she was previously a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Joanna Liberman Turner turns 46… Consul general of the U.S. in Quebec, Danielle Hana Monosson… Reporter at Bloomberg News, Max Abelson… Member of the New York City Council from the Bronx, Eric Dinowitz turns 37… MLB pitcher in five organizations, now playing for the Doosan Bears in South Korea, Robert Stock turns 33… Associate director of social media at the American Jewish Committee, Alexander Freeman… Judy Brilliant… Ruth Shapiro…