👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a coalition, and spotlight an initiative by the American Jewish Historical Society to preserve records on Jewish philanthropy. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Steven Spielberg, Ivanka Trump and Naftali Bennett.
Through the midterm cycle, the general expectation for the new Congress among pundits and Hill watchers was that Republicans would pick up anywhere from a couple dozen to 60 seats, boosting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to the speakership.
In the lead-up to November, Democrats were locked in a generational debate, questioning if it was time for a new class of leaders to take the party into the next Congress. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not yet shared her plans for her political future, which were further impacted by a home break-in and assault on her husband by an assailant looking for the octogenarian House leader less than two weeks before the midterms.
But as House Democrats choose the next class of leaders in the coming days, the opposite has happened. McCarthy now faces a challenge by the far-right flank of his party in his effort to procure the requisite 218 votes. House Republicans are still predicting McCarthy will be the next House speaker, despite those hurdles. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a vocal opponent of McCarthy’s bid for the speakership, yesterday called the prediction “irresponsible,” saying that the California Republican “doesn’t have the votes.” Gaetz called for a review of other potential speaker candidates from the GOP. “If chaos ensues Jan 3,” when the new House elects a speaker, Gaetz warned, “it will be a result of this denialism.”
Democrats will meet this weekto select their next leaders, widely expected to be Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA). In an address announcing her departure from leadership earlier this month, Pelosi said, “the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Caucus that I so deeply respect.” A day later, Jeffries launched his bid to succeed Pelosi.
Jeffries’ candidacyhas drawn some criticism from far-left activists in his home state, whose policies and candidates Jeffries has kept his distance from, going so far as to say last year that “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” Tensions between the New York City-area representative and the progressive wing go back several years; just weeks after her 2018 victory, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who had not yet taken office, was rumored to already be recruiting a challenger to primary Jeffries for the 2020 cycle.
Israeli coalition coming together – very slowly
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu inched closer to forming a coalition government this weekend, following the inking on Thursday of an agreement between his Likud party and Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), the faction headed by far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who will take on the role of national security minister, overseeing the country’s police, and gain a seat on Israel’s security cabinet. On Sunday, Netanyahu met individually with the leaders of the five other factions expected to form the new government: long-time ally and Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich, United Torah Judaism chairman Yizhak Goldknopf, Noam party chief Avi Maoz and Ben-Gvir.
Maoz tsuris: The incoming prime minister struck a deal with Maoz to establish a National Authority for Jewish Identity in the Prime Minister’s Office; Maoz, who is his party’s sole representative, will also serve as a deputy minister. Axios’ Barak Ravid described Noam, which was established in 2019, as “a radical religious party that focuses on opposing LGBTQ & women’s rights.”
Still to come: Netanyahu has yet to reach an agreement with Smotrich, whose party has criticized Netanyahu for his reluctance to give the Religious Zionism party head his desired posts, but the two reportedly made progress during an hours-long meeting yesterday and are scheduled to reconvene today. Smotrich had asked for either the Defense or Finance portfolio; Netanyahu has appeared more open to giving him the latter, which had also been sought by Shas’ Deri. Smotrich is also pushing to be given control over the Civil Administration, which oversees Area C in the West Bank.
Waving a red flag: Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned today that Netanyahu’s intentions for the legal system are personal, tied to the ongoing corruption trial against him. “Netanyahu wants to decide who the prosecutor in his trial will be. Netanyahu wants to decide the identity of the judges who will hear his appeal. Netanyahu wants to pass a law that bans filing indictments against a prime minister because he is a prime minister who has been indicted. This is not a legal reform, this is not ideology, it is criminality taking advantage of an opportunity.”
Ticking clock: Netanyahu has until Dec. 11 to form his coalition; he is able to request a two-week extension, but has indicated he hopes to have the government finalized well before the 28-day mandate expires.
into the stacks
These archivists are sifting through endless boxes of paper to preserve a century of American Jewish philanthropy
Some of the most important work that Tamar Zeffren and Melanie Meyers do involves sifting through file cabinets in drab, labyrinthine rooms and discarding copies of documents. Their mission: to preserve a record of how American Jewish philanthropy has evolved over the past century and beyond. As staff members at the American Jewish Historical Society, they are charged with safeguarding and expanding an archive of American Jewish foundations, nonprofits and charitable societies that collectively comprises thousands of boxes of documents, taking up stack after stack in a backroom of AJHS’ museum in lower Manhattan, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales reports.
Story-telling: “Those records also say as much about the individuals who are doing the giving, who are identifying the needs, and I think that that’s a very valuable piece of the story that understandably isn’t always foregrounded,” Zeffren, the museum’s director of archival partnerships, told eJP during a tour of AJHS’ stacks, adding that many philanthropists may not have thought to preserve a record of their giving process. “It seems self-absorbed to think, ‘Wait a minute, this work should be documented, because it’s a vital piece of a bigger conversation.’”
Natan’s notes: The collection is trying to preserve that conversation, and its latest major addition is the archive of the Natan Fund, which was founded 20 years ago and has provided seed funding for several of the most well-known Jewish nonprofits of recent years, such as the environmental group Hazon and Sefaria, the digital Jewish text library. The Natan collection comprises nearly three dozen linear feet — a unit roughly akin to a box of paper at Staples — and is mostly taken up with meeting minutes and successful and unsuccessful grant applications. It took one archivist about five months to sift through the papers, discard those that were irrelevant to the collection and organize it. “We felt we had this unique insight and treasure of how entrepreneurs were thinking about the challenges and opportunities of modern American Jewish life,” Adina Poupko, Natan’s executive director, told eJP. “If everyone keeps all their papers secret and hidden, then future generations will be missing out on a really critical piece of our story.”
Personal papers: No matter how much access organizations provide to their records, there are some files that the museum’s archivists do not preserve. Personal information about employees, generally, is outside of AJHS’ purview, and the museum has yet to archive any of the endless petabytes of emails sent between and within Jewish charities. “We do not take HR or personnel records… people’s social security numbers, photocopies of their passports, sometimes, depending on your personnel record, you know, disciplinary action, any number of things — healthcare information,” Meyers said. “Those are the kinds of things, [if] we find them, we send them back or we destroy them.”
Israelis getting on board to test whether driverless buses are the future
You’re going to a New Year’s party. It’s a rainy night. The twisting suburban bus route is unfamiliar so you make your way up front to figure out where to get off. One problem: There’s no driver to ask. That’s among the many challenges that await Israelis in 2024, when the government starts a NIS 61 million ($17.7 million) pilot program to test autonomous buses carrying passengers in actual traffic. Four Israeli bus companies and several international tech companies will examine how driverless vehicles can be integrated into the urban public transportation system, Melanie Lidman reports for The Circuit.
Expanding market: Until now, driverless public buses were considered mostly a novelty. Dubai, Doha and many other cities around the world have autonomous metro rail systems, which are easier to run because they operate on their own designated tracks. But public buses drive on regular city streets crowded with other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, which all behave in unexpected ways. As the technology and sensors for autonomous vehicles go up in quality and down in price, more cities are exploring options to use driverless buses as part of the existing transport network. “We understand that the future is going in that direction, and we need to have a vision,” Nir Ron, the head of innovation at Israel’s Egged bus company, told The Circuit. “The technology is already there, it’s about integrating it to work for public transportation.”
Rules of the road: Ami Appelbaum, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, said one of the challenges is determining national regulations with the Transportation Ministry, so companies know what kinds of testing and checks driverless buses must undergo before taking to the streets with passengers. Earlier this year, the Israeli parliament passed a law that will allow autonomous shared transportation on Israeli roads that carry passengers without drivers. This law paves the way for initiatives like Mobileye’s driverless robotaxi ride-hailing service, which the Israeli company hopes to start testing in Israel and Germany in the coming months.
Route cause: Tal Raviv, a professor and head of the Shlomo Shmelzer Institute for Smart Transportation at Tel Aviv University, said autonomous buses will be much more effective if they accompany a major overhaul of the current bus system. “The way lines are built in the [Tel Aviv] metro region, so many of the lines are like spaghetti, with really long lines that aren’t very frequent,” he told The Circuit. The winding routes through neighborhoods were designed to try to reach the maximum number of people, but there’s a tradeoff. “When buses try to come closer to your house, the frequency goes down,” he said. A more efficient system could deploy small, driverless electric buses inside the neighborhoods as “feeder buses,” ferrying passengers to a network of major bus routes that are more direct and come much more frequently, said Raviv. He envisions a future where a passenger could order an autonomous bus to stop at their house, just like one would push a button for an elevator, to take them to the main bus line. That would allow bus companies to concentrate their efforts in increasing the frequency of a few main lines, rather than scrambling to find drivers to increase frequency of dozens of long, snaking routes.
👋 Bennett Looks Back: Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett penned an opinion piece for The New York Times, reflecting on the conditions that made possible the formation of his unity government, and what held the coalition together for a year. “I established the 70/70 rule. About 70 percent of Israelis agree on 70 percent of the issues. We all agree that we need better trains and roads, better education, more security and a lower cost of living. However, we disagree on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religion and state and the desired nature of our legal system. So my government focused on getting the 70 percent done, as opposed to endlessly wrangling over the issues we didn’t agree on. We all agreed that this government will neither insist on Israeli sovereignty for territories nor hand them over to Palestinians. Similarly, we decided we would not legislate on any disputed religious or legal matters. When you neutralize the most politically sensitive issues, ministers from left and right saw each other as decent people working for the good of Israel and not as the demons we had been calling each other. We called ourselves a good-will government. We proved to ourselves and to those outside our coalition that people with radically different political opinions can work incredibly well together. The world is more polarized than ever. The model we presented was one of cooperation and unity. Of transcending your tribe for the good of your nation.” [NYTimes]
🇹🇷 What’s in a Name:The Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama spotlights Ankara’s effort to rebrand the country’s name as Türkiye, instead of Turkey, though the move has been slow to catch on among some allies, including Washington. “A State Department spokesman said: ‘It’s less important what we call our Turkish allies and more how we speak about them and the important work we do together.’ Explanations for the hesitation vary. Many officials said the agency will likely follow suit eventually. Some at the NSC said people there weren’t even aware the State Department hadn’t made a change. ‘The umlaut is a pain in the ass to type,’ said another official, echoing many others, about making a u with two dots on an English-language keyboard. And several noted there’s a sense the name shift was a nationalistic move to divert attention from the country’s economic woes ahead of next year’s elections. The Turkish foreign ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on the reasons behind the change. Still, Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish-American political scientist at the Washington Institute think tank said: ‘If you want to get on Erdogan’s good side these days, you want to call Turkey Türkiye.’” [WSJ]
📽️ Spielberg’s Jewish Mother:The Wall Street Journal‘s Ellen Gamerman interviews actress Michelle Williams about her portrayal of Steven Spielberg’s mother in his semi-autobiographical film “The Fabelmans,” which opened last week. “Any female performers, but especially non-Jewish ones, would be scrutinized for how they navigate the tricky role of the Jewish mother. Too subtle and they risk neutering the character’s ethnicity. Too broad and they lapse into caricature. ‘If she says she doesn’t want her son to become a doctor or a lawyer, overall that’s a net win,’ Marjorie Ingall, author of the Jewish parenting book Mamaleh Knows Best, said about the potential reception of Mitzi. Ms. Williams is a four-time Oscar nominee and critical darling who has the potential to imbue the role with real humanity, Ms. Ingall said, but some audiences might not like that when a Jewish mother finally speaks in a different voice, it’s a non-Jewish actress who gets to say the words. ‘I can see how for a lot of people it’s going to be problematic,’ she said. Mr. Spielberg said he sensed a soul in Ms. Williams who, while not a carbon copy of his mother, connected him to many of his childhood memories. ‘She felt more like my mom than anyone I could have imagined,’ he said, ‘and that’s the only consideration in a story more personal to me than any story I’ve ever brought to the movies.’” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🍽️ Dinner Debacle: Advisers to former President Donald Trump said that Nick Fuentes, a prominent white supremacist, attended a Tuesday night dinner with Trump alongside Kanye West.
👟 Risky Business: The Wall Street Journal reported that as early as 2018, top executives at Adidas discussed the brand’s relationship with Kanye West and the risks of a continued partnership.
📛 Mayoral Meeting: New York City Mayor Eric Adams is scheduled to attend the Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism in Athens on Wednesday.
🎦 Disney Dust-up: The dismal response to Disney’s new “Strange World,” the company’s second animated box-office bomb this year, poses a challenge to returning CEO Bob Iger, who is expected to undo some of the distribution decisions made by former CEO Bob Chapek, who was fired by Disney’s board of directors earlier this month.
📚 Bookshelf: The Wall Street Journal‘s Elliot Kaufman reviews Ruth Wisse’s English translation of the Yiddish classic My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner.
😟 Reporters’ Notebook: The Jerusalem Postspotlights the hostilities faced by Israeli reporters covering the World Cup in Qatar, while Ynet journalists covering the tournament detailed the verbal attacks and threats they’ve faced on the ground.
🏥 Jerusalem Attack: A victim of last week’s twin terror attacks in Jerusalem died on Saturday, bringing the death toll to two.
🛰️ Targeted in Crimea: Iranian military advisers aiding Russian pilot armed drones have been killed in Crimea, Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s top security official, confirmed.
🇶🇦 On the Sidelines: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were photographed speaking to Qatari Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani on Thursday during the Brazil-Serbia game at the World Cup in Doha.
👨 Trip Talk: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) defended his recent trip to Qatar and his characterization of the country’s foreign minister as a friend.
⚽ Preparations Begin: The United States and Qatar signed a letter of intent to build strong World Cup legacies through bilateral cooperation and knowledge exchange in preparation for the 2026 World Cup, which will be jointly hosted by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
🇮🇷 Flag Flap: The U.S. Soccer Federation briefly used an image of the Iranian flag without the emblem of the government in its social media posts about the World Cup.
🕸️ Cautious Collaboration: The New York Timeslooks at the wide-ranging multilateral effort to retrieve the body of a Druze teenager who died in a West Bank car accident and whose body was taken by Palestinian militants who mistook the boy for an Israeli soldier.
🛢️ Gas Goal: A revived project between Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to extract oil off the coast of Gaza may provide a lifeline to Europe as it braces for its first winter using alternative energy sources following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
🕯️ Remembering: Harriet Bograd, who helped support Jewish communities in far-flung locales around the world, died at 79.
Pic of the Day
Before Thanksgiving, the White House hosted a group of kids from Imadi, which supports children living with a chronic illness or genetic condition in metro Washington. Energy envoy Amos Hochstein, who is on Imadi’s board, visited the group, and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger bowled a round.
“The Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley in the White House reopened last month, and we were honored to host the brave and inspiring children from Imadi as some of our first guests,” White House liaison to the Jewish community Shelley Greenspan told JI. “Imadi does incredible work supporting families facing the unimaginable and we’re glad we could bring them a bit of joy during their White House visit.”
Comedian and former host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) turns 60…
Songwriter, arranger and composer, Randy Newman turns 79… New Orleans attorney and former associate professor of trial advocacy at Tulane University Law School, Joel Loeffelholz turns 77… Television producer who served as chairman of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Barry M. Meyer turns 76… Political consultant and manager of President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996, Richard Samuel (Dick) Morris turns 74… David Letterman’s musical director, band leader and sidekick from 1982 to 2015, Paul Shaffer turns 73… Former solicitor general of the U.S., now a partner at WilmerHale, he has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court over 80 times, Seth Paul Waxman turns 71… Los Angeles-based attorney, Steven Jacob Barkin… COO of American Friends of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel, Judy Rapfogel… Former judge on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then Department of Homeland Security Secretary (2005-2009), he is senior of counsel at Covington & Burling, Michael Chertoff turns 69… Film and television actor, Judd Nelson turns 63… Chief field building officer at UpStart, Aliza Mazor… Clearwater, Florida speech pathologist, Nancy Turkel Laskowitz… Senior U.S. senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet turns 58… Former CFO of Citigroup and then president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, now CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck turns 58… National editor of The Washington Post, Matea Gold… Senior director at Hogan Lovells, Anna Weinstein… The Israel director and co-founder of The Isaiah Projects, David Nekrutman turns 49… Founder and executive director of JLens, a nonprofit network of institutional investors exploring a Jewish lens on investing, Julie Hammerman… National security advisor to President Joe Biden, Jacob Jeremiah (Jake) Sullivan turns 46… Managing partner and founder of PR firm, EDGE Partners, Jeremy Wimpfheimer… Former congressman from Staten Island, he earlier served in the U.S. Army and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, Max Rose turns 36… Singer, songwriter and rapper, Jacob Harris (Jake) Miller turns 30… Executive director at Tmura, Baruch Lipner… Jude Rabinowitz… Rabbi at Congregation KTI in Port Chester, N.Y., Benjamin Goldberg… and his twin bother, cantor at Westchester Jewish Center, Ethan Goldberg…