👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Republican senators about former President Donald Trump’s dinner with Nick Fuentes and Kanye West, and look at some of the changes that members of Israel’s incoming government would like to enact. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Jason Rezaian, Mayim Bialik and Dr. Morris Hartstein.
Dozens of lawmakers, diplomats and policymakers from the U.S., Israel and Europe will meet in Washington today and tomorrow to discuss a broad array of global challenges. China, the war in Ukraine, Iran’s nuclear program, the Abraham Accords and antisemitism in European and American politics are at the top of the agenda at the fifth convening of the invitation-only, closed-door U.S.-Europe-Israel Trilateral Strategic Dialogue.
Former Israeli Air Force general and head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate Amos Yadlin, who is now a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, will chair the dialogue, which is co-hosted by the Hudson Institute and ELNET, a European NGO that aims to strengthen ties between Europe and Israel.
The gathering calls to mind the Saban Forum, the annual Middle East policy confab hosted by the Brookings Institution each December until 2017. Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, told Jewish Insider last year that the think tank — in conjunction with the forum’s chief patron, Haim Saban — decided to pause it “while on a high note” because “institutions never know when to quit.”
The World Cup in Qatar has drawn no shortage of attention — or criticism — for the reception of its host country to Jewish and Israeli attendees and journalists. But also at the mercy of their hosts are supporters of Iran’s growing protest movement, who have donned shirts reading “Women. Life. Freedom.” — and faced repercussions from Qatari security officials, who have detained or escorted out of the stadiums individuals wearing anti-Tehran attire.
American athletes have not been insulated from the politics of the games — in one press conference, Iranian journalists grilled U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams on U.S. policies on immigration and activities in the Gulf. But all eyes will be on the U.S.-Iran match tonight, which begins at 2 p.m. ET.
on the hill
Republican senators come out in force against Trump, West, Fuentes meeting
Republican senators emerged in force on Monday to condemn former President Donald Trump’s meeting last week with white nationalist Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West, now known as Ye, who has repeatedly made antisemitic comments in recent months, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Peppered with questions on the subject by reporters as they returned from the Thanksgiving recess, Republican senators broadly disavowed West and Fuentes and criticized the former president for having hosted the duo. Prior to Monday night’s barrage of in-person questioning, few GOP lawmakers had spoken up about the meeting, which took place last week.
Evil: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), a longtime critic of the former president, said, “There is no bottom to the degree to which [Trump] is willing to degrade himself — and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called West “disturbed” and in need of “help,” and used the term “assclown” to describe Fuentes. “Trump shouldn’t have met with [Fuentes] because it gives legitimacy to a guy who’s a purveyor and a spreader of an evil ideology,” Rubio continued. “He’s an evil guy and shouldn’t be legitimized by allowing him to come into places like that and meet someone like a former and maybe future president.” Rubio added later that he hopes Trump condemns Fuentes.
Opposing vision: Caroline Anderegg, a spokesperson for Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) — who spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting earlier this month — told JI in a written statement, “Of course the man [Scott] who’s dedicated his career to stamping out hate and racism thinks it’s a bad idea for anyone to elevate racists or anti-Semites. Senator Scott’s vision for America is rooted in opportunity, optimism, and freedom — standing in stark contrast with the recent comments from Kanye West and the vile rhetoric of Nick Fuentes.” Scott is viewed as a potential 2024 presidential candidate. Trump announced his own entry into the race earlier this month.
Dinner time: Some senators, while condemning West and Fuentes and, in some cases, disavowing Trump’s conduct, appeared to offer some degree of cover to the former president. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said, “I suppose he can have dinner with whomever he wants to.” Upon followup, he said that he did not want figures who have espoused antisemitism or racism to be part of the GOP, before pivoting to condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) as an “avowed [antisemite]” and urging Democrats to disavow her. In separate comments, Hawley denounced Fuentes specifically, saying, “I’m not a big fan of giving people who say they hate Jews, hate Israel, giving them a platform.”
Schumer speaks: Condemnation was not limited to Republican legislators. In a speech on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Trump’s “friends and allies” who “are pushing him to do the right thing by condemning” Fuentes, and suggested that Trump “does not seem to have the honor to do it on his own.”
In the mishpacha: Jewish figures and organizations that — until now — have stood by Trump, have also spoken out about the dinner, The New York Times reports. Zionist Organization of America head Mort Klein, whose organization honored the former president earlier this month at its annual gala, told the Times that Trump is “not an antisemite” but “he mainstreams, he legitimizes Jew hatred and Jew haters. And this scares me.”
The new Israeli officials seeking to redefine Jewish identity
Israeli politicians Avi Maoz, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir ran together on an election campaign platform of restoring the country’s Jewish identity. Now, with signed agreements between two of the three men and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, a concerted effort to impose their brand of anti-pluralistic Orthodox Judaism on society appears closer than ever, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Greater goal: While the trio’s ‘return to Jewish values’ message resonated with a large segment of the Israeli public – the Nov. 1 vote made the Religious Zionism, their united party list, the third-largest political faction in the Knesset and a critical cog in Netanyahu’s return to power – the policy shifts could test the Jewish state’s already fragile relationship with more liberal Diaspora Jewish communities — even if that is not their intent. “Their goal is not to enrage Diaspora Jews, they’re looking mostly at Israel,” Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, told Jewish Insider. “Can Israel survive without the support of American Jews? I assume it can, but why would Israel want to survive without the support of American Jews?” Rosner added, “Israel should strive to have the support of American Jews and the same is true for Americans, why would they want to disengage from the most exciting and most dramatic Jewish enterprise in 2,000 years?”
Broader implications: One of the group’s demands is a call to both revoke the “grandparent clause” in the Law of Return, Israel’s central immigration legislation that for decades has allowed individuals with at least one Jewish grandparent to make aliya, and a revoking of recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions for the purposes of citizenship. Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York, told JI that such a change would not only affect Israel’s immigration laws, it will also have “political implications” for American Jewry and the relationship with Israel. “Take the demographics, for example, we assume that there are slightly more than six million Jews in the U.S., but the question now will be how do we count them?” he explained. “Their [Religious Zionism] approach is according to halacha, it has nothing to do with the real world and yet, you know, all of a sudden someone comes up and says, ‘You know that now, according to Israel, there are no more than three and a half million Jews in America.’ That’s a major change.”
Defining moments: “This is about the question of who is a Jew,” Israel Cohen, a commentator on the Haredi radio station Kol Barama, told JI. “The Orthodox go according to halacha (Jewish law) and according to halacha, a Jew is someone whose mother is Jewish. What has happened here is that the definition was expanded to include the grandchild of a Jew, but under halacha they are not considered Jewish.” Cohen said there was some recognition of those who are not halachically Jewish but who identify as Jews or feel close to their Judaism, but some immigrants to Israel, he said, “have taken advantage of that clause to enter the country for other reasons, like those from Russia, Ukraine or other places in Eastern Europe, where living conditions are not good.”
⚽ Football Fan: Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post‘s Global Opinions writer and former Tehran correspondent, explains why — despite his natural inclination to support the U.S. soccer team — he’s rooting for Team Iran in their World Cup match. “The people of Iran are months into nationwide protests demanding fundamental change today to the way their country is ruled. At its heart, what’s happening in Iran is a freedom and equality movement. Protesters’ goals are in line with U.S. ideals and liberal values generally, and their success would be a major blow to the worldwide authoritarian wave of recent years. This moment deserves attention, and no global stage is bigger than the World Cup. Billions will be watching. The longer Iran stays in, the more recognition its people and their movement will receive.” [WashPost]
⚠️ Regional Reaction: In The Jerusalem Post, the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum’s Ahmed Buhejji, a second secretary at Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cautions that Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netnyahu’s choice of coalition partners could impact Israel’s relationships in the region. “The Abraham Accords emerged following Netanyahu’s initial threats to annex parts of the West Bank in 2020. Both Gulf and other Arab States stand by the two-states solution, with some still demanding a final status agreement of this before initiating the normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel, especially Saudi Arabia, the beating heart of the Muslim world. If the new four-party coalition government shows signs of returning to the 2020 annexation plan, this would be seen as an exceptionally offensive move. Considering the context of the accords, Israel’s new partners would have no choice but to put the rapprochement on hold.” [JPost]
🍽️ Table Talk: In CNN, Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s Middle East envoy, addresses the former president’s controversial dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes. “I have seen President Trump speak strongly against antisemitism, and I have seen him harshly condemn antisemites over the years. Those statements were often not well-reported, but they occurred. President Trump has also been an incredible friend to Israel, which was founded as the Jewish state in 1948. He established history-altering policies that tremendously benefited Israel and some of its Arab neighbors. But the question I am addressing is not about President Trump’s long, extremely positive record with respect to Israel and the Jewish people. The question I am addressing is what I thought of President Trump having dinner with haters such as Fuentes and West. I think it’s a straightforward answer — it should not have happened. Period. I hope President Trump condemns Fuentes, West and their ilk for what they are — haters of Jews and haters of the foundations of the United States of America. People like Fuentes are dangerous to the United States. The President Trump that I know would recognize that and issue this condemnation.” [CNN]
✡️ Ominous Times:The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg warns that Kanye West and Nick Fuentes’ recent dinner with former President Donald Trump is emblematic of the ways in which antisemitism has crept into the American mainstream. “Ye is launching a vanity presidential campaign run by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who recently wrote on Telegram, ‘We’re done putting Jewish interests first.’ After buying Twitter, Elon Musk enthusiastically welcomed both Trump and Ye back to the platform, and has been tiptoing up to the edge of antisemitism himself. On Sunday, he tweeted that Alexander Vindman, the Jewish retired Army officer who testified about Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s president, is both ‘puppet & puppeteer,’ echoing an old antisemitic trope about Jews pulling the strings behind world events. On Monday, Musk tweeted an image of the alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog. For most of my adult life, antisemites — with exceptions like Pat Buchanan and Mel Gibson — have lacked status in America. The most virulent antisemites tended to hate Jews from below, blaming them for their own failures and disappointments. Now, however, anti-Jewish bigotry, or at least tacit approval of anti-Jewish bigotry, is coming from people with serious power: the leader of a major political party, a famous pop star, and the world’s richest man.” [NYTimes]
👩 Mayim’s Mood: The Wall Street Journal‘s Chavie Lieber talks to actress and “Jeopardy!” host Mayim Bialik about breakfast, naps and her favorite Jewish holiday. “I really enjoy the focus and concentration in Yom Kippur,” Bialik said. “I usually spend that day completely off my phone and just praying, meditating, sleeping and hanging out with my kids, and it’s really a great day.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🏥 News from the Hill: Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) died at the age of 61 after a battle with colorectal cancer, weeks after winning a fourth term in Congress. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin will set a date for a special election in the blue district.
💱 Power Play: The New York Times looks at FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s attempt to hold onto power in the days before stepping down from the company that would soon declare bankruptcy.
⚖️ Crime Time: A New York man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crimes conspiracy charge and faces up to five years in prison for attacking three Jewish men on separate occasions in 2021 and 2022.
⭐ Lone Star Concerns: In the Texas Tribune, Robert Downen highlights concerns of Jewish Texans, experts and historians about the potential outcomes of increasing antisemitism.
🥩 Meat Market: Halal meat, meat prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary laws, is exploding in usage by restaurants across the country, ranging from Jewish delis to Chinese food.
🎫 Gett a Ticket:The New York Times reviews Liba Vaynberg’s play “The Gett,” about a woman’s struggle to get her life back on course after her divorce.
📽️ Book to Screen: Keshet and Sixty-Six Media are adapting writer Matti Friedman’s Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai into a limited series written by “Shtisel” screenwriter Yehonatan Indursky that will begin filming in 2024.
🎦 Disney Discussion: Disney CEO Bob Iger met with employees for the first time since his return to discuss his priorities and emphasize his intent to focus on the quality of the company’s content.
💵 Moolah for Taboola: Internet company Yahoo is taking a roughly 25% stake in Adam Singolda’s Taboola web advertising company.
🚘 Car Attack: A woman was seriously wounded when she was struck by a car in a suspected terror attack in the West Bank this morning.
🇮🇷 Tehran Threat: Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatened to imprison and torture the families of Iran’s World Cup players after they refused to sing the nation’s national anthem during a November 21 match.
📣 Fair-weather Fans: The New York Times spotlights a group of Qatar’s loudest fans at the World Cup who aren’t actual Qataris but rather paid fans flown in from Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria and Syria to cheer on the host nation.
Pic of the Day
Recipients of this year’s Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize at the awards ceremony at Jerusalem’s Beit Ha’am Cultural Hall last night.
This year’s honorees included Rabbi David Golinkin, president of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and president emeritus of The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; Arthur Eidelman, founder of the Department of Neonatology at Shaare Zedek Medical Center; Pamela and Aba Claman, co-founders of Thank Israeli Soldiers; Morris Hartstein, founding director of Operation Ethiopia; Harry Ben Zion Brand, architect and founder of the Israeli Planners Association; Naomi Tsur, founder and chair of the Jerusalem Green Fund and the Israel Urban Forum; and Asher Fredman, director for Israel at the Abraham Accords Peace Institute.
Actress, singer and comedian known for her one-woman shows of Jewish-themed original songs and monologues, Jacqueline Laura “Jackie” Hoffman turns 62…
Heiress of the UK’s Tesco supermarket empire and former Lord Mayor of Westminster, Dame Shirley Porter turns 92… Management analyst for the City of Los Angeles, Lou Loomis… Co-founder of Knowledge Universe and founder of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, Lowell Milken turns 74… Women’s volleyball head coach at Penn State University from 1979 until last year, Russell David Rose turns 69… Senior half the renowned film-making team of the Coen Brothers, Joel David Coen turns 68… Chairman of Yad Vashem, he was previously the consul general of Israel in New York, Dani Dayan turns 67… Comedian, actor and a judge on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Howie Mandel turns 67… Chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu turns 66… Rabbi and author, currently serving as the co-president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), Rabbi Irwin Kula turns 65… Mountain states regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Scott Levin… Co-owner and CEO of Covenant Wines in Napa, Jodie Morgan turns 64… Former White House chief of staff and mayor of Chicago, now serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel turns 63… CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Joseph Sternlieb… Brooklyn resident, Andrea Glick… Foreign policy and public diplomacy advisor to seven consecutive Israeli prime ministers, now a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Shalom Lipner… Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since this past July, Steven Michael Dettelbach turns 57… Baseball Hall of Fame relief pitcher, known for his outspoken support of Israel, Mariano Rivera turns 53… Former Olympic alpine skier, now a reporter for Sirius XM Radio, Carrie Sheinberg turns 50… Louise Rothschild… Scientist, focusing on mental health research regarding psychedelics, Gregory Ferenstein turns 40… Rabbinic intern at IKAR and a rabbinical student at HUC, Sammy Kanter… Communications and fundraising consultant, Orit Sklar Kwasman… Chanoch Ben Yaacov… Abigail Langer…