👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Rep.-elect Jared Moskowitz about freshman orientation on the Hill, and have the exclusive on U.S. legislators joining an international forum to promote projects related to the Abraham Accords. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Tom Friedman and Masih Alinejad.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will convene a roundtable conversation about antisemitism at the White House this morning with representatives from 13 American Jewish organizations. Other Biden administration officials in attendance will be White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt and Deputy Special Envoy Aayon Keyak, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Josh Geltzer, White House Jewish Liaison Shelley Greenspan and Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
“For me, this is not the end. This is just the beginning of this conversation. And as long as I have this microphone, I am going to speak out against hate, bigotry and lies,” Emhoff is expected to tell attendees, according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by Jewish Insider. “On days like today, I think back to Ellis Island. I think about my family members and I think of the promise of America, that a young boy from Brooklyn, whose family fled persecution, could be sitting here today as the first second gentleman of the United States in the White House.”
The Jewish groups included in the meeting are Agudath Israel, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), Hillel International, National Council of Jewish Women, Integrity First for America, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Secure Community Network, Jewish on Campus, the Orthodox Union, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
What we’re reading: Politico’s Eugene Daniels and Sam Stein look at how Emhoff conceived the idea for an antisemitism roundtable earlier this fall, and how the convening cements the second gentleman as “one of America’s foremost Jewish political figures.”
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees released their negotiated 2023 National Defense Authorization Act last night, which includes some key Jewish communal priorities but leaves others on the cutting-room floor. The NDAA is the annual “must-pass” defense and national security policy bill, which frequently serves as a vehicle for a range of priorities and other legislation.
Included in the bill, which the House will vote on later this week, are provisions supporting increased funding and greater administrative support for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, pursuing the establishment of a cooperative Middle East air- and missile-defense architecture (the DEFEND Act) and mandating regular reports to Congress on the state of Iran’s nuclear and terrorism activities.
The bill also supports increasing funding for joint U.S.-Israeli counter-drone programs from $25 million to $40 million and expands those efforts to include directed energy weapons; expresses support for the U.S.-Israel relationship; reauthorizes joint missile-defense cooperative programs; mandates the development of a plan for countering Iran-origin drones; reiterates the U.S.’s commitment to prohibiting Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon; and bars the transfer of any currency to the government of Iran.
But provisions establishing a database of security resources for nonprofits (the Pray Safe Act) and clarifying that U.S. sanctions on Iranian weapons proliferation apply to Iranian drones (the Stop Iranian Drones Act) were excluded from the bill. A string of amendments requesting reports on antisemitism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism and extremism also did not make it into the bill.
Amendments repealing the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, limiting offensive sales to Saudi Arabia, blocking the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, condemning Iranian human rights abuses and requesting a report on Iranian internet censorship and surveillance also appear to have been excluded from the final package.
The bill additionally seeks to crack down on and protect against the use and proliferation of foreign commercial spyware, largely in response to hacking controversies such as those surrounding Pegasus software produced by the NSO Group, which raised alarm bells on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) secured his victory by almost three points over Republican Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate runoff yesterday, giving Democrats a 51-49 majority in the upcoming Senate session. The clear Democratic majority, as opposed to the current 50-50 split, gives Democrats the majority on Senate committees, likely making it easier for them to advance legislation and nominees and granting them unilateral subpoena power.
Last night at The Line hotel in Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, a packed room celebrated the upcoming Bahraini National Day. Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Shaikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al Khalifa delivered remarks as attendees snacked on Bahraini pastries.
Tonight in New York, the Israel Policy Forum will hold its annual benefit at the Plaza Hotel. This year’s honoree is former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who will be introduced by Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr.
Abraham Accords caucus leaders join international forum on agreements with 16 countries
Leaders of the congressional Abraham Accords caucuses in the House and Senate joined lawmakers and diplomats from 16 other countries on Tuesday for an international, interparliamentary forum focused on promoting projects related to the normalization agreements, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod has learned.
Guest list: Sens. James Lankford (R-OK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), co-chairs of the Senate and House Abraham Accords caucuses, participated in the Abraham Accords Interparliamentary Strategic Dialogue event, alongside representatives from 13 European Union countries, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Canada, an individual involved in organizing the event told JI. The event, held on Zoom, was organized by AIPAC and its charitable affiliate, the American Israel Education Foundation.
Partners: “It is important to have partners like AIPAC as we continue to support Israel and actively engage with dozens of countries to promote normalization between Israel and Arab nations,” Lankford told JI. “We should find as many paths to peace as possible and explore every opportunity for a prosperous future. I am grateful to AIPAC for hosting such a vital conversation as we continue to make remarkable moments of history to come together in peace.”
On the agenda: The goals of the forum, the source said, include bringing together people from multiple countries to promote the Accords, increasing education in other countries about the Accords and their impacts and potential multilateral, jointly funded projects within the region. The source particularly highlighted the possibilities for cooperation in areas relating to education as well as water, energy, sustainability and the climate — especially given that the UAE is hosting COP, the United Nations climate change conference, next year. They noted that European states have particular experience in regional climate and energy work.
Step one: The individual described Tuesday’s convening — which they said was met with significant interest by participants — as the beginning of a larger process and an ongoing method of collaboration among legislators across international borders.
Elsewhere: Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee yesterday that the actual Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ personnel presence on the ground in Yemen assisting the Houthi militia is highly limited — in the “tens.” But, he added, Iran is “getting a big bang for their buck” out of its efforts to support the Houthis. That said, Lenderking said the U.S. is hopeful of movement back toward a political settlement in the coming months, given that cross-border attacks between Yemen and Saudi Arabia have been halted for months.
Nearly 50 lawmakers urge Thomas-Greenfield to work to defund U.N.’s Israel inquiry
House lawmakers are urging the U.S. delegation to the United Nations to work through the body’s upcoming budgeting process to limit funding to, and ultimately shut down, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s dedicated Commission of Inquiry investigating Israel — a new push in ongoing congressional efforts to scrap the open-ended probe, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Funding cuts: A bipartisan group of 49 lawmakers wrote a letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday, in which they encouraged “the United States delegation to strongly advocate to restrict this biased commission’s funding from within the UN system, and take steps to eliminate the commission completely.”
Quotable: “Respect for human rights is a core American value, and an ideal to which all international actors must be held accountable. That accounting must be done in a balanced manner consistent with international norms, and the U.N. Commission of Inquiry abjectly fails to meet these standards,” the letter continues. “The coming weeks will require the administration to redouble its diplomatic efforts to ensure that funding to this discriminatory investigation ultimately ceases. We stand ready to assist you in any way in defending our democratic ally, Israel.”
Read the full story here.
new man on campus
Jared Moskowitz eyes Foreign Affairs, Judiciary committees
Rep.-elect Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), who recently won election to replace former Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) in Congress, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod in a sit-down interview last week that he’s aiming to fill Deutch’s seats on both the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees.
Eye on Israel: Moskowitz, a former Florida Emergency Management Director and member of the Florida House, has pledged to follow closely in his predecessor’s footsteps as a vocal supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship. He said he’s hoping to join the Foreign Affairs Committee to carry on that support for Israel. “Ted Deutch [and his predecessor] Robert Wexler had a great record on Israel,” Moskowitz said. “I look forward to continuing having that special relationship. And so I want to be on that committee to continue their great work.” For the moment, Moskowitz said he’s withholding judgment on Israel’s emerging governing coalition, which appears set to include several far-right members in influential positions.
Party lines: The congressman-elect, who was in Washington for new-member orientation, said that the official training sessions were “great,” but lamented that social activities for new members were divided between parties. “There is almost no ability at this point to have a bipartisan social event,” Moskowitz said. “It’s something that — at least what I’ve been told — is it’s been like that now for almost 20 years. The idea is if you don’t get to know the other side, you don’t get to know what they did for a profession, or that they have families and kids and you don’t get to socialize with them, it’s much easier to demonize the other side, call them enemies.”
Florida fracas: Moskowitz won his election by less than five percentage points, losing the Palm Beach County portion of the district, including Boca Raton, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis carried the district as a whole — a symptom of the punishing cycle for Democrats this year in Florida, where DeSantis’ popularity helped to boost down-ballot Republicans. “I tried to tell a lot of my Democratic colleagues who are fighting against opening schools and opening businesses two years later, that that was going to be something that he’d be rewarded for,” Moskowitz said. “The Democrats’ entire campaign was just anti-DeSantis… We didn’t give voters in Florida, in my opinion, issues to vote for.”
Bonus: Sneakerheads on the Hill should also keep their eyes on the incoming congressman’s footwear. Moskowitz arrived at his meeting with JI wearing a pair of purple Air Jordans with bright orange laces, and mentioned to JI that Jordans will be a regular part of his wardrobe.
word on the j street
At J Street confab, attendees grapple with what it means to be ‘pro-Israel’
For three days, the lobby of Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, just above the bucolic woods of Rock Creek Park, was the place to be for American Jews who are not pleased with the status quo regarding Israel. The excitement among attendees to be at the first in-person J Street conference since 2019 belied an undercurrent of distress among the roughly 2,000 J Street supporters who showed up. The organization recently added “pro-democracy” to its tagline, alongside “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace,” and concern for the state of democracy in the United States and Israel set the tone of the event, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Cannot support: “We support Israel because we cherish its declaration of independence and all of the goals that it aspires [to]. But I cannot support [Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin] Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine the very aspirations of the democratic state of Israel by marginalizing, annexing and compromising the rights of Arab Israeli citizens,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), who was elected in November to the U.S. Senate, said at a Monday afternoon plenary session.
Critique: J Street has frequently faced criticism from more mainstream pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC. During the conference, AIPAC tweeted several times: “J Street is many things, but it’s not pro-Israel.” AIPAC also criticized J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami for failing to offer any praise of Israel in his opening night speech to the conference.
Roll call: Congressional speakers at the conference included Reps. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), Sean Casten (D-IL), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA). Reps.-elect Greg Casar (D-TX), Sydney Kamlager (D-CA) and Becca Balint (D-VT) sent remarks over video. Several senior Democrats, including House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY), stopped by the gala.
🇮🇱 🇵🇸 Political Wilderness: The Wall Street Journal’s Dov Lieber explores what the Israeli left’s poor showing in last month’s elections means for prospects for the two-state solution. “The defeat of the left in November’s elections and the ascendancy of ultranationalist and religious parties follows a 20-year decline in support for the left among Israelis, after a violent Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada that lasted from 2000 to 2005. Despite that, there remains no popular alternative with local or international support for solving Israel’s longstanding conflict with the Palestinians. The U.S., Israel’s most important ally, remains committed to a two-state solution and has warned Israel that it would fight against any attempts to annex the occupied West Bank. The Labor Party, which was set up by the nation’s founding generation and dominated Israeli politics for decades, won four seats in last month’s election. Labor’s more left-wing partner, Meretz, a key backer of the Israeli peace movement that rose to power in the 1990s, will now be out of parliament for the first time since its founding.” [WSJ]
☀️ Force of Nature: Visiting Israel, The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman suggests that the U.S. can help facilitate stronger relations between Israel and its neighbors through a multistate solar energy agreement that would address some of the region’s climate challenges. “To put it bluntly, with the old peace process now as dead as the Dead Sea, we need to hope that naked self-interest in response to natural challenges will propel massive collaboration around clean energy and water. I like the analogy offered by [environmental activist Gidon] Bromberg: The European Union, he noted, was forged after World War II ‘to harness the two most important natural resources in Europe at that time, coal and steel, to create peace and prosperity.’ Indeed, when the union was founded, it was called the European Coal and Steel Community. ‘What is the coal and steel of our day?’ asked Bromberg. ‘It’s the sea, the sun and the sand.’” [NYTimes]
👨 All About Al: Max Raskin interviews former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on a range of topics, from his childhood enrollment at a Protestant boys school to his political evolution. “My dad influenced my politics a lot. We used to watch the news every night. We’d watch Cronkite, or Huntley Brinkley, but mainly Cronkite. And in ’63, when they were putting dogs, and fire hoses, and billy clubs on, demonstrators, my dad pointed at the TV, and I never forget this. He said, ‘No Jew can be for this. No Jew can be for this.’ So, Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act. My dad said, ‘F**k that.’ He didn’t actually say that, but he became a Democrat. We lost the South, but we gained my dad.” [MaxRaskin]
🇮🇷 The End is Near: In Foreign Affairs, Iranian-American dissident writer Masih Alinejad predicts the end of the Iranian theocratic regime amid ongoing protests in the country. “The Islamic Republic rests on three ideological pillars: vehement opposition to the United States, obdurate antagonism toward Israel, and institutional misogyny, especially in the form of compulsory hijab rules requiring women to wear coverings in public spaces. If any of these pillars weakens, the whole edifice of the Islamic Republic falls down. Tehran needs enmity with the United States and Israel to keep the revolutionary flame alive. Anti-Americanism is seared into the Islamic Republic’s identity. The enforcement of the dress code for women is also a redline for the clerical leadership. The compulsory wearing of the hijab is to the Islamic Republic what the Berlin Wall was to communism, a symbol not just of power and endurance but of vulnerability. The Berlin Wall was also an admission of the fragility of the communist system, which depended on exercising great control over people. Similarly, compulsory hijab laws reflect the Islamic Republic’s fear of allowing its citizens personal freedoms and its intent to control society by treating women as if they are pieces of property to be corralled and protected. Once the Berlin Wall fell, communism was doomed. The same fate awaits the Islamic Republic once women can throw off their veils and participate in social life as men do.” [ForeignAffairs]
🪖 Playing Defense:The New York Times’ Bret Stephens writes that the U.S. is not developing its defense policy in a way that syncs with geopolitical realities. “During the Cold War, defense problems were major political issues, so people paid attention. Now they are treated as technical-bureaucratic issues, so people mostly don’t. At a minimum, we should ask whether we want capabilities adequate to our legal and traditional foreign commitments. If so, we should accept much higher spending, revolutionize our procurement processes, adopt a mind-set of strategic urgency, and develop reliable and sustainable supply chains. If not, we should pare our commitments and be prepared to live with the consequences.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🗳️ Spanberger Victory: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) was elected to be Democrats’ first battleground leadership chair, beating Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA).
✍️ Crypto in the Capital: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for it to “conduct an independent review” of the SEC, citing its “failure to protect the investing public” from FTX.
🌽 Cornhusker Candidate: Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, announced he will seek an appointment to the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who will resign next month to become president of the University of Florida.
⚖️ SCOTUS Watch: The Supreme Court is slated to hear a case to determine state legislatures’ power over federal elections, including the drawing of congressional districts.
👋 OOO: Slack founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield is leaving the company, which was acquired by Salesforce last year for $27 billion.
Ξ Crypto Chat: Puck’s Teddy Schleifer interviews FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried about the collapse of the cryptocurrency company and the potential implications for Bankman-Fried.
📅 Calendar Conundrum: A local Connecticut school board reversed a previous decision to hold classes on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, following an uproar from the local Jewish community.
🚔 By the Numbers: New York City experienced 45 antisemitic hate crimes last month, a 125% increase from the same time period last year, according to data from the NYPD.
💢 Doubling Down: In an interview with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, Kanye West said that Jewish people should “forgive Hitler.”
🤸♂️ Notable + Quotable: Adam Sandler compared an injury he suffered during the filming of 1994’s “Airheads” to a similar experience as a child: “It was awful. I was never a gymnast. I would go on the trampoline at the Jewish Community Center growing up, saw everyone else do well on it. I had the same thing happen to my neck when I was 9. I’m not good at jumping and landing on my back. I got to stop.”
✈️ Safe Space: Israel is the fifth safest country for tourists in the world, according to insurance comparison website The Swiftest.
👨⚖️ Case Dismissed: A federal court dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tied to the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
🕵️ In the Balance: The Financial Times looks at how Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power could benefit the NSO Group, which has struggled with the fallout over its Pegasus spyware.
🗞️ Media Matters: The Washington Post talks to Israeli political scientists about the boost given to Netanyahu by the right-leaning Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, and how similar efforts could be attempted in other countries.
🇮🇷 Tehran Talk: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a “revolutionary reconstruction of the country’s cultural system” as Tehran grapples with months of ongoing protests.
Pic of the Day
Israel and Japan held a diplomatic-security meeting in Tokyo today to discuss global and regional issues, as the countries mark 70 years of diplomatic ties.
Food critic for The New Yorker, Hannah Goldfield…
Linguist, social critic, activist and professor emeritus at MIT, Noam Chomsky turns 94… Author or editor of 40 books including the New York Times best-selling Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul, Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins turns 85… Actor, director and producer, Larry Hankin turns 85… Hedge fund manager and co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel and the founder of Hebrew language charter schools in NYC, Michael Steinhardt turns 82… Professor of mathematics at Princeton University, Nicholas Michael Katz turns 79… Novelist, essayist and screenwriter, Susan Isaacs turns 79… Former Israeli Foreign Ministry legal advisor and later Israeli ambassador to Canada, now at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Ambassador Alan Baker turns 75… Chair emeritus of the Longmeadow, Mass., Democratic Town Committee, Candy Glazer… Director and vice chairman of Simon Property Group, Richard S. Sokolov turns 73… Past board chair and president of AIPAC, Lillian Pinkus turns 71… U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) turns 70… Chairman of Loews Hotels and co-owner of the NFL’s New York Giants, Jonathan M. Tisch turns 69… Pamela Decker… Haifa-born composer and professor of music at Harvard, Chaya Czernowin turns 65… Former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden turns 62… Teacher in the Elko County School District in Nevada, Shawn Welton-Lowe… Provost at The Jewish Theological Seminary, Dr. Jeffrey Kress turns 54… Co-Founder of Laurel Strategies, Dafna Tapiero… Director, producer, writer, actor and comedian, Jason Winer turns 50… President of baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs, Jed Hoyer turns 49… Leading actress in multiple television series including “Roswell” and “Unreal,” Shiri Appleby turns 44… Managing partner of NYC-based Capitol Consulting, Jeffrey Leb… Co-founder and president at America’s Frontier Fund, Jordan Blashek… Director of recruiting at NYC’s Mission Staffing, Jaime Leiman… Founder of Go Dash Dot, Hannah Fastov… Physician practicing in the U.K., Carine Moezinia… Digital marketing manager at Vida Shoes International, Hannah Vilinsky… VP and head of the startup division at the Israel Innovation Authority, Hanan Brand… Director of education at Congregation Habonim in New York City, Rina Cohen Schwarz… Jeff Blum… Toby Lerner…