👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to an Israeli diplomat on the ground at the Negev Forum in Abu Dhabi, and look at what possible budget cuts on Capitol Hill could mean for the Jewish community. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Maggie Haberman, Col. Richard Kemp and Emmanuel Navon.
One thousand pro-Israel activists will descend on the Washington Hilton today for the AIPAC Political Leadership Forum, the group’s first major convening since the COVID-19 pandemic halted its annual policy conference.
Ret. Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO supreme allied commander, will address the group’s opening plenary this morning, as well as AIPAC board Chair Betsy Berns Korn, CEO Howard Kohr and Start-Up Nation author Dan Senor. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak live via video during the morning plenary.
The afternoon sessions will include conversations with current and former party leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is expected to attend a reception this evening honoring the newly inaugurated Congress.
At a dinner this evening, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), former Mossad head Yossi Cohen and former MK Einat Wilf will speak. The evening will also include addresses from AIPAC President Michael Tuchin, StemRad’s Dr. Oren Milstein and a musical performance by Israeli singer-songwriter Aveva Dese.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to speak to the group tomorrow. Absent from the agenda is Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who is accompanying President Joe Biden to the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City.
Blinken is planning to visit Israel later this month for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Yediot Ahronot reported today, citing Israeli officials.
Officials arrive in Abu Dhabi for Negev Forum convening
Some 200 officials from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, the U.S. and Egypt are convening in Abu Dhabi today and Tuesday to discuss ways to strengthen and expand regional cooperation and integration in the Middle East. The Negev Forum convening marks the third in-person gathering of the steering committee and first meeting of the working groups since the initial Negev Summit held in the Israeli desert last March, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash and Gabby Deutch report.
Seeing clearly: Dana Erlich, director of the coordination department for the bureau of the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told JI in a phone interview from Abu Dhabi that the focus of this week’s meeting was “to clarify and identify some concrete and tangible projects that we can move forward on and to create joint projects that will benefit the lives of all the people in the region.”
Pushing on: The summit comes days after the UAE called on the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the controversial visit last week of newly inaugurated National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Despite the tension, however, a 30-member Israeli delegation arrived in the Emirati capital on Monday. “We are all just very happy to be here,” Erlich told JI. “We all understand the tensions and the politics, but we are all continuing to work together for a better future.” She said arranging the gathering, which includes some 200 senior officials representing the six countries, was more a challenge of coordination and logistics.
Widening the circle: It was hoped that more Middle East countries would join the process but so far none have, including Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. More recently, at the U.N.’s Climate Change Summit COP27 in November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Amman signed bilateral and trilateral declarations of intent with Israel and the UAE on the issue of water security and energy. “Jordan has been invited to join the Negev Forum and we’re still waiting for them to join,” said Erlich. “In general, the Negev Forum is one platform, one mechanism for cooperation, and we’re still doing bilateral, trilateral and other geometric collaborations – the collaboration specifically with Jordan is not part of the Negev Forum but obviously, they’re welcome to join, and we’ll see how the different projects can come together.”
Showing up: Israel’s delegation, headed by Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alon Ushpiz, includes representatives from Israel’s Ministries of Defense, Health, Agriculture, Economy, Energy, Intelligence, Tourism and Education, as well as from the Water Authority and the National Security Council. A U.S. delegation of some 40 officials and diplomats is also participating in the meet-up. Headed by State Department Counselor Derek Chollet, the mission includes representatives from the State Department, USAID, the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as several other government agencies.
Read the full story here.
on the hill
GOP budget cut plans raise concerns about defense spending levels
Among the raft of concessions made by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to a group of conservative House members in exchange for their support last week was a commitment to working toward a balanced federal budget over 10 years — including potentially punishing cuts to spending as Congress plans the 2024 federal budget, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The plans raised early concerns about potential cuts to defense.
By the numbers: The exact details of the deal, including how firm or binding the commitment to budget cuts and spending targets may be, remain unclear. The budget- and spending-related agreements are not part of the publicly released rules package that the House will vote on on Monday. But, according to Republicans who spoke to reporters on Friday, the House will seek to cap discretionary spending at 2022 levels, potentially setting up cuts to defense and non-defense programs supported by the Jewish community. Lawmakers said that no specific cuts had yet been negotiated, other than the overall topline figure. McCarthy negotiators also repeatedly referred to the topline goal on Friday as “aspirational.”
Alarm bells: Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who had opposed McCarthy’s bid before ultimately backing the California Republican, emphasized that defense spending cuts are on the table. “Everything will be looked at… You can’t have a balanced budget unless you start cutting,” Norman said. “The dollars that go to defense — we’ve got to look at every dollar there as well as every other agency.” Many Republicans and some Democrats, particularly defense hawks, have spent the past two years pushing successfully for defense spending levels above those requested by the Biden administration. “My concern, though, is in order to keep defense numbers, we’d have to have a 20 to 25% cut in non-defense,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) said.
Safe for now: Base-level U.S. military aid to Israel — $3.8 billion annually, drawing from both the State and Foreign Operations and Defense budgets — is promised by an ongoing Memorandum of Understanding, which Congress codified into law, and backed by most members of Congress. It is unlikely to see major changes should the package pass, although some conservatives in both the House and Senate oppose foreign aid. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a libertarian who opposes all foreign aid including to Israel, is reportedly being considered for a position on the Rules Committee.
Flashback: But a range of other programs supported by the Jewish community fall under the non-defense bucket that could be targeted for cuts if the package passes. Jewish community leaders who spoke to Jewish Insider last month before the specific budget plans emerged remained cautiously optimistic that funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides security funding to religious institutions and nonprofits, would survive budget cuts expected under House Republicans. “Without being overly optimistic, this has been a perennially popular program on both sides of the aisle,” Elana Broitman, the Jewish Federations of North America’s senior vice president for public affairs, said in December. “I’m more optimistic about this program than maybe I will be about others.” Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, offered a similar outlook in early December, before 2023 funding for the program had been finalized. “We did have early in the program the two budget cycles in which it got cut from $25 million down to $10 million because everything in the government was cut across the board. I think that’s extremely unlikely to happen again,” Diament said.
A crowdfunding campaign hopes to preserve the shoes of 8,000 children killed in the Holocaust
It’s one of the most haunting images of the Holocaust: thousands of beaten-up shoes, heaped in a mountainous pile — nearly every pair having belonged to a person who didn’t make it out alive. More than 200,000 children were killed at Auschwitz, and the Auschwitz Museum says the shoes — which are one of the only remnants of their short lives — are at risk of deterioration. Now, a crowdfunding campaign seeks to finance the shoes’ conservation and, its organizers hope, give a new generation a tangible way to remember the Holocaust, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales reports.
Last piece of evidence: “They’ve deteriorated now to a point that if they are not restored, they will disintegrate altogether and we will lose them as evidence of history,” Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, president of the International March of the Living, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We are rescuing the last piece of evidence that these children even ever lived.”
8,000 shoes: The campaign began in September and, so far, has raised roughly $250,000. Along with the March of the Living, it’s being co-organized by the Auschwitz Museum, located at the site of the former camp, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, and Heideman expects it to last two years. Initially, the goal is to conserve 8,000 shoes that are especially at risk, at a cost of approximately $50 to $100 per shoe, with the average trending toward the higher end of that range. The work will be done by specialists at the museum.
Engaging the youth: For the March of the Living, an annual educational trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau that has brought more than 300,000 people — many of them teens — to the concentration camp, the fundraising campaign is also a way to engage young people in Holocaust remembrance. Heideman said that the campaign’s organizers intentionally did not seek the backing of a foundation or corporation, so that ordinary people could feel a sense of investment in the initiative. The minimum donation to the campaign, which is titled “From Soul to Sole,” is $18. A menu of possible donations shows pictures of the shoes along with options such as “A pair for Avraham” ($180) or “Heeling Adam” ($500). “This is a real way for people to become actively involved in saving history,” said Heideman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
General Atlantic doles out $1 billion to Israeli startups
When Max August was a Harvard undergraduate, he scraped data from 8,000 startups and 11,000 of their founders to complete a senior thesis on Israel’s fast-maturing tech scene that was supervised by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Three years later, many of those same Israeli entrepreneurs are vying for the attention of the young investor, who has helped distribute close to $1 billion on behalf of General Atlantic, one of the world’s biggest private equity funds, Shoshanna Solomon reports for The Circuit. Most prominent of nine companies in the firm’s Israel portfolio is Mobileye Global, the Intel-controlled maker of self-driving technology that held an IPO in October and is currently valued at about $25 billion.
Bigger visions: After starting as an intern at General Atlantic, headquartered on Park Avenue, August was sent to Tel Aviv as an associate last year to scout investment opportunities, opening an office in the 61-story Azrieli Sarona Tower where he gazes over the Mediterranean coast. Alongside Alex Crisses, a managing director from New York who shuttles to Israel to meet with strong prospects, General Atlantic last month recruited Yoram Teitz, who was managing partner in Israel at accounting powerhouse EY, as a senior adviser. “Israel is moving from a venture-capital-only market to a later-stage market, where you’ll find bigger companies [and] entrepreneurs who have bigger visions,” Crisses told The Circuit in an interview. “As a global investor, we wanted to pick the locations that over the next five years will have the most innovative technology. And we really do believe that Israel will be that.”
Global presence: With $73 billion in assets under management and 16 global offices from London to Shanghai, General Atlantic came late to the game in Israel, a tiny Middle Eastern country that has spawned the greatest number of technology startups per capita in the world. Termed a growth equity firm, General Atlantic held back until it saw a growing pattern of Israeli companies raising $100 million and more in a funding round, an indicator of business strength. Similar criteria have drawn other global investment leaders including Blackstone, SoftBank and Koch Disruptive Technologies.
Mobileye investor: In 2020, the firm led a $210 million fundraising round for AppsFlyer, which uses data analytics to help marketing firms grow. The firm led two $150 million rounds for HiBob, which assists midsized companies in managing human resources. In 2021, it co-led a $543 million funding round for Transmit Security, which authenticates users without employing passwords. Mobileye, which Intel bought for $15.3 billion in 2017, is a model for what brought General Atlantic to Israel. It’s “really defining the next chapter of the maturation of Israeli technology,” August said. The firm agreed to buy $100 million of Mobileye shares as part of the IPO.
Arab market: General Atlantic also sees opportunity in Israel’s growing connections with Arab countries, paved by the 2020 Abraham Accords that were signed with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. “Israel has amazing technology to export,” Crisses said, making it “a real beacon in the area.” General Atlantic closed on its BeyondNetZero fund last month, allocating $3.5 billion to support entrepreneurs who deliver innovative environmental solutions while creating durable growth businesses. “We’re deeply focused on climate in Israel,” August said.
🗞️ Chasing the Lead:The New Yorker’s Katy Waldman spotlightsNew York Times reporter Maggie Haberman as former President Donald Trump, the focus of Haberman’s recent book, mounts a third presidential campaign. “Part of what makes Haberman one of Trump’s foremost contextualizers is her fluency in the worlds that formed him. Born to a publicist and a newspaperman, she grew up in the kind of privileged Manhattan set that Trump spent his early days envying… Her first job in journalism was at the Post, which sent her to crime scenes, trials, hospitals (to document V.I.P. births and plastic surgeries), and the funerals of firefighters and civic luminaries. During Rudy Giuliani’s second mayoral term, Haberman covered City Hall, a notoriously cutthroat beat. ‘There was a lot of duking it out,’ she said. ‘It made me more able to take a punch.’ This world — a soap opera of excess and corruption playing non-stop through the New York of the nineties — was Trump’s, too. Haberman heard rumors of colleagues fielding calls from the magnate during which he’d dangle gossip items. The tabloid playbook, which Haberman memorized and which Trump enacted, reflected a sense that journalists and subjects could feed off one another, that the whole enterprise might be boiled down to eyes and, eventually, wallets. ‘I was shaped by understanding what sold in a tabloid,’ Haberman told me. ‘He was shaped by how to attract those stories.’” [NewYorker]
🗳️ DeSantis’ Dictate: In The New York Times, Bonnie Kristian considers what U.S. foreign policy would look like under Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, should he make a winning bid for the White House in 2024. “A frequent subject of his legislative sponsorships, Iran was one of his most favored topics in the congressional record, where he characterized Tehran as ‘an enemy of our country’ with whom we do not share any national interests. He made opposition to diplomacy with Iran a priority while in Congress, even urging Mr. Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal a year before the president did so. Mr. DeSantis’s anti-Iran talk is within the normal range of Republican presidential candidates from the last two decades. Yet in concert with his record on Russia (Iran’s partner in Syria, Ukraine and beyond) and with the open question of how he views the lessons of the post-9/11 wars, a President DeSantis might reprise that old G.O.P. ditty about bombing Iran.” [NYTimes]
✡️ Defining Terms: In the Wall Street Journal, Alvin Rosenfeld and Leslie Lenkowsky suggest that the Biden administration adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which is currently utilized by the Department of Education and the State Department. “With the stroke of a pen, a future president can modify it to use a narrower definition of anti-Semitism or revoke it. Against the evidence, critics of the IHRA definition routinely charge that it proscribes legitimate criticisms of Israel. Its defenders respond that such charges are spurious and delegitimize the right of Jews to live in their own state. That is why the first question Mr. Biden’s working group should answer is whether it supports the IHRA definition. With clear guidance about what anti-Semitism means, federal agencies, as well as other jurisdictions and organizations such as colleges and universities, would then know what they should be looking out for. The public would also have a better understanding of how, when and where anti-Semitism is arising.” [WSJ]
☢️ Policy and the Present: In Tablet, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz explains the long-range implications of former President Barack Obama’s policies vis-à-vis Iran. “Obama’s ongoing and catastrophic policy failure, which has blocked the Biden administration from developing any kind of workable strategic vision for dealing with current realities in Iran and throughout the region, demonstrates that substituting American narratives about purity and guilt for hard-power realities is a dangerous business. Ideologically driven anti-Western narratives led the United States to place dangerous and wrongheaded bets on Sunni Islamists and Shiite theocrats at the expense of our own interests and friends. Poorly executed policy led to a fatally flawed nuclear agreement that continues to bedevil the Biden administration and America’s European and Middle Eastern allies. The JCPOA was a big mistake. The longer we refuse to admit that, the higher the price we will continue to pay.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🛰️ Drone Sanctions: The Treasury Department announced sanctions against half a dozen executives and board members of Iran’s Qods Aviation Industries — including Director Nader Khoon Siavash, whose name had not been public before the sanctions were announced — for the company’s supplying of drones to Russia for use against Ukraine.
👩🏫 Art Attack:The New York Times looks at the controversy surrounding the firing of an adjunct professor at Hamline University who showed students a 14th-century painting of the Prophet Mohammad.
💰 Roman’s Empire: A Guardian report found that 10 trusts containing billions of dollars in assets belonging to Roman Abramovich were transferred to his children shortly before E.U. and U.K. sanctions were imposed on the Russian-Israeli businessman.
📰 Final Edition: The National Interestwill cease publishing its bimonthly print magazine as a result of budget issues.
👭 Ties That Bind:The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column spotlights the decades-long friendship between two Jewish women.
🚓 Security Concern: German officials detained two Iranian men after U.S. security officials warned that at least one of the men may have been planning a chemical weapons attack.
🪖 Across the Pond: Retired U.K. Col. Richard Kemp suggested that Prince Harry put British troops at risk of attack following the publication of his memoir, in which he admitted to killing 25 Taliban militants.
🟢 Post Permitted: Meta’s Oversight Board overturned the company’s decision to remove a Facebook post that used the slogan “death to Khamenei,” saying the post targeting Iran’s supreme leader did not violate a rule barring violent threats as the phrase is often used to mean “down with Khamenei.”
🇮🇱 Religion and State: The New York Times explores the potential implications of the promises made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Haredi parties when he formed the new government.
💳 Big Buy: Israeli insurance and investment group Harel made an offer to buy credit card company Isracard for 2.7 billion shekels ($770 million).
🏢 Intel Brief: Karin Eibschitz-Segal and Daniel Benatar were appointed co-CEOs of Intel Israel.
🛃 Travel Trouble: Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that Israel revoked his travel permit, part of a series of Israeli governmental moves in response to the PA’s push to involve the International Court of Justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
🪧 Calling for Justice: Thousands protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday night against the new government and its plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system.
➡️ Transition: Emmanuel Navon was announced as the director of ELNET Israel.
🕯️ Remembering: Tennis Hall of Famer Dick Savitt, who won singles and doubles gold medals at the 1961 Maccabiah Games in Israel, died at 95. Journalist Bernard Kalb, who also served as State Department spokesperson in the Reagan administration before resigning to protest a government disinformation campaign, died at 100. Actor Adam Rich, known for his role as Nicholas Bradford on “Eight is Enough,” died at 54.
Pic of the Day
A JI reader spotted Rep. George Santos (R-NY) on last night’s Delta shuttle from New York to Washington.
Israeli actress and model, known for her role as Nurit in “Fauda,” Rona-Lee Shimon turns 40…
Hungarian-Israeli retired gymnast, she won 10 Olympic medals, Ágnes Keleti turns 102… Advertising executive and author, Jerry Irving Reitman turns 85… Law professor at Georgetown University, Peter Edelman turns 85… Former member of the Swiss Federal Council and President of the Swiss Confederation in 1999, Ruth Dreifuss turns 83… Rabbi emeritus of Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas, Herbert Jay Mandl turns 78… Vice chairman of the private equity firm Gilbert Global Equity Partners, Steven Kotler… Pulitzer Prize-winning Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times for 40 years, now a research scholar at Yale Law School, Linda Greenhouse turns 76… Retired MLB umpire, he worked in 3,392 major league games in his 26 year career, Al Clark turns 75… Presidential historian, spokesman for the 9/11 Commission, Alvin S. Felzenberg turns 74… Composer, singer and radio show host, Yossi Toiv turns 74… Actress, singer and songwriter, Roslyn Kind turns 72… Australian author of more than 40 books of children’s and young adult fiction, Morris Gleitzman turns 70… Former governor of the Bank of Israel, Karnit Flug turns 68… Investment banker, Joel Darren Plasco turns 52… Justice of the High Court of Australia, James Joshua Edelman turns 49… NFL insider and reporter for the NFL Network, Ian Rapoport turns 43… Film producer and the founder and CEO of Skydance Media, David Ellison turns 40… Director of development and community relations at Manhattan Day School, Allison Liebman Rubin… Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer at The New Yorker, Ben Taub turns 32… Strategic growth manager at Compass, Madeline Peterson… Television and film actress, Nicola Anne Peltz Beckham turns 28…