👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we preview next week’s AIPAC confab and spotlight the new Brown Brut Hotel in Tel Aviv. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Michael Granoff, Rep. Brad Sherman and Laura Blumenfeld.
The House speakership race remains deadlocked after three more rounds of voting yesterday. The 20 Republicans opposed to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) voted yesterday for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL). On the latter two votes, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) voted “present” instead of for McCarthy.
Following additional negotiations yesterday, McCarthy proposed additional concessionsto the group of hard-right holdouts, although it’s unclear if these will net him the 218 votes he needs. Several opponents dug in further following yesterday’s talks, and it’s unclear if McCarthy has met some of the demands enumerated by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) to reporters yesterday.
It’s also unclear whether McCarthy bowing out of the contest in favor of another GOP power broker — such as Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the second-highest ranking Republican in the House — would win over enough objectors to resolve the contest.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who is opposing McCarthy’s bid, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that he would have similar expectations of any alternative candidate, like Scalise, that he does of McCarthy — they would “have to show us a plan” to take a hard line on the debt limit and government funding. Norman said — before McCarthy’s announcement — that he was not going to change his vote and predicted the anti-McCarthy ranks would grow.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), a former top House Republican, told reporters that after six votes, it’s “very apparent to me… there are people who are going to stay against Kevin.” Sessions said that McCarthy’s negotiations “could resolve this or tear it wide open… It’s now decision-making time, for them or Mr. McCarthy.”
Murmurs also continued aroundthe Capitol about the longshot scenario of a consensus speaker elected with Democratic and moderate Republican votes. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said he is talking with Democrats, but declined to elaborate further.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) told us that Democrats likely won’t be ready to throw Republicans a lifeline “until we do another six of these votes.” A deal, Sherman elaborated, could include more favorable divisions of committee seats, budgets and staffing, as well as mechanisms for raising the debt limit and keeping the government funded.
Striking even the smallest compromise with Democrats would likely cost McCarthy a significant block of Republican votes, Sherman explained, meaning that, “the only way he can be elected speaker in a deal with us is a big deal at the leadership level. This isn’t a situation where he needs 10 Democrats to vote for him.”
Sherman also told JI he “can’t imagine” Democrats would be able to strike a deal with a few moderate Republicans to elect a centrist like former Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), “but… if you can name me five Republicans who’d vote for Upton, boy we’d like to do that.”
Norman brushed off the risk of a consensus speaker, telling JI, “I can’t control what other people do… All I control is my vote and what I do. So I’m not concerned about any of that.”
“I think the most likely short-term outcome is pain and boredom,” Sherman said. “Pain if you’re a Republican. Boredom if you’re a Democrat.” He also said he views a McCarthy deal with Democrats as less likely than McCarthy dropping out of the race or making further concessions to Republicans.
Republican lawmakers highlighted yesterday the national security implications of the continued impasse, stressing that they are currently unable to access or discuss classified information or enter the House’s classified workspace (SCIF). “I can’t meet in the SCIF to conduct essential business,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) said, noting that he had been unable to attend a planned meeting with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We have work to do that we can’t do right now.”
A series of tweets from House Armed Services Committee Democrats emphasized the same issue, noting that House members are “in the dark” on issues like “rising tensions and instability in Iran and throughout the Middle East.” The tweets called the situation “a clear threat to national security.” Incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX), incoming Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-AL) and incoming Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-OH) released a statement warning of the potential fallout, saying in part, “We cannot let personal politics place the safety and security of the United States at risk.”
Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) continued to ignore questions about his falsified background from reporters yesterday, including our Marc Rod, who asked about Santos’ past claims that he was Jewish. Santos spent much of the voting day off of the House floor but huddled with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and the anti-McCarthy group. Santos said he plans to keep voting for McCarthy and has made “tons” of friends in the party.
save the date
Lloyd Austin, lawmakers to address AIPAC gathering in D.C. next week
AIPAC will hold a leadership meeting in Washington, D.C., next week that will focus on congressional election strategy, an individual familiar with the plans informed Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
On the agenda: The two-day meeting, which will take place between Jan. 9-10, is expected to attract 1,000 of AIPAC’s “top political leaders,” the source said, and will feature remarks from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and congressional leaders from both parties. While the conference is set to include electoral and policy-related content, it will provide a forum to review the results of AIPAC’s first cycle of direct involvement in congressional elections and strategize for the 2024 cycle, the individual said.
Different approach: Unlike AIPAC’s policy conference, the organization’s annual hallmark event of years past that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic drew more than 15,000 attendees to Washington from around the country, next week’s gathering will not include a lobbying component. The event is also set to feature content relating to “challenges and opportunities” in the U.S.-Israel relationship. The first days of Israel’s new government coalition have seen increased tensions between the Biden administration and Israel, as the administration criticized National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount this week and the State Department warned against expanding or legalizing settlements.
Up in the air: The individual said that the speaker list is not yet finalized, and it is unclear how the ongoing House leadership elections will impact the lineup of lawmakers who will be speaking at the gathering. Iranian-American activist Mariam Memarsadeghi announced in a tweet on Wednesday that she will be addressing the forum to discuss the ongoing protests in Iran and “what the US, Israel, and AIPAC can do to help the Iranian people win their freedom.”
place in the sun
From white elephant to trendy, affordable tourism
From the outside, the Tel Aviv Textile and Fashion Center looks like a standard Israeli office building. Built starting in the 1960s in the era’s Brutalist architectural style, the center boasts six high-rise towers and a common space with a sprinkling of cheap stores and workman’s cafés that serve basic Israeli fare. Architecturally daring for its day, this hulking whitewashed structure – one of the most iconic landmarks along the city’s coastline – has long been in decline both as an industry hub and an office option for emerging companies. Much of the expansive, concrete complex now stands peeling and neglected. Cue the arrival of the Brown Hotel Group. One of the country’s fastest-growing hotel chains, its motif is setting up shop in unlikely places and in the process regenerating and reimagining some of the more down-and-out locations as sustainable and affordable tourist hubs, Ruth Marks Eglash reports for The Circuit.
Brutalist boutique: Among its latest offering is Brut – a play on Brutalist – a 222-room boutique hotel that sits interspersed throughout various floors in Gaon House, one of the Textile and Fashion Center’s towers. The hotel opened last April with just 182 rooms, but as business and companies ended their leases in the crumbling building, Brown took over the space, renovating and opening more rooms and facilities as travelers began to return to Israel amid relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
Affordable tourism: It’s part of the hotel operator’s urban renewal philosophy, Shahaf Segal, PR manager and spokeswoman for the Brown Hotel Group, explained to The Circuit. She listed a similar process for the group’s 13 other hotels dotted around the city (there are also now Brown Hotels in Jerusalem, Eilat and in Athens, Greece), as well as some now under construction in other iconic landmarks, including one slated to open in the historic former Histadrut worker’s union building. Each hotel, some with just a handful of rooms and others more expansive like Brut, has a slightly different vibe, but the overall goal is to convert existing buildings, as well as the areas around them, into reasonably priced lodgings and tourist centers in expensive cities.
Eclectic mix: The intriguing and intricate process of renewal and replacement can be seen throughout the hotel. Brut’s rooms now occupy the first, second, third, seventh and 14th floors, and are still interspersed with a medical clinic, a car rental office, insurance brokers and accountants. And there is a range of different room styles, spanning from a basic “urban room” to an executive suite with a breathtaking sea view to a two-room family suite replete with a kitchenette. All the rooms are simple in design and practical, and all incorporate unique elements of the building’s original architecture with many of the signature features of a Brown Hotel: wire metal shelving, ecologically friendly soaps and a coffee maker.
Read more here and subscribe to the Weekly Circuit newsletter here.
what happens in…
CES kicks off in Las Vegas
The Consumer Technology Association’s CES, one of the largest annual tech gatherings in the world, begins today in Las Vegas. We spoke to Maniv Mobility’s Michael Granoff to get a preview of what he’s most looking forward to, after last year’s event was hampered by a surge of COVID-19 across the country. “We are seeing a lot of faces here we haven’t seen in three years, which is terrific,” Granoff told JI. Here’s what Granoff has his eye on:
It’s electric: “Having been an electric vehicle evangelist for over 15 years, it is beyond heartening to see how mainstream electric driving has become, and it will be exciting to see new offerings from VW, BMW and others announced during the show.”
Eye on Mobileye: “Israel’s most valuable company, Mobileye, always uses CES as a stage for important announcements, and CEO Amnon Shashua’s address this year should be no exception.”
Try it out: “Our portfolio company, Harbinger Motors, which recently unveiled the first ground-up EV for medium-duty trucks, will be offering a ride-and-drive, transportation to which will be provided by buses from another of our companies, the Mexico-based Kolors.”
What happens in Vegas…: “The Autonocast party is always a highlight — it’s basically prom for a mobility industry geek.”
🍨 Best Served Cold: In Politico, Laura Blumenfeld, author of Revenge: A Story of Hope, outlines a surge in vindictive behavior in almost every walk of life in the U.S., a country that previously viewed revenge as uncivilized, and discusses how this mentality can change in the future. “To update our approach as a new year draws near, we must take cold stock of our changed character and values. Americans today are more scrappy, dramatic and, above all, aching. The need to get even can no longer be denied. The answer then, perhaps, is to channel the fear and anger. Reverse the power dynamic by building ourselves up, rather than tearing others down. Embrace ‘success is the best revenge’ as a national anthem, and overpower opponents by outperforming them. Neither an eye for an eye, nor turn the other cheek, there is a third option not written in the Bible yet hiding in its language. Tucked inside the Hebrew word for revenge, nekamah, is the verb kum, which fittingly, means rise up. We can rise up, use our rage. Not against each other, but rise above our wrecked selves. Get up, kum, get better. Get American revenge.” [Politico]
🌤️ A Bibi-Biden Forecast: In CNN, Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, lays out the reasons why he doesn’t seen an imminent confrontation between the Biden administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, including Biden’s commitment to Israel; the role Israel plays in U.S. politics; the state of the Palestinian issue; and more pressing foreign policy priorities, including Iran’s nuclear program. “What Biden is unlikely to do is to put himself in a situation where he and Netanyahu are in conflict on both Iran and the Palestinians. Biden had a ringside seat watching his former boss Obama go at it with Netanyahu on both; and probably doesn’t want to go down that road again. There are reports that the administration is sending National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to Israel this month. That suggests Biden wants to get ahead of any kind of confrontation with Netanyahu and perhaps believes he can work out understandings on some key issues. Netanyahu isn’t looking for a fight with Biden. Right now he’s more beholden to his extremist coalition than he is to Washington. Without those partners, Netanyahu can’t pass the legislation he needs to postpone or nullify his corruption trial. Perhaps he believes he can control his extremist ministers. And that’s the case he’ll make to the administration – that he needs help in doing so.” [CNN]
🌎 Diplomatic Disaster: A global investigation by ProPublicaexposes how the honorary consul system has become a dangerous form of rogue diplomacy that threatens the rule of law around the world.“Former U.S. officials who have investigated Hezbollah’s financial network said the use of honorary consul status by the terrorist group is intentional, well organized and woefully unexamined. In March, the Treasury Department sanctioned a prominent businessman in Guinea, accusing him of funneling money to Hezbollah and using his honorary consul status to move in and out of the country with little scrutiny. ‘Hezbollah has realized that if they use these honorary consuls … they can basically move stuff with impunity and no one is ever going to bust them — you flash your diplomatic passport, no questions asked,’ said David Asher, a former senior counterterrorism finance adviser for the Department of Defense assigned in 2008 to help oversee a federal investigation of Hezbollah’s criminal network. ‘It’s a huge seam in our international law enforcement capabilities sweep.’” [Propublica]
⚖️ Conflict of Interest: In an interview with Lee Habeeb in Newsweek, attorney David Goldberger reflects on one of his most challenging cases: representing the local chapter of the National Socialist Party of America, which had wanted to hold an event in the heavily Jewish town of Skokie, Ill. “Goldberger empathized with many of his Jewish critics but was driven to defend the neo-Nazis precisely because of his heritage. ‘Part of the baseline of my values — that everyone should be treated fairly and equally under the law — can be traced to my own upbringing as a Jew. That Jews have had a hard time through history and have constantly been a target of hatred and abuse, and the only defense against that hatred and abuse are laws that are applied to everybody,’ Goldberger said. ‘So I basically stood my ground and made no secret of the fact that I was Jewish.’” [Newsweek]
👨⚕️ Doctor’s Orders: In Tablet, Hillel Kuttler spotlights Israeli efforts to provide medical treatment and rehabilitation to Ukrainians, including a group of 20 amputees, affected by the Russian invasion of their country. “[Barzilai Medical Center’s Vera] Zelikov was sitting with me on the terrace outside the men’s hospital room. She considered a question on what she’s learned from them. ‘That people express optimism to return, to rebuild their lives. They’re sure that Ukraine will be victorious over Russia. That they’re very strong. That Israel is a strong nation, a special nation, wanting to help,’ she said. ‘Listen, these men didn’t once say they’re in pain or uncomfortable, not once, or that something’s not good. They don’t cry. They don’t say, “If the war didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have lost my legs.” They lost their legs, but they didn’t lose hope, their will to live. They’re thankful they’ll be getting prosthetics, thankful to Israel. I’m Israeli, but my heart is with these men. We have to help each other.’” [Tablet]
Around the Web
😠 Censured by Cruz: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) denounced the Biden administration and State Department for recent comments about actions taken by Israel’s new government.
🛬 Stateside Visit: Former Israeli Prime Minister and current Opposition Leader Yair Lapid is slated to visit the U.S. next week, where he will meet with American Jewish leaders to discuss the new Israeli government.
👋 New Post: Deputy Special Envoy for Iran Jarrett Blanc is leaving the State Department’s Iran team after nearly two years and will return to the Energy Department, where he will work on nuclear-related issues.
✡️ Jews on the Hill: A Pew survey of the religious composition of the incoming Congress found that while Christian legislators still comprise the bulk of the body, the Senate and House’s 33 Jewish legislators make up a majority of the non-Christian members of Congress.
💵 To Life: Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, donated $18,003 to an online fundraiser for a charity supported by Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, who suffered an on-field cardiac arrest during a game earlier this week. The dollar figure stems from the Jewish tradition of donating in multiples of 18, which means “chai,” or “life,” with the additional $3 honoring Hamlin’s number.
👑 Kingmaker?: White House visitor logs indicate that Alex Soros has made six visits since President Joe Biden took office, two of which were with Chief of Staff Ron Klain. Meanwhile, the Open Society Policy Center, financed by George Soros, donated $170 million to Democrats during last year’s midterms.
🗞️ Media Matters: Former CNN executive Andrew Morse was named publisher and president of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
📽️ Both Bobs: In The New York Times, Pamela Paul praises a new documentary, “Turn Every Page — The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb,” for successfully portraying the writing process and the art of the edit.
🇯🇲 A Caribbean Mitzvah: Chabad of Jamaica inaugurated its first mikveh on the Caribbean island.
🐢 Turtle Bay Talk: The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting today to address Tuesday’s visit by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
🇲🇦 Tit for Tat: Moroccan officials are pushing Israel to recognize Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, linking the move to Israeli requests for Morocco to upgrade its diplomatic post in Tel Aviv to an embassy.
💰 Trading Places: Shlomi Heisler, an attorney and the outgoing chairman of Israel’s National Infrastructure Committee, was named director general of Israel’s Finance Ministry.
📱 Kosher Calls: Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi plans to reverse reforms by the previous government to loosen market restrictions on the “kosher phones” used by many in the country’s religious communities.
📦 Cuts Continue: Technology giant Amazon is set to lay off more than 18,000 staff. Digital marketing agency Targeted Victory is laying off a number of staffers, mostly political and cyclical junior staffers employed for less than six months.
❓ What’s Next: The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner interviewed Palestinian lawyer Raja Shehadeh about potential implications of the new Israeli government vis-a-vis the Palestinian population.
🍯 Sweet Talk: The Wall Street Journalspotlights the rising global popularity — and local competition — of Palestinian knafeh.
🛰️ Drone Parts: Ukrainian intelligence determined that the majority of components removed from an Iranian drone downed last fall were manufactured in America and other Western countries. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were able to shoot down more than 80 aerial vehicles this week with the German-made Gepard system, Politico reports.
🧕 Hairy Laws: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hinted that Tehran would loosen its rules on the mandatory wearing of a hijab, saying that women who do not cover their hair “should not be considered as people outside of religion or against the Islamic Revolution.” The announcement came on the same day that Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who was arrested last month for criticizing the Iranian government’s response to nationwide protests, was released on bail.
➡️ Transitions: Former Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) joined The Soufan Group as vice chair. Former Capitol Hill reporter for Fox News Jason Donner has joined Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s (R-PA) office as his senior communications advisor.
🕯️ Remembering: A Wall Street Journal obituary for Albert Reichmann, who died last month, highlights his efforts to help Jews escape oppression in the Soviet Union.
Pic of the Day
Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja hosted a dinner last night in honor of new Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and German Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert. From left to right: Director of the Moroccan Liaison Office in Tel Aviv Abderrahim Bayoudh, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, Indian Ambassador to Israel Sanjeev Singla, French Ambassador to Israel Eric Danon, Cohen, Al Khaja, Seibert and U.K. Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan.
NBA superfan, James F. Goldstein turns 83…
Author of four novels including Mitzvah Man and five collections of short fiction including Minyan: Ten Interwoven Stories, John Jacob Clayton turns 88… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party and former speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon turns 86… Sports journalist, author and former ombudsman for ESPN, Robert Lipsyte turns 85… Former member of the Knesset for the National Religious Party, Eliyahu Gabai turns 80… Former mayor of Philadelphia and governor of Pennsylvania, currently a special counsel at Ballard Spahr, Ed Rendell turns 79… Retired attorney from Latham & Watkins, Paul Israel Meyer… San Diego-based attorney, she served as a member of Congress and later as chief of staff for California Governor Gray Davis, Lynn Alice Schenk turns 78… Former attorney general of the U.K., now London co-managing partner and chair of the European and Asian litigation practice at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith turns 73… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games and President of HitPoint Studios, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D…. Founder and principal of D.C.-based Mager & Associates, Mimi Mager… Retired chairman of the Jewish National Fund, Daniel “Danny” Atar turns 65… Writer, John F. Solomon turns 56… Actress and television personality, Heather Paige Kent Dubrow turns 54… Partner of both the law firm Davis Goldberg & Galper PLLC and the PR firm Trident DMG, Joshua P. Galper… Professional poker player who won the 2010, 2012 and 2018 World Series of Poker Players Championship, Michael Mizrachi turns 42… Producer of in-arena promotions and productions at Madison Square Garden, Alexandra Lauren Sall… Tennis player ranked #1 in Israel for most of 2022, Yshai Oliel turns 23…