👋 Good Friday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael Kurilla’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, and we interview Amelia Powers Gardner, the Utah county commissioner whose efforts to reduce bureaucracy in her state set off a wave of virtual weddings across Israel. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Jake Tapper, Michael Oren and Henry Kissinger.
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent Jewish Insider, eJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit stories, including: Interview with Sir David Adjaye, architect of Abu Dhabi’s Abrahamic Family House; In a first, Hebrew University launches undergrad class in UAE studies; Captain Ayoub is now Israel’s ambassador to the UAE – on TV; Joshua Malina’s Broadway return in ‘Leopoldstadt’ packs a personal punch; A Jewish journey to the front office of Major League Baseball; Silicon Valley Bank’s abrupt collapse sends shockwaves through Middle East; The UAE teams up with the ADL to launch the Manara Center in Abu Dhabi; and Maimonides Fund launches inhouse institute to turn Sapir Journal ideas into action plans. Print the latest edition here.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last night in Berlin with more than 30 German defense industry executives from the ground, sea, air and space sectors, as well as from defense industry economic organizations.
During the closed-door event, Netanyahu shared Israel’s experience in the security field and discussed the importance of the relationships between Germany, Israel and Europe at this time. “A large portion of the discussion was devoted to the possibility of cooperation between the countries via the German and European defense industries,” according to a press release from Israel’s Government Press Office.
The event followed meetings Netanyahu held with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Netanyahu and Scholz visitedthe Gleis 17 memorial at Grunewald Station, the site from which the Jews of Berlin were deported to ghettos and concentration camps during WWII.
“We had no defense at the time,” Netanyahu said at a press conference with Scholz. “Today there is a fanatical regime that seeks to erase the one and only Jewish state, with over 6 million Jews in it, from the face of the earth. We have a defense and Israel will do what we have to do to defend ourselves. As I told the chancellor, the Jewish people will not allow a second Holocaust. The Jewish state will do everything necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Period.”
The leaders discussed, in addition to security concerns, rising violence in the West Bank, Israeli assistance to Ukraine, and advancing the sale of Arrow missile-defense systems to Germany.
Scholz voiced concerns over the Israeli government’s judicial reform plans, and expressed hope that “the last word has not been spoken” on Israeli President Issac Herzog’s compromise plan, which Netanyahu has rejected.
The Senate approved a procedural vote opening debate over a measure to repeal the 2002 and 1991 Authorizations for Use of Military Force in Iraq by a 68-27 vote. Amendment votes are expected on the floor, and are likely to address issues of Iranian proxies operating in Iraq.
Happening this weekend: The House Republican retreat kicks off on Sunday in Orlando, Fla., and will run through Tuesday.
on the hill
CENTCOM commander outlines ‘race’ against China in Middle East, rising Iran threat
Testifying on Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, who leads U.S. Central Command, described the U.S. as being in a “race” against China to further integrate militarily with its partners in the Middle East, while also emphasizing a rapidly growing threat from Iran, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Big picture: Thursday’s hearing marked the second consecutive day during which senators and administration officials have honed in on the threat of increasing Chinese influence in the Middle East, reflecting rising concern about the issue following China’s brokering last week of a diplomatic pact between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Military sales: “The People’s Republic of China has chosen to compete in the region. The PRC is aggressively expanding its diplomatic, informational, military and economic outreach across the region,” Kurilla said. “We are in a race to integrate with our partners before China can fully penetrate the region.” China’s military sales to the region, Kurilla explained, have grown 80% over the last 10 years. These Chinese inroads pose a threat to plans — driven by the Abraham Accords — for regional air- and missile-defense integration, Kurilla said, noting that Chinese technology is not compatible with that of the U.S. and its Western allies, and that it could pose security threats to U.S. technology if it were integrated. Kurilla attributed China’s inroads in the military sphere in part to the time-consuming bureaucratic process for approving U.S. foreign military sales.
Dealmaking: Kurilla said that U.S.-Saudi military relations remain “very strong,” despite the renewed ties between Riyadh and Tehran, but called it “concerning” that China mediated that pact. “The talks [were] about opening diplomatic relations. This is not an alliance between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he said. “They have had diplomatic relations in the past while they were still shooting at each other.” He described the rapprochement as the result of three years of discussions, which China began to mediate within the “last several months.” Kurilla questioned how durable the agreement would ultimately be.
Tinderbox: Kurilla said that it is currently the most dangerous moment in Israeli-Palestinian relations in decades, explaining that the “kindling” for a conflict is present and “we don’t know what it could take, for what spark to be able to start a larger conflict in the West Bank.”
The Mormon bureaucrat in Utah changing marriage in Israel
Amelia Powers Gardner was a low-level elected official whose mission was to make government processes more efficient and less bureaucratic for the 665,000 citizens of Utah County, Utah. So she’s as surprised as anyone that she became something of a revolutionary in Israeli public affairs, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Global phenomenon: What Gardner, now a county commissioner, viewed as a simple policy change — moving the county’s marriage licensing online — has reverberated around the world, resulting in more than 1,000 weddings — some as far away as Russia — and raising legal questions that have reached the Israeli Supreme Court. And it happened, essentially, by accident.
Pandemic pressure: Gardner’s first project as county clerk was to allow for totally virtual wedding licensing, a process she began in 2018 and which finally went live in January 2020. In May 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah County began issuing licenses outside its geographic boundaries. “The idea that a government office being closed meant that people couldn’t perform life or religious ceremonies was so unconscionable to me,” she told JI on Tuesday. Israelis, it turns out, desperately wanted that combination of American don’t-tread-on-me libertarianism and technological ease.
Marriage in Israel: There is no civil marriage in Israel because marriage rules are controlled by the country’s religious authorities. So to get married, Jews must go through Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. For decades, Israeli Jews who wanted to get married on their own terms — either because they did not want to abide by the religious guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate, or could not have a legally recognized wedding because they are gay, or just on principle — would have to leave the country.
Supreme Court says: Now, all they have to do is go online to Utah County’s marriage license portal. But inadvertently to Gardner, these Israelis entered a political minefield. Israel’s Interior Ministry said it would not recognize the 1,200 weddings performed through the virtual system. But this month, the government lost its court battle against the couples. Israel’s Supreme Court — currently mired in a monthslong political battle as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to curtail its power — ruled unanimously that the government must recognize the marriages of Israeli couples who have used the virtual service.
Exclusively Utah: Utah County remains the only county in the U.S. to offer virtual wedding licenses. Gardner isn’t involved with the marriage system anymore — her county clerk successor handles it, and he has vowed to stick with the virtual portal — but she still gets inquiries from other municipalities asking to license her software. “The problem is, we built it ourselves,” she told JI, so the county can’t easily share it. But a tech startup is working to build out the technology so that other places can follow Utah County’s lead.
🌎 Washington’s Work: In the Washington Post, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Michael Singh suggests how the U.S. can approach an “omni-aligned” Saudi Arabia that works with both the U.S. and China. “Washington’s ambivalence and China’s ambitions have sparked a hedging impulse among our partners that has upended much conventional wisdom about the world. South Korean officials openly musing about acquiring nuclear weapons and Arab states embracing Israel are two of the most striking examples of the trend. Riyadh’s decision to look to Beijing as a broker is simply the latest example. Arab officials often speak of Beijing as their primary economic partner and Washington as their preferred security partner. Yet, in reality, economics, politics and security are unavoidably intertwined, and China’s aspirations, unsurprisingly, are not limited to trade. As Beijing’s economic stake in the region has grown, so too has its diplomatic tempo: It has unleashed a fusillade of peace proposals, conferences and envoys on the region even as Washington has scaled back such activities. Riyadh turned to China not only because it has influence with Iran, but because Beijing has positioned itself to seize just this sort of opportunity.” [WashPost]
🇮🇱 A Tale of Two Israels: In The Atlantic, former Israeli MK Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s envoy to Washington from 2009-2013, writes about the conflicting views of Israel’s different communities on the current debate over the proposed judicial reforms. “The real problem is not the question of judicial review but the existence of two opposed and arguably irreconcilable Israels. The first is the Israel of its founders, a largely secular, Western-oriented country now living at peace with a growing number of its Arab neighbors. That Israel yearns to be a normal country, a nation of world-class clubs and restaurants, of art and innovation… ‘They basically want Sweden,’ a member of my synagogue, a recent immigrant from Paris, told me. ‘They basically want France.’ But the other Israel does not believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over. This Israel doesn’t want to be France. The Jewish people were never supposed to be normal and never have been, it insists. Normalcy is the last thing it wants. Israel is, and must proudly remain, abnormal, a country that invests at least as much in religious learning as it does in technology, and that safeguards its territorial heritage.” [TheAtlantic]
💰 EKG on ESG:The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman considers whether the environmental, social and governance movement has peaked. “A few years back various Wall Streeters were whispering that the political fad of investing with the so-called environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda would continue to gain ground until the next bear market. Have the last year’s geopolitical events and investing losses plus recent market ructions finally brought a needed dose of reality? Even today such talk is generally confined to background discussions because Wall Street remains institutionally politically correct. But a welcome change toward focusing on doing right by shareholders may be in the offing. Such a change would also benefit the U.S. economy and human flourishing around the world. That’s because profit-seeking corporations, not politics, represent the most efficient path to fueling, sheltering and feeding a hungry world.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🇪🇹Eye on Ethiopia: Secretary of State Tony Blinken wrapped up a trip to Ethiopia this week in an effort to restore relations between Washington and Addis Ababa following the East African nation’s two-year-long civil war.
🇮🇱 Talking Tough: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) suggested on CNN that the U.S. consider conditioning aid to Israel and limiting the Israeli officials who travel to the U.S. in response to proposed measures by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
📊 Survey Says: A new Gallup poll found that more Democrats believe the U.S. should support the Palestinians over Israel (49%), than believe the U.S. should support Israel over the Palestinians (38%), while also finding that favorable views regarding Israel have remained steady.
🏦 Bank Buoy: Bloomberglooks at the effort, led by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and with the support of JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Diamond, for nearly a dozen banks to flood First Republic with $30 billion to keep it afloat.
🎙️ Talking with Tapper: Esquireinterviews CNN’s Jake Tapper on the 10th anniversary of the launch of his show, “The Lead,” about journalism and reporting in a modern age.
🎭 Sondheim’s Swan Song: Stephen Sondheim’s final musical, “Here We Are,” will debut Off-Broadway in New York this fall.
📰 Editor Indicted: A former editor of the New York-based Jewish Presswas charged with two felonies for his participation in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
📄 IHRA in Ohio: The city council of Cincinnati adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
🏨 Sam in the Holy Land: “The West Wing” and “Parks & Recreation” star Rob Lowe is in Israel this week, on what he described to a fellow King David Hotel guest as a “guys’ trip.”
🪖 Proportional Response: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that those responsible for a roadside bomb that killed an Israeli civilian would be found and held accountable.
🇨🇳 Kissinger on China: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius interviewed former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about the recent agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia that was brokered by Beijing.
🇮🇷🇦🇪 The Drop-In: Iran’s top security official met with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi this week.
🏗️ Building Back: The UAE pledged $3 million to rebuild and restore damaged property in Huwara, after Israeli settlers destroyed dozens of homes in the West Bank town.
🚢 Iranian Agreement: Tehran agreed to stop its shipments of weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen as part of an agreement with Saudi Arabia that was brokered by China last week.
Pic of the Day
The 12th “Winner” marathon is held in Jerusalem today with approximately 30,000 runners taking part, including some 2,700 from overseas. The event includes a full marathon, half marathon, 10k and 5k, as well as a 1.7k family race and an 800m communal-social race.
Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 90 on Sunday…
FRIDAY: Washington columnist for The Dallas Morning News, Carl Leubsdorf turns 85… CEO of Wilherst Developers and trustee of publicly traded Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, Mark K. Rosenfeld… Oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Fort Wayne, Ind., Michael Iczkovitz… Susan Schwartz Sklarin… USDOJ official for 20 years and author of a NYT bestseller about working on the Mueller Investigation, Andrew Weissmann turns 65… Founder, president and CEO of Laurel Strategies, Alan H. H. Fleischmann turns 58… Director of legislative affairs at B’nai B’rith International, Eric A. Fusfield… Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Myrna Elizabeth Melgar turns 55… Lead field/floor reporter for CBS Sports football and basketball broadcasts, Tracy Wolfson turns 48… CEO and president at Las Vegas-based Gold Coast Promotions, Richard Metzler… Hasidic singer, entertainer and composer, Lipa Schmeltzer turns 45… Television writer and producer, Andrew Goldberg turns 45… Actor, music producer and stand-up comedian, Stephen Kramer Glickman turns 44… Musician and digital strategy executive, Rick Sorkin turns 44… Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Robert Joshua Luck turns 44… Digital reporter and producer for ABC News, Emily Claire Friedman Cohen… Associate professor at The George Washington University in the School of Media and Public Affairs, Ethan Porter turns 38… Senior grants officer at the Open Society Foundations, Jackie Fishman… Director and general manager at Uber Eats, Annaliese Rosenthal… Los Angeles-based tech journalist, Jessica Elizabeth Naziri… Senior sales executive at Apprentice[dot]io, Zachary Silver… Senior associate at Strategy&, Zach Sherman…
SATURDAY: Screenwriter, actor, comedian and film executive, Carl Gottlieb turns 85… U.S. special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, Deborah Esther Lipstadt turns 76… National columnist with Creators Syndicate and contributor to CNN Opinion, Froma Harrop turns 73… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Bennett “Ben” Cohen turns 72… CEO and chairman of Électricité de France, Jean-Bernard Lévy turns 68… Former crisis response team manager for the City of Los Angeles and now a consultant for non-profit organizations, Jeffrey Zimerman, MSW… Head coach of the Auburn Tigers men’s basketball team, he also served as the gold medal-winning head coach for the Maccabi USA men’s basketball team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, Bruce Pearl turns 63… Head of school at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J., Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins… Filmmaker, writer and stand-up comedian, Jake David Shapiro turns 54… Identical twin brothers and former yeshiva students, both singers and songwriters who recorded as “Evan and Jaron,” Evan Lowenstein and Jaron Lowenstein, turn 49… Lead vocalist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, Adam Levine turns 44… Actor, comedian and writer, Adam Pally turns 41… COO at Roofmart, Ariel Koschitzky… Actor known for his roles in “24” and “House of Sand and Fog,” Jonathan Ahdout turns 34… Chief of staff and communications director at the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Samuel Crystal… Senior associate at EY, Michael Schapiro… Actor and television producer, best known for his role on the Netflix original series “Orange Is the New Black,” Alan Aisenberg turns 30…
SUNDAY: Chairman of the board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, Dr. Daniel M. Zucker turns 74… Israeli politician, the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she served as a member of the Knesset for three different political parties, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof turns 73… Former executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson turns 69… NYC-based real estate investor, he is one of three co-founders of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff turns 69… Musician, composer, singer and songwriter, Yehuda Julio Glantz turns 65… EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, Steve Rabe… Writer, critic and author, he writes often about klezmer, Jewish music and Bob Dylan, Seth Rogovoy… Partner in the New York office of Latham & Watkins, Jonathan R. Rod turns 63… Neurologist in Naples, Fla., Brian D. Wolff, MD… Dean of students at Reichman University, she was previously a member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Dr. Adi Koll turns 47… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their “React” video series which have more than 13 billion YouTube views, Benny Fine turns 42… Brazilian-born entrepreneur and angel investor, he is one of the co-founders of Facebook, Eduardo Luiz Saverin turns 41… Former director of North American staff at Taglit-Birthright Israel, Aaron Bock… Member of the New York City Council, Lincoln P. Restler turns 39… Founder of two lines of jewelry, the Brave Collection in 2012, and Zahava (Golden, in Hebrew) in 2018, Jessica Hendricks Yee… Line producer at NBCUniversal in NYC, Emma Gottlieb…