👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at how pro-Israel Republicans are responding to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent comments on Ukraine, and report on the confirmation hearings for the Biden administration’s nominees for ambassador to the UAE and Kuwait. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Tamar Remz, Micaela Diamond and Meyers Leonard.
Today on Capitol Hill, Gen. Michael Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central Command, is set to testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the state of the region.
Eric Garcetti was confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to India yesterday over the opposition of Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Republican Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined the remaining Democrats in voting to confirm Garcetti.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “The United States-India relationship is extremely important, and it’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador.”
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced a resolution yesterday that would demand a report from the Biden administration on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, under a procedure that will allow them to force a floor vote in 10 days. The resolution would only require Senate approval and a simple majority.
If that report is not submitted within 30 days, aid to Saudi Arabia would be automatically cut off, and Murphy and Lee would be able to force a second floor vote on cutting off or restricting U.S. funding to Riyadh, although that measure would require a House vote and the president’s signature.
Cautioning that civil war in Israel is within “touching distance,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog announced a compromise deal to the judicial reform in a public address to the nation last night. Titled the “People’s Framework,” Herzog urged leaders, political parties and the general public to read the full proposal on the website on which it was published as he spoke.
“This framework addresses the important need for diversity in the justice system, so that the many voices among the Israeli people may be part of it and see it as their home; and it commits the justice system to necessary and overdue changes,” Herzog said. “This proposed framework anchors a fair and balanced relationship between the branches of government, allowing each branch to perform its role and act within its own purview without undue intervention by any other branch. This framework is fully committed to the principles of the Declaration of Independence; it fortifies the independence of the justice system; and it establishes human and civil rights, for men and women alike, including for the minorities in Israel.”
Among the elements of the judicial system that the directive addresses is the contentious judicial selection committee, on which the government is seeking to have a majority. Under Herzog’s proposal, the coalition would not have an automatic majority and the court would lose its veto power. The committee would include 11 members: the justice minister and two additional ministers chosen by the government; the Supreme Court president and two other associate Supreme Court judges elected by fellow judges; three Knesset members, one of them a coalition member and two opposition members; and two representatives of the public appointed by the Minister of Justice with the consent of the President of the Supreme Court.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the proposal, issuing a statement just before he traveled to Germany for a diplomatic visit saying that Herzog’s proposals “were not agreed upon by the representatives of the coalition. Central clauses of the outline he presented only perpetuate the existing situation and do not bring the required balance to the Israeli authorities. This is the unfortunate truth,” Netanyahu continued.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid congratulated Herzog on his plan. “The State of Israel is being torn apart and we must make every effort to prevent an economic, security and social disintegration that seriously harms national resilience,” Lapid said. “We must approach the president’s outline with respect for the status, the seriousness with which it was written and the values that underlie it.”
DeSantis’ Ukraine flip alarms pro-Israel Republicans
In declaring his belief that protecting Ukraine from Russian aggression is a “territorial dispute” and not a vital interest to the United States, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is widely expected to run for president in 2024, raised alarms among traditional GOP hawks and conservative pro-Israel foreign policy experts, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. A spokesperson for DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment from JI, as a growing number of GOP leaders rushed to condemn his Ukraine remarks, written in response to a questionnaire solicited by “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
What Ron wrote: “While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said in a statement to Fox News host Tucker Carlson that was broadcast on Monday.
Principal principles: “I’m extraordinarily disappointed in what DeSantis said about Ukraine to Tucker Carlson,” said Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Foreign policy isn’t actually that complicated: It’s about principles. If you care about American values and American security, then you know that attempts to exterminate a nation simply for being — whether that nation is Ukraine or Israel or any other on earth — are wrong, and that such power plays ultimately end in threatening our homeland.”
Look back: In 2015, as a member of the House, DeSantis sided with those in his party in criticizing the Obama administration for not providing military aid to Ukraine after Russia invaded Crimea. “We in the Congress have been urging [President Obama], I’ve been, to provide arms to Ukraine. They want to fight their good fight. They’re not asking us to fight it for them. And the president has steadfastly refused. And I think that that’s a mistake,” DeSantis said to conservative radio host Bill Bennett at the time.
Eye on 2024: Other GOP presidential candidates or those who are weighing bids have expressed continued support for aiding Ukraine. They include former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who announced her campaign last month and is one of three primary candidates currently in the race. In a statement to JI on Tuesday, Haley defended her own approach to the war in Ukraine and suggested that DeSantis’ position would exacerbate tensions not just in Europe but in the Middle East and beyond. “America should always have the backs of our allies and friends, like Israel and Ukraine, and we should expect them to have our back,” Haley said. “Russia is a strongly anti-American country, trying to expand by force into a neighboring pro-American country, and threatening other American allies. We are far better off with a Ukrainian victory than a Russian victory. Sitting on the sidelines will only embolden Russia and its Chinese and Iranian allies.”
Further reading: The Wall Street Journal editorial board cautioned that DeSantis “may want to consider that the political risks on foreign policy aren’t only from the Trumpian right. Abandoning Ukraine may cost him with GOP voters who think he is bending in fear of Mr. Trump.”
on the hill
UAE ambassador nominee emphasizes commitment to pushing back on China in the Gulf
Concerns about China’s deepening involvement in the Middle East — brought to a head in recent days by Beijing’s brokering of a diplomatic agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia — were front and center yesterday as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned Martina Strong and Karen Hideko Sasahara, the nominees to be the U.S. ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, respectively, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
On the record: “We have been very clear with our partners in the region, to include the UAE, that there are certain categories of cooperation with China that would run up very directly [against] and impact very directly our U.S. national security interests,” Strong said. “That message has been delivered. And we believe that our partners in the region are very clear about our concerns.” Strong added that responding to the rising Chinese challenge also requires the U.S. to “strengthen our partnership” with the UAE. She said that administration officials have been “very focused” on the China issue in ongoing conversations with the UAE and that she would make it a “top priority” if confirmed — particularly emphasizing that Chinese involvement in the UAE’s telecommunications infrastructure could pose a threat to U.S. security cooperation.
Rapprochement: Strong is currently the chargé d’affaires in Saudi Arabia; the incoming ambassador, Michael Ratney, was confirmed on Tuesday by a Senate voice vote. Strong took a cautious approach to the Saudi-Iran pact, indicating that the U.S. had some awareness of Saudi efforts toward rapprochement with Tehran. She said the U.S. was supportive of Saudi Arabia’s desire for a “diplomatic path to deescalate their tensions in the region,” while warning that “it remains to be seen” if Iran will actually hold to its commitments under the agreement. If the agreement holds, Strong said it would be “a positive development.”
Opportunities: In her testimony, Strong also highlighted the promise of the Abraham Accords. “Leveraging this opportunity and expanding the growing cooperation between the UAE and Israel will buttress our shared goals of peace, prosperity, and greater integration in the Middle East,” Strong said. “This historic achievement should be our focus, and certainly, if confirmed, will be my focus because I think that it can underpin a lot of positive developments. We’ve already of course seen a lot that has been achieved.”
AIPAC rolls out first 2024 endorsements, including vulnerable Senate Democrats
AIPAC’s PAC rolled out its first wave of more than 90 House and Senate endorsements for the 2024 elections yesterday, shedding some light on the group’s strategy in what are likely to be some of the most watched races in next year’s elections, as well as how it plans to handle hot-button issues tied to the U.S.-Israel relationship, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Notable names: The endorsement list includes a leading Democratic critic of Israel’s judicial reform plans as well as some of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the Senate. During the 2022 cycle, AIPAC endorsed 365 candidates, mostly incumbent lawmakers, and channeled more than $17 million to its endorsees.
Uphill battles: The pro-Israel PAC also weighed in on several Senate races that are expected to be hotly contested, endorsing incumbent Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), all of whom are likely to face tough reelection races. Neither Manchin nor Sinema has confirmed that they plan to seek reelection, and Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who was also endorsed by AIPAC in 2022, is vying for the Arizona Senate nomination.
No decision: Although AIPAC endorsed Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in 2022, the group has not yet weighed in on the closely watched Senate primary in California, where Schiff faces progressive Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). It also has not yet endorsed in the Michigan Senate race; AIPAC endorsed Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) for her House race in 2022. AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann said the group has not yet made any decisions on either Senate race.
Read the full story here.
PJ Library hosts international directors for global impact event
Books are the vessels we use to travel to far-off lands, they are the guides that teach us our first words and they are the tools with which PJ Library connects thousands of Jewish children across the world to their heritage and to each other. In the Moise Safra Center’s Esther and Claudio Szajman Banquet Hall, which features sweeping views of New York’s Upper East Side, a cohort of PJ Library international directors came together on Wednesday night to celebrate the organization’s global impact and recognize one of their own, Tori Bergel reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Cause for celebration: In its early days, PJ Library, part of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, was a small organization providing free Jewish books to 200 families around Western Massachusetts. Now, nearly 18 years later, it’s a global initiative spanning over 35 countries. Wednesday’s event marked the first time PJ Library’s global leadership convened in person since the pandemic.
Guest of honor: Tamar Remz, who has been with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation for more than 13 years, most recently as its chief partnerships officer, played a vital role in PJ Library’s expansion. Wednesday’s event also served as a tribute to Remz for her service to the library, which she will continue through her new position of senior advisor. “I really hope that we all work together, and that we care less about our organizations and our acronyms, and more about how every Jewish person, how every Jewish child, how every Jewish individual or person who wants to claim Judaism, can have a meaningful path,” she said.
☞ Onus on Biden: In Al-Arabiya, former Trump administration Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt blames the Biden administration for China’s success in restoring diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran. “It is too early to predict how this agreement will play out. While the Biden Administration spent a significant amount of time alienating Saudi Arabia and others in the Middle East, China continued to build strong ties in the Middle East. China showed the world the power that it is. For the United States to pretend otherwise is not just foolish, it is dangerous. Who can blame China for seeking this role? The tensions between China and the United States grow with each passing month. The distance between the United States and Saudi Arabia (and some of our other allies in the Middle East) continues to grow. The Biden Administration and some in Congress have sent clear signals that Saudi Arabia ought to do their bidding, or else. That is not a way to treat an important ally, one critical to the security of the region. While the long-standing relationship between the United States and the Kingdom remains important to both countries, and should remain important and strong, the Biden Administration has lost its way in the Middle East.” [AlArabiya]
🇸🇦 Pragmatic Approach: In the Financial Times, Kim Ghattas suggests that Riyadh is “buying time and carving out breathing space” by mending relations with Iran. “The agreement with Saudi Arabia will not bring wider acceptance for Iran while its centrifuges are spinning, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made clear he will not be taken in by Tehran’s promises. It was during the rapprochement that Iran built its nuclear programme and the Revolutionary Guards expanded their influence across the region. While the choice of China as mediator might be seen as a poke in the eye for the US, Beijing was the only possible guarantor with sufficient leverage. Despite some initial anxiety about China’s role, Washington is taking a pragmatic view. A senior US official told me: ‘We’ll take it. It’s a positive.’ He added that if the White House had managed relations better, ‘the Saudis would have come to us sooner to let us know this was under way, instead of giving us a 24-hour heads up.’ Now is the time to focus on managing that relationship to make sure the US doesn’t cede further ground in the Middle East.” [FT]
💎 Diamond Dreams: The New York Times’ Nancy Coleman interviews actress Micaela Diamond, who as a child aspired to be a cantor after nurturing her love for singing at her New Jersey synagogue, and who now stars in the new Broadway adaptation of “Parade” as Leo Frank’s wife, Lucille. “‘It’s an intense role vocally, with forceful numbers like ‘You Don’t Know This Man’ and ‘Do It Alone,’ sung by Carolee Carmello in the original Broadway production before Diamond was even born. But another difficulty is handling the emotional exhaustion that stems from the themes of violence and antisemitism coursing throughout the piece. ‘Being able to tell this story to other Jews, to non-Jews, to start nuanced discussions … about what it means to be a Jew and how hatred is inherited is what I want my life’s work to be,’ Diamond says. ‘So much of my identity lives in this show.’ For ‘Parade,’ perhaps unsurprisingly, Diamond is prioritizing ‘more care for my heart than my body’ — in part by gathering with other Jewish cast members to pray together backstage before each performance. ‘It just feels like honoring Leo and Lucille and remembering how lucky we are to be Jews telling this story,’ she says. ‘It does feel like this kind of centering, and a way to connect to them, before we go through some Jewish trauma onstage.’” [NYTimes]
📺 As Seen on TV: Puck’s Dylan Byers looks at the dynamic between Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO David Zaslav and CNN CEO Chris Licht. “Nearly one year in, it’s clear that Zaslav still believes in his vision for CNN as a nonpartisan, broadcast-style news digest, and still believes that Licht is his Captain Ahab, despite what has been an undeniably challenging run thus far. ‘He’s gotten a lot wrong. We’ve gotten a lot wrong,’ Zaz said during the managers’ meeting. ‘We’re all flawed. We’re trying to figure out what is the best CNN.’… In many ways, Zaz’s visit highlights just how much he views CNN as his own responsibility, despite entrusting the network to Licht and affording him ample runway to execute his vision. To be sure, the CNN business accounts for a small fraction of Warner Bros. Discovery’s revenue engine. And it’s clear from his public and private remarks that Zaz is more focused, as he should be, on the film studios, myriad sports and entertainment channels, soon-to-be-rebranded streaming service (it will just be called ‘Max,’ per sources familiar) and still-massive debt load. Nevertheless, CNN is, as Zaz often stresses, a ‘reputational asset.’ And Zaz, a famously hands-on manager, now seems intent on having a hand in its success.” [Puck]
Around the Web
☢️ Senate and Security: International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.
🤝 Agudath On The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) met with a delegation from Agudath Israel of America on Capitol Hill.
✍️ Meta Missive: Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned a memo to employees about his vision for the company in the coming year that includes eliminating excess and cutting costs.
🏦 Banking Balagan: Bloomberglooks at how a pivot to crypto led to the recent collapse of Signature Bank.
Ξ Paper Trail: Newly filed court documents indicate that FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried transferred $2 billion to his personal account from FTX-related entities.
🏀 More of Meyers: The Milwaukee Bucks signed Meyers Leonard for the remainder of the season.
🏫 Problematic Platform: The principal of a high school in Michigan apologized for featuring an anti-Israel activist who has promoted violence against Israelis in a “diversity assembly” led by students.
👨⚖️ Court Case: A Michigan man who allegedly threatened to kill state Attorney General Dana Nessel and other Jewish officials pleaded not guilty.
🚫 Ink Out: The Queensland government in Australia intends to ban tattoos of swastikas as part of a wider crackdown on hate symbols.
🛬 Judicial Journey: A Jewish Federations of North America delegation visited Israel this week to discuss with top Israeli officials the organization’s opposition to aspects of the government’s judicial overhaul plans.
🛰️ Drone Dealings: Israel has approved export licenses that would allow it to sell anti-drone systems to Ukraine, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
🪖 IDF Investigation: The IDF is investigating whether an individual who planted a roadside bomb that injured an Israeli civilian in northern Israel was a member of Hezbollah.
🕌 Ahead of the Holiday: Tor Wennesland, the U.N. special envoy for the Middle East peace process, toldAxios‘ Barak Ravid that “responsible leaders” can take steps to calm Israeli-Palestinian tensions ahead of Ramadan.
🇸🇾 Syria Support: A group of Arab nations led by Jordan reportedly offered billions of dollars in aid to Syrian President Bashar al Assad to help rebuild the war-torn country in exchange for Syrian concessions, including engagement with Syrian opposition and pushback against Iran’s further expansion in the country.
🌊 Signals at Sea: China, Russia and Iran began a five-day military drill in the Gulf of Oman yesterday.
🕯️ Remembering: Former Bank of America CEO and Chairman Richard Rosenberg died at 92.
Pic of the Day
Dana International (left), Rivka Michaeli and Noa Kirel were among those honored last week with The Peres Center for Peace & Innovation’s Medal of Distinction for “opening doors, creating opportunities for other women and contributing to gender equality, diversity, and inclusion,” Peres Center Director General Efrat Duvdevani said.
Former CEO and chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill turns 90…
Dean and founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance, Rabbi Marvin Hier turns 84… NYC tax attorney and litigator, he served as a tax assistant to the Solicitor General of the U.S., Stuart A. Smith turns 82… Actress and film director, Susan Linda Bay Nimoy turns 80… Computer scientist and author of multiple textbooks, he is a professor emeritus at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Andrew S. Tanenbaum turns 79… Israeli singer, best known as the original singer of “Jerusalem of Gold,” Shulamit “Shuli” Natan turns 76… Actor and singer, Victor Garber turns 74… Customer service associate at Jewish Free Loan Association of Los Angeles, Judy Karta… Mathematician, innovator with 260 patents and founder of four technology companies, he is the creator of the first camera phone, Philippe Kahn turns 71… Peabody Award and Emmy Award-winning NPR journalist since 1977, now a host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” Scott Simon turns 71… VP of external affairs and government relations at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Amy Reich Kaplan… Film producer, production designer and adjunct faculty member at Chicago’s Columbia College, Gail Sonnenfeld… Adjunct professor at both George Washington University Law School and Stanford In Washington, Andrew D. Eskin… U.S. deputy secretary of transportation, Polly Ellen Trottenberg turns 59… VP for talent, booking at Disney / ABC Television Group, Eric Avram…
President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, Jay Ruderman turns 57… Actor and comedian, best known for playing the role of writer Frank Rossitano on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” Judah Friedlander turns 54… Senior producer of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at MSNBC, Amy Shuster… Head of the financial services practice at the BGR Group, Andy Lewin… Author and former speechwriter for President Joe Biden at the White House, Jeff Nussbaum turns 48… Co-founder of Chochmat Nashim, Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll… President and managing director at SKDKnickerbocker Digital, Jason Rosenbaum… Winemaker at Covenant Wines and Hajdu Wines, Jonathan Hajdu… Retired soccer player in the Israeli Premier League who is now the first team manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Yoav Ziv turns 42… Detroit-based founder and managing partner of Ludlow Ventures, Jonathon Triest… Public policy director at Meta / Facebook’s Israel office, Jordana Cutler turns 41… Managing director at Finsbury Glover Hering, now FGS Global, Adam Blickstein… Director of global corporate partnerships at Global Citizen, Alexandra Stabler… Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter on the Metro desk of The New York Times, Brian M. Rosenthal turns 34… Director in the New York office of the Jewish National Fund, Sarah Azizi… First baseman for MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan John “Rowdy” Tellez turns 28… Associate at Morgan Lewis, Nathan Bennett… Jackie Stern… Jeremy Levin…