👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we bring you the latest from Israel, where nationwide protests and shutdowns are paralyzing the country, and report on U.S. Treasury concerns over Iran sanctions. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Robert Kraft, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Nationwide protests and strikes are being held across Israel today after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dismissal last night of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant set off spontaneous protests and civil unrest that continued into the early hours of Monday. The defense chief, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, called to temporarily halt the judicial reform process in a Saturday evening address. Masses of protestors outraged by Gallant’s firing lit bonfires on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv and in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, as demonstrators across the country took to the streets.
Several other coalition members, including Likud MKs Yuli Edelstein and David Bitan, as well as Shas leader Aryeh Deri supported the call to pause the legislation. Attorney Boaz Ben Zur, a key member of Netanyahu’s legal team, said he will no longer defend him in his corruption trial if the judicial overhaul is not halted. Justice Minister Yair Levin, the architect of the judicial overhaul, said he would respect any decision made by the prime minister.
The nation is waiting for a statement by Netanyahu, after a speech the premier was expected to deliver in the morning was postponed amid reports that he planned to halt the legislation but was met by pushback from within the coalition.
Arnon Bar-David, the head of the Histadrut, the country’s national trade union center, declared a general strike for the first time since the weeks-long demonstrations over the government’s judicial reform plans began. Heads of universities and the National Students and Youth Council are also striking, some heads of local authorities announced a hunger strike in front of the Prime Minister’s Office and hospitals are providing emergency services only.
Israel’s Airport Authority announced that all departing flights are grounded as part of the strike. Malls are also being closed.
President Issac Herzog this morning called on the government to halt the legislative process immediately. “I appeal to the prime minister, members of the government, and members of the coalition: there are harsh and painful feelings,” Herzog said. “The entire nation is rapt with deep worry. Our security, economy, society — all are under threat. The whole people of Israel are looking at you. The whole Jewish People are looking at you. The whole world is looking at you.”
Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir, quit yesterday afternoon, writing in his resignation letter that “The political situation in Israel has reached a critical point, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility and moral obligation to stand up for what is right and to fight for the democratic values that I hold dear. Today’s dangerous decision to fire the Minister of Defense, convinced me that I can no longer continue representing this Government.”
A statement by U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said, “We are deeply concerned by today’s developments out of Israel, which further underscore the urgent need for compromise. As the President recently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support. We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible.”
on the hill
Yellen: Iran sanctions have been ‘much less’ successful ‘than we would ideally like’
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers on Thursday that U.S. sanctions on Iran have not had as much of an effect as hoped in curbing Tehran’s malign activities, and that the U.S. needs to turn to other tools in this effort, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Less effective: “Iran is suffering greatly economically, because of the sanctions. I would say the same thing is true of North Korea,” she said. “On the other hand, if you were to ask, ‘Has that forced a change in behavior?’ The answer is much less than we would, ideally, like.”
Pushing through: “Sometimes a regime is so committed to a program, that even when the population of that country is suffering immensely because of sanctions we’ve imposed, they continue to prioritize activities that are the ones we’re trying to stop,” Yellen explained.
Looking further: Yellen said the Treasury Department needs to turn to “a broader tool kit” to head off the Iranian regime. “Sanctions can play a role in changing behavior but they may not be sufficient,” she said.
Cuomo steps up effort to promote new pro-Israel group in series of media hits
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a series of media appearances on Friday, stepped up his recently announced effort to raise the alarm over dwindling support for Israel within the Democratic Party, as he prepares to launch a pro-Israel group that has fueled speculation he will run for office again, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
‘More engaged’: In two episodes of Cuomo’s podcast, as well as an interview on 77 WABC Radio late last week, the former governor, who resigned from office in 2021 amid accusations of sexual misconduct, expanded on recent comments in which he suggested that anti-Israel sentiment among far-left Democrats is contributing to a rise in antisemitism. “I think my own party, the Democratic Party, has to hear this and has to be more active and more engaged,” he said in a bonus episode of his weekly podcast, “As a Matter of Fact … With Andrew Cuomo.”
Background: Cuomo unveiled his plan to establish a new organization called Progressives for Israel two weeks ago at an event in Manhattan commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, as JI first reported. The former governor did not provide additional details on Friday regarding his plans for the group. A spokesperson for Cuomo told JI that “more details will be released in the near future,” but gave no specific timeframe for the launch.
Progressive pushback: The announcement on March 13 was widely ridiculed on social media, particularly among activists on the left who cast suspicion on Cuomo’s claim to the progressive mantle. On his podcast, Cuomo, a moderate Democrat who frequently clashed with progressive lawmakers during his gubernatorial tenure, indirectly responded to such criticism, insisting that progressivism “is not a new concept” and “just calling yourself a progressive does not make you a progressive.”
Judicial overhaul: The new campaign arrives as Israel’s right-wing governing coalition moves forward with a controversial plan to weaken the judicial system, which Cuomo addressed on a separate podcast episode last week. “There is no doubt that the debate concerning judicial power in Israel is real,” he acknowledged. “But I fear these political positions, either directly or indirectly, either purposefully or coincidentally, are driving or justifying antisemitic feelings and activity.”
Foundation to Combat Antisemitism launches $25 million ad campaign to foster solidarity
With a new $25 million ad campaign launching Monday, the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism is looking to turn the blue square emoticon into the symbol for Jewish solidarity and opposition to Jew-hatred, the organization told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross. Over the next six weeks, the Boston-based FCAS, funded by the Kraft Family Foundation, will roll out four TV commercials, which will air nationwide, and run a social media campaign, which will encourage people to use the blue square emoticon and the hashtag #StandUpToJewishHate, the group said.
Passion project: “This is a real passion project for the Kraft family and for Robert Kraft personally. He sees this as his legacy,” FCAS Executive Director Matthew Berger told eJP on Sunday night, just before the launch of the campaign. According to Berger, who took over as executive director of FCAS last year, the campaign was driven in large part by findings of a recent survey that showed that roughly half of Americans don’t believe that antisemitism is a problem and most of the rest believe that it is a problem that Jews can solve alone.
To build up business in Bahrain, Israeli envoy says take it slow
After 16 months as Israel’s first ambassador to Bahrain, Eitan Na’eh says he’s learned some important lessons while trying to promote business between two countries that only recently normalized diplomatic relations, above all taking it slow and adjusting ambitious expectations for what constitutes success after the initial exuberance generated in 2020 by the Abraham Accords. Speaking to The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger in the Bahraini capital of Manama in mid-March, the 59-year-old diplomat said the small island nation’s importance goes beyond the modest bilateral trade volume generated so far and may play a crucial role whenever Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest economy, is ready to establish official ties with Israel. Na’eh previously served as Israel’s head of mission in Abu Dhabi and as ambassador to Turkey and to Azerbaijan.
Cultivating business in the region: “When I started in Abu Dhabi, I went to see the heads of the investment departments of the big sovereign government funds, Mubadala and ADIO,” Na’eh said. “That’s where it really clicked for me that nothing is going to happen quickly, or just like that. They said, look, the way we invest in new markets, it takes six years to come in. That is the process. We invest in funds, or funds of funds, and we see what happens over two years, using small amounts of money. And then we come again with other investors for another four years. That’s six years in total. Depending on the result, we may then [fully] come in. That was in early 2021 — about two years ago.
Slow and steady: “And now you see them buying 22% of Tamar [an Israeli offshore gas field],” he continued. “And you see them trying to buy Phoenix [Insurance Group] and you see them wanting to go into Haifa port and you see them buying shares in other high-tech companies. So you see a process. It didn’t happen in one day. We are two years into the Abraham Accords. It will be slower than we expected. I can clearly see it happening once they understand us better, once we understand them, what makes each other click, how things work. Maybe not in my time. But we have laid the foundations.”
🪖 Milley’s Moment: Politico’s Michael Schaffer looks at the attention attracted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who has served in his role across two administrations and garnered accolades and criticism across the political spectrum. “At a time of peace, it’s not normal for the senior general in the U.S. military to be famous. In a country where all military officers take an oath to the Constitution, it’s not normal for a general to come across as transgressive for praising that Constitution’s most famous amendment. And while the hero’s welcome accorded Milley in some circles isn’t especially common, the feelings about Milley at the opposite end of the spectrum are even more notable: It’s profoundly abnormal, in the annals of the modern American military, for a sitting general to attract the kind of partisan vitriol that Milley does.” [Politico]
⚾ Spending Spree: The New York Times spotlights Steven A. Cohen, hedge fund manager and the new owner of the New York Mets. “Cohen, 66, has carried off a remarkable reversal in public standing, migrating over the past decade from a reclusive avatar of scofflaw capitalism to an avuncular Twitterer who could probably be elected Queens borough president by acclamation. The Mets have swiftly shed their ingrained identity as lovable losers, their ownership shifting from the cost-conscious, Madoff-swindled Wilpon family to a white-collar boundary-pusher long appraised as neither lovable nor a loser. New York has made room in its political class for a burgeoning macher, with Cohen donating prodigiously to key officials as he imagines transforming the neighborhood around Citi Field into a casino-cum-entertainment hub. And baseball is grappling with the ramifications of Cohen’s runaway spending in the nation’s most capitalistic major league, where no salary cap constrains him and only one team thought to buy Super Bowl ad time just because it could.” [NYTimes]
✡️ Religion and State: In First Things, Shalom Lipner, a nonresident senior fellow for Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council, says the protests raging across Israel are in essence about what it means to be a Jewish democracy, a question that dates back to the state’s founding. “Israel’s birth was midwifed by a series of ad hoc deals of dubious longevity between factions with disparate agendas. The objective of returning the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland after the ravages of the Holocaust required compromise, however organic or inorganic, between Jews. In 1947, Jewish Agency chairman David Ben-Gurion vigorously courted the support of the religious Agudath Israel movement in order to advance the cause of Jewish statehood in Mandatory Palestine. The quid pro quo of that backing was a concession by Ben-Gurion — soon to be Israel’s first prime minister — that in contemporary Israel, the strictures of Shabbat and kashrut would be observed in public institutions, and rabbinic control would be exercised over matters of marriage and divorce. The secular Ben-Gurion and the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel each reasoned that the other was destined to become obsolete anyway. Both were wrong. Their status quo arrangement and its attendant tensions between their camps endure to this day.” [FirstThings]
🇺🇸🇮🇱 Holding Back: In Haaretz, Aaron David Miller, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, analyzes the Biden administration’s actions vis a vis the Israeli government that came to power in December. “Sure the Biden administration, including Democrats in Congress, are ratcheting up some pressure (no invitation to the White House for Netanyahu; calling in the Israeli ambassador; a rare presidential phone call to Netanyahu to discuss internal Israeli politics). But on balance so far the Biden administration is mostly absorbing, not dishing out. I’d describe the U.S. administration’s response as sort of passive/aggressive. As frustrated and aggravated as Netanyahu is making the administration, Biden is unwilling to engage in a sustained public counter pressure campaign…It’s hard to see the administration conditioning U.S. military assistance to Israel. [Secretary of State Tony] Blinken made clear to Congress that he believes Israel is in compliance with legislation barring U.S. military aid from going to any military unit involved in violations of human rights. More likely, the administration would abstain or even vote for a UN Security Council Resolution. A major turn of the wheel with Israel? Yes, in the sense that Washington hasn’t voted for a UNSC resolution condemning Israeli settlements since 1980 and serious tensions would follow. A major crack-up in the U.S.-Israeli relationship? With Republicans rallying to Israel’s defense, probably not.” [Haaretz]
👀 Unexpected Benefits: In Newsweek, Avi Melamed considers the ways in which Israel could potentially benefit from the recent China-brokered normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “From the Israeli point of view, the Jewish State can take comfort in this China-brokered deal — and potentially benefit from it — for at least three reasons: First, anything that slows down Iran’s progress toward building nuclear weapons is a good thing. Second, calm in the Gulf serves Israel. Iran’s repeated attacks on maritime traffic — including Israeli-owned vessels — aim to pressure Israel to stop attacking Iranian military infrastructure in Syria. Following the agreement — at least for the foreseeable future, Iran has lost this valuable card. Third, it could also reduce the potential for a large military confrontation between Israel and Gaza.” [Newsweek]
Around the Web
🧐 Hakeem’s History:The New York Timeslooks at how House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has navigated challenges, including the antisemitic views of his uncle, as he mounted his rise in politics.
👨 DeSantis’ Attack: In the Wall Street Journal, Tevi Troy assesses Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approach to questions about former President Donald Trump.
😬 Kanye Cringe: Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, returned to Instagram with a post of actor Jonah Hill, who is Jewish, that was captioned, “Watching Jonah Hill in 21 Jump street made me like Jewish people again.”
🏈 Time Out: NFL team owners put on pause discussions about removing Dan Snyder as owner of the Washington Commanders, as they await the outcome of Snyder’s efforts to sell the team and a second investigation into the team’s operations, among other things; Snyder, for his part, has refused to be interviewed by the attorney conducting the investigation.
💲 Asking Price: Glenview Capital Management CEO Larry Robbins is listing his Upper East Side penthouse in Manhattan for $55 million, eight years after purchasing the First Avenue unit for $38 million.
⚖️ Cohen’s Cause: The New York Times spotlights Sullivan & Cromwell senior chair Rodge Cohen, who is sought after to assist in banking crises and has been a key player in the efforts to help Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic.
👨👨 Double Trouble: Authorities are investigating Gabe Bankman-Fried, the younger brother of Sam Bankman-Fried, for potential campaign finance law violations in connection with his pandemic-prevention organization.
✍️ Flight Report: A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that pilots operating the plane carrying former White House official Dana Hyde turned off the aircraft’s stabilization switch, causing the plane to pitch; Hyde died from injuries sustained in the incident.
💵 Security Funding: The Arizona Senate approved legislation that would provide funding for security assistance to organizations and religious institutions.
🧑✈️ What’s in a Name: Jewish residents and the local Jewish federation in Madison, Wis., are pushing for the renaming of a local elementary school named after aviator Charles Lindbergh, citing the airman’s white supremacist views and Nazi sympathies.
🏺 Forward Thinking: The Baltimore Bannerspotlights changes being made by a new team at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, which focuses on history but is now moving toward more contemporary models.
🪖 West Bank Attack: Two IDF soldiers were injured in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank town of Huwara that was claimed by a Palestinian militant group.
✍️ Customs Deal: Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and UAE Ambassador Mohamed al-Khaja inked a customs pact between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi as part of a broader free-trade agreement between the countries.
🤝 Ramadan Meeting: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, are set to meet during Ramadan.
🧑🚀 Sacred Space: Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi celebrated Ramadan aboard the International Space Station.
🙏 A Measure of Mercy: The United Arab Emirates pardoned an Israeli Arab woman who had previously been sentenced to death after being convicted of possessing over one pound of cocaine.
🕯️ Remembering: Lighting designer Howard Brandston, whose projects included the Statue of Liberty restoration and the Meadowlands Sports Complex, died at 87.
Pic of the Day
Thousands of Israelis block the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv on Sunday night after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who called for a temporary halt of the judicial overhaul legislation.
Smooth jazz saxophonist, he has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dave Koz turns 60…
Dean of Yeshiva Ateres Yisrael in Modi’in Illit, Rabbi Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi turns 94… Composer and violinist, Malcolm Goldstein turns 87… Former longtime technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Walter S. Mossberg turns 76… Executive director at Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Club mental health center, Rachel Forman… Chairman and CEO of First International Resources in Fort Lee, N.J., Zev Furst turns 75… Sports agent who has represented the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft eight times, he is widely reputed to be the real-life inspiration of the sports agent in the film “Jerry Maguire” in 1996, Leigh Steinberg turns 74… Retired host of the “Matty in the Morning Show” which ran for over forty years in Massachusetts on KISS 108, Matt Siegel turns 73… Deputy director of leadership giving at Baruch College, Linda Altshuler… Member of the Knesset since 2011 representing the United Torah Judaism party, Yisrael Eichler turns 68… Moral philosopher, she is the director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, Susan Neiman turns 68… Former NFL linebacker and captain of the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII, now president of Performance Coaching training real estate agents, Steven Mark Shull turns 65… Economist and banker in Latvia, Valerijs Kargins turns 62… Managing director of the Maimonides Fund, Daniel Gamulka… CEO of BBYO since 2004, Matthew Grossman turns 52… President of NYC’s Tenement Museum, Dr. Annie Polland… Founder and CEO of the Movement Vision Lab a grassroots think tank, Sally Kohn turns 46… Associate professor at Columbia University School of the Arts, Dorothea Lasky turns 45… Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, Jacob Hirsch Soboroff turns 40… Hitting coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, he starred for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Blake Shane Gailen turns 38… Former associate director in the NYC area for AIPAC, Adam B. Engel… Former producer at ABC’s “The View,” Daniella Greenbaum Davis…