👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at an effort by members of the House Armed Services Committee to expand U.S.-Israel defense cooperation, and preview legislation being put forward by Sen. Tom Cotton to address the Palestinian Authority’s “pay for slay” mechanism. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Sen. Peter Welch, Amb. Deborah Lipstadt and Mukhtar Mammadov.
Antisemitism envoys from around the world met yesterday at the White House with administration officials, including Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Jewish Liaison Shelly Greenspan and Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, to advise the administration on its formation of an interagency task force and national strategy for combating antisemitism.
Yesterday evening, the group reconvened in a conference room — packed to capacity — at the American Jewish Committee’s headquarters, where each of the international envoys, including Lipstadt, shared experiences, successes and challenges they had faced in fighting antisemitism.
Lord John Mann, the United Kingdom’s antisemitism advisor, told the group, “When I first came here in 2008, you told me how to deal with antisemitism in the U.K. Things have come full circle… That’s the nature of antisemitism, it morphs, it changes. If we’re complacent, we miss it going by and suddenly it’s there in our face. So we shouldn’t be surprised by that.”
Mann and several of the other envoys specifically promoted the widespread adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in their remarks.
Lipstadt said that the event exemplifies “the message that [fighting antisemitism] is a government-to-government activity, that this is not something that the various governments here set up and then leave alone, but this is something that governments take very seriously.”
The envoys, including Lipstadt, are headed to Capitol Hill for a kickoff event for the new Congress today with the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, including a roundtable with task force members.
The event is being hosted by task force co-chairs Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), and at least 25 members are expected to attend, according to a spokesperson for Manning.
Elsewhere on the Hill, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield will testify before the House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittee today. Jewish Insider sat down with subcommittee chair Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) last month to discuss his plans for an “aggressive” approach to scrutinizing U.S. funding to the U.N. Also today, Attorney General Merrick Garland will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
on the hill
Following U.S. citizen’s killing in West Bank, Cotton plans to reintroduce Taylor Force Act follow-up
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) plans to reintroduce legislation next Tuesday cracking down further on Palestinian Authority payments to the families of terrorists, Cotton spokesperson James Arnold told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday. The move follows the killing of American-Israeli citizen Elan Ganeles in a terrorist attack in the West Bank on Monday.
History: Cotton’s bill, the Taylor Force Martyr Payment Prevention Act, takes aim at foreign banks involved with the PA’s so-called “martyr payments” by restricting banks that facilitate such payments or provide services to Hamas from doing business in the U.S. or with U.S. dollars. The bill’s title references Taylor Force, a U.S. army veteran killed by a Palestinian in 2016. A previous Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018, largely cut off aid to the PA as long as it continues the payments. The Cotton bill was first introduced in 2021, garnering 17 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate. A companion bill in the House by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) picked up 20 Republican and two Democratic sponsors. It’s unclear that the bill would see a different fate in the Democratic-controlled Senate this year. Lamborn did not respond to a request for comment.
Other priorities: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the lead Senate sponsor of the original Taylor Force Act, told JI that he believes the original act is largely working as intended, and that he is not currently focused on further legislation relating to the martyr payments. “I think it’s actually working,” Graham said of the original bill. “Nobody suggests to me the Taylor Force Act is inadequate to the task.” Graham was an original co-sponsor of Cotton’s bill in 2021. He told JI his attention is currently focused on establishing a joint U.S.-Israel mutual defense agreement with an eye toward the threat from Iran.
Home state: Ganeles was a resident of and grew up in West Hartford, Conn. “My thoughts are with Elan Ganeles’ family and friends as they grieve this devastating loss. Any life lost to violence is a senseless tragedy, but especially when it’s a young person who had his whole life ahead of him,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) shared with JI in a statement. “I offer my deepest condolences to all who knew Elan and to the entire Jewish community in West Hartford.”
Nearly 50 House Armed Services members urge increased U.S.-Israel defense cooperation
Citing the increasing scale and sophistication of threats to Israel, 47 members of the House Armed Services Committee — a majority of committee members — wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday urging expanded U.S.-Israel defense cooperation, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
High tech: The letter, led by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Jason Crow (D-CO), asks the Defense Department to provide an assessment to the committee on the threats to Israel, including the capabilities of terrorists and regional foes, Israeli capabilities and shortfalls and the possibilities for expanded cooperation in areas like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, directed energy, automation and space.
Threat horizon: The letter highlights the growing threats to Israel from Iran and its proxy groups throughout the region and Iran’s increased funding to such groups, and adds that increased Iranian-Russian military partnership “portends the delivery of additional advanced Russian systems that can threaten Israel.” “Given the increasing sophistication of threats to Israel, we are concerned that we may be underestimating the quantity of weapons Israel will require to defend itself,” the letter warns. “More generally, we believe it is imperative that the U.S. and Israel – two of the world’s advanced technology juggernauts – work together to ensure we prevail over our adversaries in critically important high-tech security sectors.”
Making strides: “Defense collaboration between the United States and Israel has resulted in groundbreaking technological achievements,” Lamborn said in a statement. “Defense technology developed jointly by the United States and Israel has saved countless lives. Continued collaboration has immense potential for achievements in emerging technology sectors.”
Ticktock: Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said during an Armed Services hearing yesterday that it would take Iran about 12 days to create sufficient fissile material for a nuclear bomb. He reaffirmed comments from other administration officials that the nuclear deal is currently “on ice,” due to Iran’s rejection of a draft agreement and changes in its behavior, including supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
After visiting Israel, Welch says Netanyahu ‘oblivious’ to threat in West Bank
Freshman Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), who recently returned from a high-level delegation to Israel and the West Bank, said he is “extremely worried” about mounting political tensions and escalating violence in the region, warning that such developments are imperiling the prospect of a two-state solution, a cause he has long championed. “I’m not optimistic right now,” he explained in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Tuesday. “My goal is to be supportive of the peacemakers on both sides, and, I think, if there’s going to be a Jewish democratic state, a two-state solution is the best way to ensure that.”
Visible volatility: “You’ve got almost 700,000 settlers in the West Bank, and the more settlers you have, then the less likelihood that you can have a viable, independent Palestinian state,” Welch argued, echoing sentiments he expressed on social media before the trip. “You have the Israeli government, basically the day we arrived, approving more settlements and legalizing what had been previously totally illegal outpost settlements. That’s just a cocktail for conflict.”
Democratic delegation: Welch, 75, visited Israel with a group of veteran Democratic lawmakers helmed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), making only his second trip abroad as a long-serving member of the upper chamber. “It was very important for him, on behalf of all of us, to convey to the Israeli leadership that the U.S.-Israel relationship is of paramount importance to us,” Welch said of Schumer, a leading pro-Israel voice in the Senate. “He expressed that at every stop.” In contrast with Welch, whose left-leaning Middle East policy views have occasionally run counter to pro-Israel groups, Schumer has refrained from commenting publicly on Israel’s rightward turn, even as a growing number of Democratic leaders have expressed reservations.
Multiple stops: The delegation, which made additional stops in Germany, India and Pakistan, also included Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). In the Middle East last week, the lawmakers held meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among other government officials.
Premier perspective: Their discussions with Netanyahu, in particular, were focused primarily on bolstering ties between the U.S. and Israel, expanding the Abraham Accords, assisting Ukraine and countering Iran, a key priority for the Israeli leader, according to Welch. “We listened carefully to Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he told JI. “He reiterated his focus on Iran as a real threat and a potential nuclear threat. It’s of grave concern to him.” Still, another area of conversation was, in Welch’s telling, less productive. “My view is that Netanyahu is, rightly, concerned about the Iran nuclear threat, but oblivious to the threat in the West Bank and failure to have any commitment to the two-state solution,” he argued. “The information we’d been briefed on from several of the people we met,” he recalled, “was that the situation in the West Bank is volatile and is as dangerous as they’ve ever seen it.”
✡️ Leveling Up: The Center for Rabbinic Innovation — recently rebranded as Atra — is conducting a once-in-a-generation study to address rabbinic training needs, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz reports. “Launched more than six years ago as the Center for Rabbinic Innovation – a small, incubated program in the Office of Innovation, which is fiscally sponsored by Hillel International – Atra, as the organization is now known, trains and supports rabbinic leaders from all backgrounds to adapt their practice for the real world, to help them grow professionally and propel their leadership. During the pandemic, the organization also received a Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund grant to support the Rabbinic (re)Design Lab, which empowered clergy to imagine and pilot new approaches to engaging communities during the High Holy Days… Atra’s new name invokes the Aramaic phrase ‘mara d’atra,’ meaning the teacher or rabbi who serves a particular place, a hat tip to the modern ubiquity of places where rabbis can be found. Over the next three years, the organization expects to expand its outreach to rabbis and other Jewish spiritual leaders, as well as bring 45 organizational partners into the emerging conversation about what makes a rabbi, Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Atra’s executive director, told eJewishPhilanthropy.” [eJP]
🇷🇺 Moscow Memories: In Foreign Policy, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis and former chief rabbi of Moscow, details the recent history of the Jewish community in post-Soviet Russia. “After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia never went through a repentance process, like the truth and reconciliation commissions of post-apartheid South Africa and post-war Germany. In Russia, the old functionaries stayed in place, just shifting their language slightly, but keeping intact much of the communist-style behavior and political culture. And while the practice of KGB recruiting clergy did abate somewhat in the Yeltsin years, with the new FSB secret service — with the ascent of Putin the old tactics returned in full force, and the FSB once again started to hire clergy representatives from every religion, using threats, blackmail, and manipulation to control all religious groups. It has not stopped at securing the subservience of the Russian Orthodox Church and infiltrating of the Jewish community. The FSB has also made sure to plant its representatives within Muslim religious leadership. (More than 10 percent of Russian citizens identify as Muslim.)” [FP]
⚖️ Judgment Day: In the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey suggests that the outcome of Israel’s proposed judicial reform be the implementation of a system that differentiates between policy issues and legal issues. “Not all the government-sponsored changes are likely to be adopted. Even if they were, they would simply empower a more democratically chosen set of government officers to decide — in the trappings of a legal setting — issues that aren’t actually susceptible to legal analysis, but are essentially legislative policy judgments. This would change the actors but not the masquerade. Real reform would recognize the distinction between legal issues that can be decided in court and policy issues relegated to the political arena. It would also permit cases to be brought only by parties with a direct and personal interest. That would make the debate less of a struggle over who controls outcomes.” [WSJ]
🇩🇪 Reclaiming History: In Slate, Courtney Sender details her effort to secure German citizenship, which had been stripped from her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, by the Nuremberg Laws. “I rooted around in the jewelry box. I slid on two more of her rings, heavy ones, in addition to the one that I always wear. I put on a gold necklace charm in the shape of the tablets of Moses, inscribed in Hebrew, dated 1890. I turned to go, but I stopped again. It still wasn’t enough. So I added her Star of David to the necklace and clasped both charms on the same chain around my neck. I needed something explicitly Jewish before I could walk out the door. I was feeling both grateful and defiant. The consulate is technically German jurisdiction, not American. I would bring my grandparents’ Jewish artifacts back to Germany. I had been planning to drive to the consulate, but as I stepped out into the unusually warm February air, I decided to take the train. I wanted the journey to happen in public. I wanted to be seen wearing Nana’s jewelry on my way back to Germany, even if no one else would know what they were seeing.” [Slate]
🎓 Campus Beat: In The New York Times, Princeton University senior Adam Hoffman cautions that the political environment on college campuses — which tend to skew progressive — is driving conservative students further to the right. “Today’s campus conservatives embrace a less moderate, complacent and institutional approach to politics. Instead of belief in the status quo, many tend toward scorched-earth politics. But these changes aren’t solely the consequence of a fractured national politics. They’re also the result of puritanically progressive campuses that alienate conservative students from their liberal peers and college as a whole. The distrust of authority, the protest and the disobedience that have characterized the left’s activism over the past half-century or so have arrived on the right. The American universities that once served as moderating finishing schools have become breeding grounds for conservative firebrands.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🇧🇷 Biden and Brazil: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board criticized what it characterizes as the Biden administration’s complicity in working “to bury the news” of successful but delayed Iranian efforts to dock two warships in Brazil. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed Brazil over the development, saying it was “a direct threat to the safety and security of Americans.”
🇮🇱🇺🇸 Clapback: U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides addressed recent comments by Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli over American concerns regarding Israel’s proposed judicial reforms, saying he believes “that most Israelis do not want America to stay out of their business.”
📗 Scene Last Night: At a Republican Jewish Coalition event in Hallandale Beach, Fla., last night, Ben Shapiro interviewed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about his new book, which hit bookstores yesterday.
📄 Settler Stats: The State Department’s newly released 2021 report on terrorism found that Israel often did not do enough to prevent settler attacks, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
🗳️ Lightfoot Booted: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fell short in yesterday’s mayoral election in the Windy City, failing to secure enough votes to move on to a runoff next month.
⛪ Church and State: Speaking at an interfaith breakfast, New York City Mayor Eric Adams shared his beliefs about the separation of church and state, saying, “State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
🍦 Ice Cold: A New York Times expose found that Ben & Jerry’s, which waged an extended legal battle to end its sales in Israel, uses migrant child labor in its supply chain.
💵 Passing the Bucks: Marc Lasry will sell his stake in the Milwaukee Bucks to Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and the Haslam Sports Group for a $3.5 billion valuation.
🏈 Football Fiasco: ESPN looks into the origins of the investigation into allegations of financial misconduct by Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder — a $55 million line of credit taken out in 2018 without the knowledge of the team’s minority owners.
📽️ Levy in the Limelight:The New York Timesinterviews actor Eugene Levy about his new series, “The Reluctant Traveler.”
👩 Slate Talk: In an interview with The Atlantic, Jenny Slate opines on the character roles that existed for Jewish actresses when she first entered show business: “I didn’t see a lot of leading ladies that looked like they were a half-Sephardic, half-Ashkenazi Jew. And if I saw that, they were playing a funny person, or they were playing a lawyer.”
🛬 New Arrival: Azerbaijan’s first ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, arrived in Israel yesterday.
⛰️ Stepping Down: United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush resigned from his position overseeing the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to Mt. Meron, citing a lack of government support for Haredi initiatives.
🪧 ‘Day of Disruption’: Nearly two dozen people were arrested during demonstrations in Israel that blocked portions of Israel’s Highway 1, which connects Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee passed some of the government’s proposed judicial reforms. Police fired stun grenades at crowds blocking the highway and several demonstrators were reportedly injured.
📺 TV Triumph: Keshet International picked up a slate of new Israeli shows, including “Trust No One,” starring Yehuda Levi, and “A Body That Works,” starring Levi, Rotem Sela and Lior Raz.
☢️ Eye on Iran: A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran has significantly increased its stockpile of enriched uranium over the last three months.
🥾 Treasure Trail: Eylon Levy, an avid hiker and international media adviser to President Isaac Herzog, discovered a pottery shard dating back 2,500 years — to the time of Persian King Darius, the father of King Ahasuerus — in Tel Lachish in central Israel.
➡️ Transition: Benny Stanislawski is now press secretary and digital director at the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
Pic of the Day
A delegation from the Abraham Accords-related NGO Sharaka, comprised of individuals from Morocco, Bahrain, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq and Israel, visit Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Tuesday, as part of a trip that also includes a stop in Poland. The delegation is the first of three trips planned for 2023, and is being conducted with the assistance of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which is sponsored by the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future and supported by the German Federal Ministry of Finance.
Author and former U.S. military intelligence officer, she is now a human rights activist focused on Eastern Europe, Nina Willner turns 62…
President of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in NYC, he previously served for thirty years on the Los Angeles City Council, Joel Wachs turns 84… Real estate developer, he was part owner of MLB’s Kansas City Royals and three sports franchises in Memphis, Tulane’s basketball arena is named in his honor, Avron B. Fogelman turns 83… Professor emeritus of Jewish Studies at Los Angeles Valley College and the former editor of Shofar, Zev Garber turns 82… CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and a co-owner of both the LA Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, Peter Guber turns 81… Former chairman and CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner turns 81… Former member of the Knesset for the New Hope party, Ze’ev Binyamin (“Benny”) Begin turns 80… Librarian at the Anti-Defamation League’s NYC HQ, Marianne Benjamin… Israeli historian, author and journalist, Tom Segev turns 78… Israeli journalist and political commentator, Ehud Yaari turns 78… Industrialist, magazine publisher, film producer and art collector, Peter M. Brant turns 76… Cantor at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus / Congregation Beth Tikvah, Sam Weiss… U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) turns 72… Former executive of Viacom, Philippe Dauman turns 69… President of Emory University, he is the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors, Gregory L. Fenves turns 66…
Chairman and president of Berexco, Adam E. Beren… Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, Andrey Adamovskiy turns 61… Satirist and writer, he is also a three-time “Jeopardy!” champion, Neal Pollack turns 53… VP of philanthropy at the Baltimore Community Foundation, Dara Schapiro Schnee… Television writer, director and producer, Brad Falchuk turns 52… Six-time Emmy award-winning television journalist, Dave Malkoff turns 47… Founder and principal at narrative/change, Jonathan Lipman… Israeli journalist and the former chairman of the Union of Journalists in Israel, Yair Tarchitsky turns 43… Principal at Mosaic Realty Partners and a director of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Isaac Pretter… CEO of eToro, Yoni Assia… Former member of the U.S. national soccer team, now head of international recruitment and development at Atlanta United FC, Jonathan Spector turns 37… Co-founder of Synonym Biotechnologies, Joshua Lachter… Senior data reporter for CNN and the host of its “Margins of Error” podcast, Harry Enten turns 35… Assistant counsel to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Hannah Klain turns 32… Shortstop for Team Israel in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Assaf Lowengart turns 25… Kevin Golden…