👋 Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we preview tonight’s House vote on a resolution supporting U.S.-Israel relations, and look at Susan Rice’s tenure as director of the Domestic Policy Council ahead of her departure from the role next month. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Suleiman Maswadeh, California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Jason Greenblatt.
President Joe Biden announced his 2024 reelection bid in a video posted to Twitter this morning. “When I ran for president four years ago, I said we’re in a battle for the soul of America,” said Biden, who has often remarked that the 2017 neo-Nazi “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., was his impetus to mount his 2020 campaign. “And we still are.”
Biden’s campaign launch comes amid increasing speculation over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ entry into the Republican presidential primary, and months after former President Donald Trump announced his candidacy — the announcement video posted this morning features a photograph of both DeSantis and Trump paired with a voiceover from Biden asserting that “around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take those bedrock freedoms away.”
In recent days, Trump has continued to notch endorsements from current and former Republican legislators. Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) endorsed Trump last night, predicting that under a second Trump administration, “Our economy will be stronger, our streets will be safer, & our lives will be freer.” The former president was also endorsed by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who heads Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.
In advance of DeSantis’ highly anticipated trip to Israel this week, the Florida legislature is expected to pass a new hate crimes bill stemming from a recent surge of antisemitic incidents across the state. If history is any guide, the Florida governor could use part of his speech at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem to promote the bill and perhaps even ceremonially sign it into law — as he did while spotlighting a similar piece of legislation on his last tour through Israel four years ago, writes Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
GOP insiders in Florida suspect that DeSantis, whose plans for the trip remain closely guarded, is weighing a repeat gesture as he heads to Israel on Thursday. “The timing of it would fall right in line with his trip,” Mike Caruso, a Republican state representative who authored the legislation in Florida’s House, said in an interview with JI on Monday. If the bill passes early this week, as he anticipates, “it’s going to be there for the governor to sign in Israel if he chooses to.”
An overture of that sort would come as DeSantis is facing pressure from Jewish Republicans who say they are eager to see the governor speak out against rising antisemitism, particularly as he gears up to launch a widely expected presidential campaign. His upcoming appearance in Israel could help to placate some Jewish activists who, in interviews with JI, have expressed disappointment over the governor’s continued silence amid a troubling uptick in antisemitism, even as he has taken other steps to win support from Jewish voters ahead of a potential announcement.
In recent weeks, Jewish leaders in Florida and from outside the state have reached out to DeSantis’ team in a behind-the-scenes campaign exhorting the governor to issue a public statement directly condemning antisemitism, according to people involved in the effort who asked to remain anonymous to discuss a sensitive matter. So far, their requests have gone unheeded, they said. A spokesperson for DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment from JI.
“A lot of people feel that they would like to see [DeSantis] take a stronger position on this,” said a Jewish leader in South Florida who is involved in local efforts to combat antisemitism and other hate crimes. “I know he’s pro-Israel, but when these antisemitic acts are happening throughout the state — and they are happening, I believe, in almost every county if not every county — it seems to me that somebody should be taking a look at that and saying we don’t want hate here.” Read more here.
DeSantis’ visit comes on the heels of a Democratic delegation’s trip to the Jewish state. Led by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the group held separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog yesterday before attending a Yom Hazikaron ceremony at Yad L’Shiryon in Latrun, where Jeffries laid a wreath on stage.
In the meeting with Netanyahu, the prime minister reportedly asked Jeffries to push the expansion of the Abraham Accords.
House to vote on resolution praising U.S.-Israel relationship, Abraham Accords
The House of Representatives is set to vote Tuesday evening on a resolution supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship and the Abraham Accords, in honor of the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The resolution will be the first major House vote on the U.S.-Israel relationship in the new Congress.
In the text: The resolution, sponsored by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Mike McCaul (R-TX) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) “encourag[es] the expansion and strengthening of the Abraham Accords” and calls to “ensure that existing agreements reap tangible security and economic benefits for the citizens of those countries and all peoples in the region.” It recognizes the upcoming 75th Anniversary of Israel’s founding and the U.S.-Israel relationship, describing the relationship as “close and robust… marked by strong people-to-people ties and close cooperation on a wide range of issues” as well as “common values and a commitment to democracy.”
In support: The resolution “expresses continued support” for U.S. security aid to Israel outlined in the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, which Congress codified into law in 2020. A small number of far-left Democratic lawmakers have called for conditions, end-use restrictions or other reexaminations of U.S. aid to Israel. Two years ago, supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system passed the House with just nine votes in opposition.The legislation also “supports Israel’s robust involvement as an active member of the community of nations.” Many supporters of the Jewish state accuse international organizations, particularly the United Nations, of unfairly targeting Israel.
Raising concerns: J Street reached out to congressional offices via email yesterday, describing the resolution as “problematic” while not urging any specific vote, according to copies of the email obtained by JI. The left-wing group noted that the resolution does not mention a two-state solution or directly mention the Palestinians.
White House expected to deliver antisemitism strategy before Susan Rice leaves White House, sources say
On the heels of President Joe Biden’s announcement that top domestic policy advisor, Susan Rice, is stepping down, sources told Jewish Insider on Monday that she is expected to deliver an antisemitism strategy before her departure. In her position leading the Domestic Policy Council, Rice has in recent months worked closely with the U.S. Jewish community as one of the leaders of a White House working group focused on antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate. JI’s Gabby Deutch talked to Jewish community leaders about Rice’s tenure in the Biden White House.
Strategy season: “Her legacy of progress and commitment to getting important things done for the American people will not be forgotten, particularly her critical work developing the White House strategy to combat antisemitism that is expected to be finalized before she leaves,” William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JI on Monday. A White House spokesperson declined to comment. Rice will depart in late May.
Iran angle: Rice’s appointment to the Domestic Policy Council “surprised a lot of people,” Biden said in his statement, given her background in foreign policy as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security advisor under former President Barack Obama. As one of the most vocal supporters of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, she at times butted heads with Israeli leaders and members of the U.S. pro-Israel community who opposed the deal, leaving her with some detractors who view Rice as insufficiently supportive of Israel.
Not related: One Jewish community leader who has had conversations with Rice about the antisemitism strategy and previously engaged with her on Israel policy said there is “no indication of her Israel animus infecting her current role.”
House, Senate lawmakers push for additional nonprofit security grant funding
Ahead of the 2024 appropriations process, bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and Senate have written to appropriations leaders to express support for increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funds for religious institutions and other nonprofits to increase security measures, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Trying again: A group of 135 House lawmakers led by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) joined a letter last month, obtained by Jewish Insider, again calling to increase funding for the program to $360 million. The 135 lawmakers represent just under a third of House members. Similar letters garnered 160 signatories in 2022 and 145 signatories in 2021. Individuals familiar with the process have told JI that deadlines for appropriations requests were shorter this year in both chambers than last year. The letter highlights a series of terrorist threats and hate crimes incidents across the country during the past year, including increasing antisemitism in New York, the arrest of an individual who had made threats against Jewish people in Las Vegas, increased antisemitic threats in Kentucky, a plot to attack a synagogue in South Carolina and a bomb threat targeting a Missouri synagogue.
Upper chamber: A separate letter on the issue was sent by eight senators — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), James Lankford (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) — on April 11 and obtained by JI. Five senators joined a similar letter at the beginning of 2022. That letter also highlights that the program is underfunded, that demand is growing and that there is “room for growth,” but requests “robust” and “adequate” funding for the NSGP without naming a specific funding-level target — similar to Senate letters sent in previous years.
Making an impact: The Senate letter notes that law enforcement reports have found that anti-Jewish hate crimes have accounted for the majority of anti-religious crimes for each of the past 24 years. It also highlights that the damage from an attempted firebombing of a synagogue in New Jersey earlier this year was lessened due to shatter-resistant doors funded with assistance from the NSGP and that cameras funded through the grant program helped law enforcement capture a suspect.
Rosen, Lankford introduce Holocaust education audit bill in the Senate
Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) are set to introduce legislation today that would require an audit of Holocaust education programs across the country, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Examination: The Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act would require the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to conduct and submit to Congress a nationwide study of the state of Holocaust education. Just 21 states currently require Holocaust education and recent studies have found many Americans are unaware of basic details about the Holocaust, amid record-high rates of antisemitic incidents in the U.S.
Making an impact: “One of the most effective ways to combat the rise of anti-Jewish bigotry is to improve how we teach about the Holocaust and talk about the dangers of antisemitism,” Rosen said in a statement. “Never again means ensuring we never forget the important lessons from one of history’s darkest chapters, and our bipartisan legislation will help ensure that Holocaust education in the U.S. is accurate and comprehensive.”
Lower chamber: A House version of the bill was first introduced late last year and reintroduced this year. It currently has 102 co-sponsors. While largely identical, the Senate bill includes some additional specific requirements for the study requested in the bill.
Responding to antisemitism: “Antisemitism and anti-Jewish crimes remain sadly on the rise in our nation and around the world,” Lankford said in a statement. “Our HEAL Act will help assess the current Holocaust-related resources available to schools and communities to ensure educators have the tools they need to teach future generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust and the devastating impact of antisemitism.”
Bonus: Reps. Young Kim (R-CA) and Michelle Steel (R-CA), the first two Korean American Republican women to serve in Congress, wrote to South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol — who is visiting the U.S. this week and will address Congress on Thursday — to urge him to seek paths to build his country’s trilateral relationship with the U.S. and Israel. They argued that Israel and South Korea’s respective “complex security environments” “provide an opportunity… to build a stronger security relationship,” as well as highlighted growing trade and economic relations. They also encouraged Yoon to conduct a state visit to Israel.
🎙️ Jerusalem Beat: CNN’s Hadas Gold spotlights Palestinian journalist Suleiman Maswadeh, who works at Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, as a political correspondent and anchor. “It was as Jerusalem correspondent that Maswadeh really made his mark, reporting from Palestinian refugee camps during police raids, on protests in East Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, and on Israeli politics. He’s been a mainstay of recent coverage of the massive protests against the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul, and has even sat down with the extreme right-wing figures of Israel’s new government, like National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who was once convicted of racist incitement against Arabs and supporting terrorism. If at first he thought his background would hinder his ability to report on all the complex, intertwined and tense sectors of Jerusalem, Maswadeh said, instead he feels it has opened the city up for him. ‘When we have stories in East Jerusalem, actually the fact that I’ve come from there and people know me and people hear me, speak their language … it makes them feel comfortable talking to me and has given me access as well,’ Maswadeh said.” [CNN]
🇮🇱 The Future of Zionism: Tablet magazine’s Liel Leibovitz explores the debate taking place in Israel over the future of the Jewish state. “Israelis aren’t arguing about politics anymore. They are fighting about the future, not only of Israel but of Zionism, the miraculous movement that, in the span of one century, freed the Jews from their respective houses of bondage, returned them to their indigenous homeland, taught them the spells of sovereignty, and powered their miniscule nation’s growth from embattled weakling to global powerhouse. And as a result, this is strictly an inter-Jewish affair, one pitting millennia of Jewish particularity against the promise of universalism once embodied in the Catholic Church, then in the Enlightenment, and now in the technocratic politics that unite the civilized right and the progressive left in the club of advanced countries that has, with increasing misgivings, included Israel among their number.” [Tablet]
🪧 Protest Praise: In Newsweek, Alan Dershowitz suggests that protest movements around the world could learn from the nonviolent nature of and response to Israel’s recent protests. “Israeli protests have been models of civility, with few exceptions. Israel is teaching the world how to conduct loud, belligerent and angry demonstrations against and in favor of controversial government proposals and actions within the rules of law and the constraints of democracy. And these non-violent protests have not been ineffective. They have resulted in the postponement of some of the protested governmental actions and encouraged ongoing efforts to seek compromises. Government officials are listening and responding. The leaders and participants in these massive protests are to be commended for the manner in which they are expressing their deeply felt anger. And government officials should be commended as well for their non-provocative responses. These protests demonstrate democracy at work. They also demonstrate that democracy will never be in danger of turning to autocracy in a nation like Israel, that encourages dissent and disagreement.” [Newsweek]
🪖 Budget Bluster:The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board cautions that the U.S., in its defense spending, is not keeping pace with the rest of the world to address global threats. “The truth is that U.S. defense spending is flat at 3% of the economy and is failing to keep pace with the world’s threats. Americans may prefer that other countries pick up more of the tab, but some (Saudi Arabia) are increasing their own defense spending because they perceive America is in decline. That is a fast lane to a world in which more nations develop their own nuclear weapons. [The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute] says Central and Western Europe are spending on militaries at levels not seen since 1989, and the Cold War is a relevant but incomplete comparison. The difference is that China is a more formidable threat than the Soviet Union, and asymmetric technological threats are going to spread faster to more adversaries. The U.S. victory in the Cold War wasn’t inevitable. It was the result of choices — not least building the dominant military power necessary to prevail.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🇷🇺 Call on Moscow: In a meeting of the U.N. Security Council led by Russia’s envoy to Turtle Bay, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield demanded that Moscow release detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan.
🏃♀️ California Candidate: California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis launched a bid for governor, becoming the first candidate in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2026.
🗳️ Purple District: The Associated Press looks at the challenges facing Democrats eyeing Michigan’s purple 7th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who won one of the highest-profile races in the country last year and is mounting a run for U.S. Senate in 2024.
🚫 State Dept. Designations: The State Department announced it is imposing visa restrictions on 11 Iranian individuals believed to be involved in the crackdown on protestors in the Islamic republic, and designating four others “in connection with serious human rights abuses in Iran.”
💻 Hack Attack: U.S. security officials revealed that they had intercepted an attempt by Iranian hackers to disrupt an unnamed local government website that posted election results during the 2020 elections.
🏠 Goldman Gossip: The New York Timesexamines Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon’s personal ties to a real estate company to which the global investment bank has pitched projects.
💲 On the Market: The Manhattan apartment that had belonged to Barbara Walters was listed for $19.75 million, four months after the veteran journalist’s death.
🧆 Closing Time: Amsterdam Falafel, a mainstay in Washington D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, announced it will close next month.
👰🤵 Desperate for a Date:The New York Times interviewed a man who posted personal ads around New York City looking for a date to his brother’s wedding, asking among other things, “Do you like pleasing Jewish grandmas?”
🚢 Russia-Iran Alliance: Russian cargo ships have brought upwards of 300,000 artillery shells and more than a million rounds of ammunition from Iran to Russia over the last six months for use in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
🚑 Attacks on Yom Hazikaron: Five people were injured in a car-ramming attack near Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda shuk on Monday afternoon. The assailant, a 39-year-old Palestinian man, was neutralized by a civilian moments after the attack. Additionally, an Israeli man in his 20s taking part in a Yom Hazikaron run was moderately wounded in a shooting attack in the West Bank.
🇸🇩 Mediation Proposal: Israel made an offer to host talks with warring Sudanese generals in an effort to calm tensions and quell the violence that has killed hundreds of people and injured thousands in the East African nation, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
➡️ Transition: Former White House Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt is joining the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs as senior director for Arab-Israel diplomacy. Former FBI official Russell H. “Rusty” Rosenthal is joining the Anti-Defamation League as vice president of security and law enforcement.
🕯️ Remembering: British TV personality Len Goodman, who hosted the U.K.’s “Strictly Come Dancing” and the U.S. version, “Dancing With the Stars,” died at 78.
Pic of the Day
Israeli President Isaac Herzog lights a memorial candle alongside the children of Maj. Ran Yehoshua Kochva at the Western Wall Plaza in a state ceremony for fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks last night in Jerusalem. Kochva was killed when his helicopter collided with another and crashed during the Second Lebanon War.
Founder of Omega Advisors, Leon G. “Lee” Cooperman turns 80…
Retired attorney, Myron “Mike” Sponder… Social worker and health spokesman of the Green party of the U.K., he is the older brother of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Larry Sanders turns 88… Founder of Renaissance Technologies, James Harris Simons turns 85… Rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University and Rabbi at the Young Israel of Riverdale, Rabbi Mordechai Willig turns 76… David Handleman… Past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and previously president of Bed, Bath and Beyond, Arthur Stark turns 68… Administrative law judge at the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Beth A. Fox… Commissioner of the National Basketball Association since 2014, Adam Silver turns 61… Senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Michael Scott Doran turns 61… Litigator at Quinn Emanuel, he served as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic in the Obama administration and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, Andrew H. Schapiro turns 60… Actor, voice actor, comedian and producer, he is descended from a Sephardic family rooted in Thessaloniki, Hank Azaria turns 59… Infomercial pitchman, better known as Vince Offer, Vince Shlomi, or “The ShamWow Guy,” Offer Shlomi turns 59… CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester (NY) since 2016, Meredith Dragon… New York Times-bestselling author and adjunct professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, David Eagleman turns 52… Deputy director of the Utah State Department of Human Services, David E. Litvack turns 51… Hitting coach in the Washington Nationals minor league system, Micah Franklin turns 51… Democratic party strategist, she is a co-founder of Lift Our Voices, Julie Roginsky turns 50… President of the Alliance for Downtown New York, Jessica S. Lappin turns 48… Senior-editor-at-large for Breitbart News, Joel Barry Pollak turns 46… Attorney turned grocer and now professor, she founded Glen’s Garden Market north of Dupont Circle, sold it and is now teaching at American University, Danielle Brody Rosengarten Vogel… Co-founder of WeWork and now Flow, Adam Neumann turns 44… Former senior director of community engagement at NYC-based Integrity First for America, Adina Mermelstein Konikoff… Managing director, head of social, content and influencer at Deloitte Digital, Kenneth R. Gold… Senior advisor for communications at the White House Office of Climate Policy, Jaclyn Rothenberg… Film and television actress, model and singer, Sara Paxton turns 35… Journalist, Emily Cahn Singer… Former NHL defenseman, now a color analyst for Westwood One and ESPN, Colby Shane Cohen turns 34… TikTok Star with 10 million social media followers, he runs the culinary website CookWithChefEitan, Eitan Bernath turns 21…