👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the upcoming GOP race in Kentucky for the gubernatorial nomination, and spotlight an initiative backed by Josh and Marjorie Harris to bring sports and leadership training to Israel’s disadvantaged communities. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Aharon Barak, Jake Sullivan and Yotam Polizer.
A bipartisan delegation to Israel last week led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and former Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was supposed to put on display bipartisan support for Israel.
But while lawmakers on both sides of the aisle emphasized their ongoing support for the Jewish state, the trip also highlighted how Israel’s judicial reform proposal is becoming a political wedge issue among supporters of Israel in the U.S, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Hoyer told JI last week that “friends ought to be candid with one another when they see things that they think are inconsistent with what we think are the proper steps to take,” drawing a parallel to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress in 2015 in which he expressed disapproval over the Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. was at the time negotiating.
“Neither Israelis nor Americans ought to be surprised that the other from time to time expresses disagreement with some things that the other is doing. That does not mean that we don’t have an enduring bond of friendship and alliances,” Hoyer said. “It means that friends are saying, ‘I don’t think what you’re doing in this particular instance is in the best interest… of our alliance.’” Read the full story here.
A separate delegation of lawmakers — members of the House Intelligence Committee — were also in Israel last week for meetings with high-level officials. While still in Israel over the weekend, Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Jim Himes (D-CT), respectively the chair and ranking member of the committee, spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper about their meetings and the concerns they heard from Israeli officials.
“The one thing that [Netanyahu] made clear is that he does think that Iran can be deterred,” Turner said, “that if they do believe that there will be military action against them and a surgical-type strike that would diminish their ability to pursue nuclear weapons, that that could have a chilling effect and could stall their programming… He doesn’t want that opportunity to be missed, of the understanding that Israel and or the United States, together or separate, might be willing to take military action to forestall Iran making that next step to a nuclear state.”
The lawmakers are back in the U.S., where the House and Senate are both in session beginning tomorrow. But heading to Israel this week is San Francisco Mayor London Breed, whose trip with the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area will include time in the Golden City’s sister city, Haifa.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is meeting with officials in Riyadh this week, where yesterday he met with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, India and the United Arab Emirates to discuss a potential joint infrastructure plan that would create an expansive railway system across the Middle East and connect with India, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
And in Paris, ELNET is holding its third annual policy conference today through Wednesday. Israeli President Isaac Herzog and former Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar will give tonight’s opening keynotes, following a panel with Emirates Policy Center founder and President Ebtesam al-Ketbi; French Senator Roger Karoutchi; French Ambassador to Israel Éric Danon; Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Paris, Haim Waxman; Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and the Hudson Institute’s Ken Weinstein.
Trump, McConnell tensions play out in Kentucky GOP gubernatorial primary
Days after the Kentucky Derby, another closely watched race in the Bluegrass State, the Republican primary for governor, is nearing the finish line, with two GOP frontrunners locked in fierce competition for the nomination, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Heated battle: The crowded primary on May 16 has turned into a heated battle between Daniel Cameron, the popular attorney general of Kentucky, and Kelly Craft, who served in the Trump administration as an ambassador to the United Nations. Even as they are largely aligned on key issues, their rivalry has grown increasingly personal over the course of the campaign.
Changing GOP: Craft has spent millions on attack ads, including a recent TV spot in which Cameron is cast as an “insider” for his connection to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). It was a curious ad, not least because Craft has previously contributed to McConnell. Meanwhile, the assumption that McConnell would be unpalatable to voters in his home state underscored how the GOP has changed under former President Donald Trump, who gave his endorsement to Cameron.
Allred’s record appeals to both moderates and progressives, as he mounts Texas Senate bid
Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX)’s candidacy against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for the Senate pits two lawmakers with deeply different styles against each other: Cruz is one of the most outspoken pro-Israel members of the Senate, while Allred has straddled the ideological line between establishment pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel and left-wing allies like J Street, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
On the record: Since taking office, Allred has co-sponsored a range of pro-Israel legislation — supporting the Abraham Accords, promoting greater U.S.-Israel cooperation in a range of fields, providing funding for Israeli-Palestinian peace-building ventures and opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. During the 2021 war between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, Allred joined a letter urging the administration to push for a cease-fire. He also signed onto a letter warning that Israel’s judicial reform efforts could precipitate a “major conflict” in the Middle East and urging the administration to intervene.
Across the aisle: Cruz, meanwhile, has defined himself as a prominent pro-Israel voice, and has been outspoken on a range of Middle East policy issues, staking out conservative ground. He pushed back against measures supporting a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, and sought to claim credit for influencing the Trump administration to withdraw from the Iran deal and relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — steps that Cruz has said were critical on the path toward the Abraham Accords.
The 76ers’ Josh and Marjorie Harris back Israeli girls’ basketball initiative
The Leyada School gymnasium in Jerusalem was a sea of ponytails and pinneys on a recent Tuesday afternoon, as dozens of Israeli middle school girls battled it out on the basketball court for the day’s top honors. But within a few minutes of Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog’s arrival, she was swarmed by players. Accompanying Herzog was Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Marjorie Harris, who, with her husband Josh Harris, started the 48ers, a youth basketball program in Israel for disadvantaged youth, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Girl power: For the first time, the program has an all-girls component. “For me, as the mother of two girls, and being involved in sports, there are a lot of sports for girls, but not enough,” Harris explained. “There are girls that play football, there are girls that play hockey — but not really. The big teams that girls participate in are soccer and now more and more basketball, and we thought [it was] a great way to empower girls.”
Hand in hand: Harris is also chair of the Sixers Youth Foundation, which partners with Philadelphia-area nonprofits that are focused on youth development in sports and education. “The thought behind it is [to] give [kids] the sports, get them hooked in and then give them the education,” Harris said. “And it’s interesting because they go so hand in hand. There’s studies that [show that] when you’re more active, you do better in school.”
Read more here and subscribe to eJewishPhilanthropy’s Your Daily Phil newsletter here.
China’s tech-driven port in Haifa aims for interconnected Mideast
Commercial ports are usually a cacophonous jumble of clanging metal, screeching chains and yelling dock workers engaged in a race to unload massive container ships. But the barely two-year-old Haifa Bayport run by the Shanghai International Port Group on Israel’s Mediterranean coast is quiet enough to hear the seagulls caw, Melanie Lidman reports from Haifa for The Circuit.
Strategy session: China’s SIPG, a state-owned industrial conglomerate that operates the world’s biggest port in Shanghai, is playing the long game. Having won a bidding war in 2015 to construct the new facility and compete against the existing Port of Haifa that was built 90 years ago, the company is looking eastward. With Israel linked now to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain through the 2020 Abraham Accords, SIPG officials say Haifa can be a maritime gateway to the broader Middle East.
Competition: While competition from SIPG has steadily eaten into the older Haifa port’s market share, the new owners, led by India’s second-wealthiest man, Gautam Adani, are overhauling the facility to fight back. Adani’s winning bid of $1.1 billion was strongly supported by the U.S., which expressed security concerns about China’s operation of the Bayport. The older port has also become a centerpiece of the so-called I2U2 initiative, which created a regional West Asia trading bloc two years ago comprising India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S.
🇸🇦 Riyadh’s Rebound: The Financial Times’ Samer Al-Atrush and Andrew England explore the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s standing in the region after a series of provocative moves that for a time strained tensions with Riyadh’s allies. “Now the kingdom is changing tack again, buoyed by a petrodollar surplus, a rapidly growing economy and increasing confidence. It has become more active once again on the foreign stage, this time de-escalating tensions with its foes while moving ahead with extravagant mega-projects at home….Prince Mohammed ‘is enjoying his moment,’ said Emile Hokayem, director of regional security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. ‘The economy has rebounded, big powers are engaging, he is recalibrating his foreign policy to prioritise his geoeconomic, transformation and prosperity agendas.’ A senior Saudi official tied the recent flurry of diplomatic activity to Riyadh’s ambitious development programme. ‘The region has got worse and there are more complications around us,’ the official said. ‘And our domestic success is linked to stability in the region.’” [FT]
🖊️ Cartoonish Chaos: Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland reviews the recent saga over a cartoon published by the paper, and later removed from its website after it drew condemnation for including antisemitic tropes. “Last week, the paper acted swiftly, removing the cartoon and apologising, as did [artist Martin] Rowson himself. In that context, the more productive response is not to focus on individual culpability or even organisational processes, but rather on the culture from which each of these dispiriting episodes sprang. By ‘culture’, I mean the body of ideas and associations – Jews and money, Jews and power, Jews and ugliness – that are so deeply ingrained we barely notice they’re there.” [Guardian]
⚖️ Full-Court Press: The New York Times profiles Aharon Barak, the 86-year-old former Israeli Supreme Court justice and former attorney general, whose home has recently become the site of regular protests by supporters of the coalition and its plan for a judicial overhaul. “‘He is the enemy,’ said Hagai Himmelblau, 53, an engineer protesting outside Mr. Barak’s home. ‘Election after election, the right wing wins, but we can’t rule,’ Mr. Himmelblau said. ‘He is one who started everything, the one who caused it.’ As a Supreme Court justice for 28 years until 2006, the last 11 as the court’s president, Mr. Barak was involved in many of its most contested decisions, including its ban on most uses of torture by the security services and its ruling against government policies that stopped Arabs from living in certain Jewish areas… Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1978, Mr. Barak helped to gradually increase the kinds of cases the court heard, often arguing that without judicial involvement, the government will always have the upper hand over the individual. ‘In a situation in which law doesn’t apply, who governs?’ he said. ‘The one who has the power.’ But critics felt he took that approach too far in the 1990s, when he helped lead the process by which the court’s judges occasionally overruled lawmakers.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
📄 On the Hill: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) reintroduced legislation seeking to restrict aid to Israel, with 16 co-sponsors: Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Cori Bush (D-MO), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Summer Lee (D-PA) and Dwight Evans (D-PA). Two of the organizations named as supporters of the legislation — Addameer and DCI-P — are designated by Israel as terrorist groups.
💵 Biden’s Budget: In the first 24 hours of his presidential reelection campaign, President Joe Biden fell short of matching the amount he raised in the first 24 hours after launching his 2020 bid.
👴 Weighing In: Just shy of his 100th birthday, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger talked to CBS News about foreign policy and the use of AI in conflict situations.
👋 Stepping Down: Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky will depart the role at the end of June, following the end of the declared public health emergency this month.
👟 Kanye Kicker: Adidas’ overall revenue declined 1% following its break with partner Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, over the artist’s antisemitic comments.
💻 Outside the Box: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman detailed the conventional rules the company broke in creating ChatGPT.
🏡 Manhattan Mansion: A Manhattan home tied to art collector David Mughrabi sold for $41 million, a decade after an entity linked to Mughrabi purchased the building for $13 million.
👮 Shooting Probe: The gunman behind a Texas mall shooting who killed eight people was believed to have held white supremacist or neo-Nazi beliefs, which officials are now investigating as a potential motive.
⛰️ Upstate Getaway: The New York Timesspotlights vacation destinations in the Catskill Mountains that evoke the nostalgia of the area’s mid-20th-century heyday among Jewish travelers.
💑 Jewish Love:Rolling Stonegave a positive review for Netflix’s new reality dating series, “Jewish Matchmaking.”
⚽ Soccer Slurs: Dutch police arrested 154 people for singing antisemitic chants on the way to a soccer match against a club from a historically Jewish area of Amsterdam.
📚 Bookshelf: The Wall Street Journal reviewsThe Last Secret of the Secret Annex: The Untold Story of Anne Frank, Her Silent Protector, and a Family Betrayal, which will be released on May 16.
🔫 Smuggler Suspect: Israel released to Amman a Jordanian lawmaker accused of smuggling dozens of weapons through an Israeli security checkpoint.
🇮🇱 Identity Battle: The New York Times delves into the competing visions for Israel’s future that have come to the fore with the dispute over the judicial reform proposal.
💡 Kosher Electricity: Israel’s cabinet approved a measure to pilot a program that would build power banks to provide “kosher electricity” to religious neighborhoods on Shabbat.
🚚 Discord Leaks: Iran hid weapons to target U.S. troops in Syria among humanitarian aid for earthquake relief, according to leaked classified U.S. intelligence documents.
🇸🇾 Back In: The Arab League voted to reinstate Syria, 12 years after the country was ousted from the 22-member group following the start of an uprising and civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
🕯️ Remembering: Cartoonist Sam Gross, whose work appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire and Good Housekeeping, among others, died at 89. Director Adam Brace, who focused on developing one-man shows such as Alex Edelman’s “Just for Us,” died at 43. Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow, who led the commission for two years under President John F. Kennedy, died at 97. Pianist Menahem Pressler, who co-founded the Beaux Arts Trio in 1955, died at 99.
Pic of the Day
Yotam Polizer, CEO of IsraAid, the Israel-based humanitarian group, was awarded the 2023 Charles Bronfman Prize, along with $100,000, half of which he pledged to donate back into his organization, at a gala event at the New-York Historical Society on the Upper West Side of Manhattan last night.
In his acceptance speech, Polizer (pictured above at right, with Charles Bronfman) announced that IsraAid planned to more than double its budget and deepen its operations around the world in the next five years. “Five years ago, IsraAid was an organization with a small team and a budget of less than $7 million. Today, five years later, our budget is almost $21 million. So we tripled ourselves. But it’s not just our budget, it’s our impact and our growth. And five years from now we plan to reach and become an organization of $50 million,” Polizer said.
Read more about the evening from our sister publication eJewishPhilanthropy here.
Canada’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism, he is a past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Irwin Cotler turns 83…
Retired senior British judge, Baron Leonard Hubert “Lennie” Hoffmann turns 89… Chairman of the Board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Stanley A. Rabin turns 85… MIT biologist and 2002 Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine, H. Robert Horvitz turns 76… Former MLB pitcher who played for the Angels, Rangers and White Sox, Lloyd Allen turns 73… Rabbi in Dusseldorf until moving to Israel in 2021, Rabbi Raphael Evers turns 69… CFO for The Manischewitz Company, Thomas E. Keogh… Former director of the USDOJ’s Office of Special Investigations focused on deporting Nazi war criminals, he is now a counselor for war crimes accountability at USDOJ, Eli M. Rosenbaum turns 68… Past president of Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs, Georgia, Janice Perlis Ellin… Third-generation furniture retailer, he is a member of the JFNA Board of Trustees, Barry Seidman… President of Clayton, Missouri-based JurisTemps, Andrew J. Koshner, J.D., Ph.D…. CEO and founder of NSG/SWAT, a high-profile boutique branding agency he launched in 2011, he is also an author, Richard Kirshenbaum turns 62…
Novelist, author of If I Could Tell You and movie critic for The Jerusalem Post, Hannah Brown… Co-founder and CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit, RespectAbility, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi turns 59… Israeli journalist, anchorwoman and attorney, Ilana Dayan-Orbach turns 59… Long-time litigator and political fundraiser in Florida, now serving as a mediator and arbitrator, Benjamin W. Newman… Canadian social activist and documentary filmmaker critical of corporate capitalism, she is now teaching at the University of British Columbia, Naomi Klein turns 53… Member of Knesset and chairman of the World Likud, he served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Ambassador Danny Danon turns 52… Stand-up comedian, writer, actress and author, known for appearing on the 9th season of “America’s Got Talent,” Jodi Miller turns 52… Managing partner at West End Strategy Team’s DC office, Ari Geller turns 50… Director of strategic initiatives at J Street, Josh Lockman turns 41… Ice hockey player, now the assistant coach of the New Hampshire Wildcats women’s ice hockey program, Samantha Faber turns 36… Founder and CEO at Axion Ray, Daniel First… Canadian Olympic beach volleyball player, Sam Schachter turns 33… Chief of staff in the science and society division at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Amiel Fields-Meyer…