👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview the creators of the upcoming Showtime series “Ghosts of Beirut” and take a look at the Iran sanctions legislation the Republican Study Committee is introducing on Capitol Hill. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Zak Malamed, Timothy Shriver and Gov. Mike DeWine.
President Joe Biden will host a reception celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month at the White House this afternoon. Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are scheduled to deliver remarks, and Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the reception. The event is also set to feature a performance by Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond, the stars of the Broadway musical “Parade,” and a menu designed by Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov, according to a White House official.
The official said that the administration will “soon release” its national strategy to counter antisemitism, which will “address increasing awareness and understanding of both antisemitism and Jewish American heritage, improving safety and security for Jewish communities, reversing the normalization of antisemitism and addressing antisemitic discrimination, and building coalitions across all communities to fight hate.”
The strategy will include “100 meaningful actions that government agencies will take to counter antisemitism, as well as over 100 calls to action for Congress, state and local governments, companies, technology platforms, civil society, faith leaders, and others to counter antisemitism,” the official continued.
The full Senate will receive a classified briefing on Iran today, including the state of negotiations regarding a nuclear agreement with Tehran. Briefers will include Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of Defense Colin Kahl, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Morgan Muir, Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson and Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler. Absent from the proceedings will be Iran envoy Rob Malley, who is on leave, Politico reports. A Democratic aide told Politico that there has been “progress” on the nuclear talks.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet today to debate and vote on a bill creating an ambassador-level special envoy position for the Abraham Accords. Axios’ Barak Ravid reported yesterday that the State Department is considering appointing former Ambassador Dan Shapiro as the department’s point person on the Abraham Accords — but in a senior adviser position with a broader remit than the normalization agreements.
And in Philadelphia, Democrats will head to the polls to cast their ballots in the city’s mayoral primary. The party’s nominee is expected to win the general election later this year, owing to the city’s deep-blue makeup.
Three Jewish Democrats — Allan Domb, Jeff Brown and Rebecca Rhynhart — are among the top-tier candidates on the ballot today. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel talked to Philadelphia insiders last week to get the run of the race — read his write-up here.
Hours before polls opened, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) called for future mayoral elections to use ranked-choice voting, in which voters rank the candidates and votes are distributed proportionally, as opposed to the winner-take-all situation in the city today. “It’s nuts that our next mayor could be someone who receives 25% (or less!) in the Democratic Primary,” Boyle tweeted.
And in Kentucky, party politics are spilling into the Republican primary for governor. Republicans in the Bluegrass State will cast their ballots today to determine who will face off against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in November. Frontrunners Daniel Cameron, the state’s attorney general, and former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft have exchanged barbs that have veered into the personal, as the two remain largely aligned on policy issues. Cameron, a protege of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), notched an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recorded a robocall boosting Craft on the eve of the election.
Showtime’s ‘Ghosts of Beirut’ examines the CIA-Mossad operation that brought down one of the world’s most elusive terrorists
Imad Mughniyeh is the most famous terrorist you’ve never heard of. That’s the premise of “Ghosts of Beirut,” a new limited series from Showtime that traces the elusive Hezbollah leader’s rise from the slums of South Beirut to his mysterious killing in Syria in 2008. The full story of Mughniyeh’s death, which was long assumed to have been masterminded by the CIA and the Mossad, remains classified by the intelligence agencies. So the series’ creators — “Fauda” creators Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz, Emmy-winning documentary producer Greg Barker, and “All Quiet on the Western Front” producer Daniel Dreifuss — offer what the show’s title sequence calls “a fictional account of deeply researched events,” Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Joint operation: Mughniyeh orchestrated attacks that killed hundreds, and pioneered suicide bombs as a brutal method to shock and sow chaos. The series follows the CIA analysts who he stymied for decades — earning him the nickname “The Ghost” — and the intelligence agencies’ many failed attempts to capture or kill him. Viewers get a glimpse of the strategic rivalry between the CIA and Mossad, and the tricky calculus that ensues as the two allies pursue goals that are not always perfectly aligned.
A moment in time: The tension between the Israelis and the Americans reaches its climax in a scene where Mughniyeh is walking with Qasem Soleimani, who until his death in 2020 was the commander of the Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The CIA received presidential permission to assassinate Mughniyeh, and the CIA and Mossad agents were directly on his heels. But the 2007 “presidential finding,” as the permission is officially called, did not extend to Soleimani. The Israelis, helmed by then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, wanted to take Soleimani down too, but Washington said no. “As far as we know, that really happened, that there was a moment where the two of them were walking together, and there was a decision made,” said Barker.
RJC urges Congress to maintain aid to Ukraine amid resistance from some in GOP
The Republican Jewish Coalition is urging Congress to maintain U.S. funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invasion, amid ongoing resistance from some GOP legislators who have voiced opposition to continued aid, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. “Our elected leaders have provided billions of dollars in assistance to bolster Ukraine’s military,” the group said on Monday. “We call on Congress to renew that commitment, and we are pleased that key Republican leaders have pledged to do so.”
Mounting divisions: The statement, which was unanimously endorsed by the RJC’s board of directors last week in Washington D.C., comes as a growing number of outspoken Republicans have expressed skepticism of protecting Ukraine — intensifying divisions between establishment GOP hawks and nationalist conservatives who favor an isolationist approach to foreign policy.
Holding the line: Sam Markstein, the RJC’s national political director, declined to comment directly on congressional members who are at odds with the group on Ukraine, including Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who tweeted his opposition to the statement hours after it was released. “We would hope that all Republicans would support this position, and we’ll work hard to make sure that they do,” Markstein told JI. “But there’s always an occasional dissenting opinion or vote.”
Republican Study Committee pushes to strengthen Iran sanctions
The Republican Study Committee is pushing ahead with new legislation that aims to expand current U.S. sanctions on Iran and make it harder for the administration to lift them as part of any potential agreement with Iran, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The RSC, whose membership includes around 70% of the Republican conference, introduced a package of six bills in recent weeks that seeks to expand sanctions on the Iranian regime and its affiliates, and otherwise crack down on the Islamic Republic.
The goal: Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), who chairs the RSC, told Jewish Insider the bills are aimed at “reinforcing” and strengthening the Trump-era sanctions regime targeting Iran, and accused the Biden administration of “appeasement.” Hern said, “Seeing the Biden administration try to circumvent Congress on what were bipartisan sanctions is really a total disrespect to Israel and all of our allies in the area.” Hern said that the RSC is looking at various ways to move the six bills forward, particularly attaching them to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act for 2024.
Digging deeper: A Republican staffer involved with the legislation said it stems in part from concerns that the administration is pursuing some form of “less-for-less” nuclear agreement with Iran that would involve less stringent conditions on Iran than the original nuclear 2015 deal but could make the U.S. sanctions regime “toothless.” The bills, the staffer said, would make it difficult for the administration to “give away the farm” in a negotiation.
Also on the Hill: Trudy Stern, the president of NORPAC New York, noted to JI yesterday that the pro-Israel group’s visit to Washington last week coincided with a rocket barrage targeting Israel, providing her and other delegation members the opportunity to show real-time video from family members in Israel of missile alert sirens sounding in Israel and Iron Dome interceptors at work, which she said had been “very impactful” on the members, particularly rallying support for legislation supporting additional funding for collaborative defense research projects. She also noted that the group was the first in-person mass lobbying campaign by pro-Israel activists since the start of the pandemic. That large show of force, she continued, “makes a huge statement for the pro-Israel community” and that “you cannot compare the difference in effectiveness that you have when you’re in front of someone in person [rather] than on Zoom.”
🇩🇪 Never Forget: In The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine stresses the importance of Holocaust education by sharing his father’s experience during the liberation of Dachau. “What my dad and his fellow soldiers witnessed in Hitler’s Germany was burned on their brains for the rest of their lives. Dachau was a camp where more than 30,000 people perished at the hand of the Nazis. When Dad was there, he saw the ovens that the Nazis used to burn the bodies of so many of the prisoners, many still containing ashes and skeletal remains. Even into his 80s, Dad still vividly pictured the devices the Nazis used to slide the bodies into the ovens…Dad also remembered walking down the road near the camp and encountering a very weak, emaciated man who had just been a prisoner. My dad and his buddies talked to the man and gave him food and cigarettes. They asked him if they could take his picture. He said yes — if it was with an American soldier. So, they did.” [TheDispatch]
🧑🤝🧑 Fairweather Friends? In The Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead opines that Israel can’t count on its relationship with the U.S. to endure indefinitely, but has other potential allies that could replace it. “American policy toward Israel depends less on poll numbers than on how a given U.S. president sees American interests world-wide and where Israel and the Middle East fit into the administration’s global foreign policy. For the past half-century, American presidents generally believed that the Middle East, thanks to its oil reserves, was a high priority in America’s strategy of global engagement and that a close relationship with Israel on balance strengthened America’s position in the region and beyond… Navigating an American withdrawal would be challenging but not catastrophic for Israel. Other potential partners are waiting in the wings. Narendra Modi’s India would eagerly embrace a closer technological and military relationship with the Jewish state. China, Russia and even Turkey would see serious benefits in a strategic relationship with Jerusalem.” [WSJ]
✝️ A Matter of Faith: In Politico, Ryan Burge looks at how American attitudes toward religion are reflected in voting trends. “The overall sense that arises from the Religion Census is that the Democrats will continue to gain ground in suburban counties that are predominantly white and where religion is fading in size and importance. In so-called Blue Wall states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Republicans will have a harder time winning over voters in suburban Milwaukee, Detroit, or Philadelphia with messaging about six-week abortion bans. On the other hand, the shifts in the religious landscape make it more likely that the GOP can hold off Democratic advances in important states like Texas and Florida. As more Hispanic immigrants come to those areas who are deeply religious and culturally conservative, Democratic messaging on social issues will not appeal to these types of votes.” [Politico]
Around the Web
👴 Pence’s Perch:The New York Times looks at how former Vice President Mike Pence is preparing for a 2024 presidential bid.
🗳️ Santos’ Seat: Zak Malamed, the co-founder of the nonprofit group Next 50, which fundraises for candidates under the age of 50, joined the congressional race for the seat currently held by Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
📣 Call to Resign: Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) said Santos should resign from Congress.
🎤 On the Hill: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill today before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.
👋 Stepping Down: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, resigned from the governor’s office “to pursue other avenues of helping to deliver the governor’s success to our country.”
🙅♂️ Greatly Exaggerated: George Soros said that an online rumor that he had died was false.
⚖️ In Hot Water: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is facing a lawsuit filed by a former associate accusing him of sexual assault, harassment and having made racist and antisemitic remarks.
✡️ Fighting Antisemitism: The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston launched a new campaign to combat antisemitism, featuring billboards around the city’s TD Garden arena.
📗 Book Review: The Postcard, a newly translated book by French author Anne Berest, explores the lives of the members of Berest’s family who were killed in the Holocaust.
☢️ Common Cause: U.K. Foreign Minister James Cleverly said that despite differences, the U.S. and U.K. must remain united in standing against nuclear threats from Iran and Russia.
🛰️ Allies in Arms: The White House said that Russia is seeking to purchase more arms for use in Ukraine after depleting its supply of 400 attack drones that it had purchased from Iran.
🇹🇳 Djerba Attack: Tunisian President Kais Saied denied that an attack last week in the city of Djerba in which two Jews and several security guards were killed at a Jewish festival was antisemitic in nature.
🎒 Day School Drive: Israeli Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli announced a NIS 150 million ($40.9 million) government initiative to invest in increasing enrollment at Jewish day schools in North America.
🇮🇱 With Or Without You: The Israeli government could pass part of its judicial reform proposal by August if compromise talks with the opposition fail, Israeli lawmaker Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said yesterday.
🌊 Under the Sea: The Israel Antiquities Authority discovered an enormous 1,800-year-old cargo of marble artifacts at the site of a shipwreck near the coast of Netanya after a sea swimmer came across it.
🇺🇳 Turtle Bay Trouble: Speaking at the United Nations’ first “Nakba Day” commemoration event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas compared Israel to the Nazis, denied a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and called on the U.N. to suspend Israel if it doesn’t greenlight both a Palestinian state and the “right of return”; the U.S. boycotted the event, with a spokesperson noting that the Biden administration “does not support events [that are] organized or in support of the institutional anti-Israel bias.”
Pic of the Day
Following his country’s hosting of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba hosted a reception in Washington, D.C., on Monday to hand over the baton to German Ambassador to the U.S. Emily Haber, whose country will be hosting the upcoming Special Olympics World Games in July in Berlin.
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver spoke about the symbolism of this year’s games being held in Berlin, nearly 60 years after his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, delivered the famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.
Kennedy’s speech, Shriver said, was given “at a time when the world was deeply divided, and a time when superpowers were thought to be splitting the world apart and putting the world in dangerous positions. And it was at a time not long after war had created a level of tension and fear… What [Kennedy] basically said was, ‘I’m here because I too am a Berliner.’ Not ‘I’m an American.’ Not ‘I’m a Democrat.’ Not ‘I’m a politician.’ ‘I’m a Berliner.’ And it strikes me that with those words, the reason they resonate is because at some level we all know that we’re all in each other’s shoes.”
“We all share the same destiny. We all share the same soul,” Shriver continued. “And it’s not that we come to understand difference. Yes, we have many differences and they cover all the ranges of human exceptionality, and they’re all beautiful, but also deeply the same. And when we come in contact with moments in which that deep sameness is elevated and made safe for us, the whole world remembers that for generations. We come to Berlin with the same message. No city understands tearing down walls like Berlin. No country understands healing division like Germany. We come to that place to challenge the world anew to break down walls, some you can see, some you can’t see. Many, many, many walls exist that we don’t see with our eyes, but they’re there. We’ve created them, we allow them to fester. Fear engenders a deeper sense that the wall has to get bigger. We come to Berlin with a different message.”
U.S. ambassador to the European Union in the Obama administration, he had a bar mitzvah-like ceremony in Venice in 2017, Anthony Luzzatto Gardner turns 60…
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