👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on Rep. David Trone’s Senate campaign announcement and examine Congress’ approach to Jordan ahead of Yael Lempert’s confirmation hearing today to be the next U.S ambassador to Jordan. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Ruth Wisse, Peter Thiel, Mat Ishbia and Mayor Ron Huldai.
Rep. David Trone (D-MD) announced this morning that he’s running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), bringing a pro-Israel record and the ability to self-fund millions from his own fortune to the primary race.
“Marylanders need real solutions now, because we face major challenges — and the clock is ticking,” Trone said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “Opioids and substance use disorders are crushing families and communities. A mental health crisis, especially among our children, has left too many who need help struggling to find it. And it’s getting harder and harder to pay the bills on an honest day’s work. Our criminal justice system is broken. Big pharmaceutical companies are jacking up prices. Access to abortion is under attack. And MAGA extremists threaten to tear down our democracy.”
“That’s why I’m running for the Senate: to work with Marylanders, to take on these challenges, and to take the bold steps necessary to make real change,” Trone continued. “Because this is not about me – it’s about the issues that are facing our state.”
Trone, who lives in Potomac, Md., represents a gerrymandered district that spans from heavily Democratic suburban Montgomery County to conservative and rural western Maryland. Trone won reelection by 10 points over Republican state Del. Neal Parrott in 2022.
Trone, the owner of a popular D.C.-area wine store chain, is the only sitting member of Congress who is an AIPAC “minyan” donor — the highest membership level in the pro-Israel group. He has been an outspoken critic of the anti-Israel BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) in Congress — and in his job as a wine store owner.
Trone is expected to face a crowded Democratic primary field to succeed Cardin, one of the leading Democratic advocates for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is considered a likely candidate, while Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando already announced his campaign.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a progressive Jewish lawmaker who is in remission from a serious form of lymphoma, is the most high-profile Democrat mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate seat.
In Washington tonight, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will be the keynote speaker at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Soref Symposium.
Criticism of Jordan is getting louder, but not from Congress
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to hold a confirmation hearing today for Yael Lempert, currently a top Mideast diplomat, to be the U.S. ambassador to Jordan. The hearing comes at a time of heightened tensions between Jordan and its neighbor Israel, which have long maintained a cold peace, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Context: Jordan, while continuing its long-standing ties with Israel, has been reluctant to embrace the Abraham Accords and the Negev Forum. Amman’s management of the Temple Mount has been a source of tensions and accusations that it is inciting unrest, rather than helping to ease it. Jordan has also long refused to extradite Ahlam Tamimi, who was involved in the bombing of a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, to the U.S. The pattern of behavior has prompted some foreign policy analysts to call for the U.S. to exert more direct pressure on Jordan, which receives billions in U.S. humanitarian and military aid.
View from the Hill: But there appears to be less appetite among lawmakers of either party to shift U.S. posture toward Jordan, whose king, Abdullah II, maintains friendly relationships with and regularly visits members of Congress. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), a former House majority leader, accompanied House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on a delegation to the Middle East this week that included stops in Jordan and Israel, and a meeting with Jordanian king. “The king made it very clear that he wanted to work closely with Israel,” Hoyer told JI upon returning to the U.S. “He has a good relationship with the president of Israel, a good relationship with the prime minister of Israel. And I think most of us on both sides of the House feel that he has been a very positive player in trying to bring a resolution of conflict in the Middle East.”
Bipartisan: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and led a Senate delegation to Jordan last September, rebuffed suggestions that the U.S. should be placing pressure on Jordan. “Both Israel and Jordan are very good allies in the Middle East,” Rounds told JI. “If there is a role for the United States to play, I don’t think we would hesitate to play the role, but it wouldn’t be one of telling one side what to do, but rather finding common ground.”
Call for change: Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JI that Congress should be exerting more pressure on Jordan over its “incitement” of violence and harboring of Tamimi in particular, arguing that the kingdom “can’t be playing both sides and getting $1.5 billion a year from us.” Dubowitz proposed that a similar approach applied in the Taylor Force Act could be applied to Jordan for protecting Tamimi. “We could use the same legislation to put pressure on the king to say, ‘Enough. We give you $1.5 billion. This is a terrorist who killed Americans, and hand her over or we’re going to start seriously reconsidering some or all of our aid,’” Dubowitz said.
Amid California budget deficit, nonprofit security funding on the line
More than a century and a half after the famous California Gold Rush, the Golden State continues to experience unpredictable boom-and-bust cycles. But now, they take the form of the state’s annual budget — and this year, for the first time in years, the state faces at least a $22.5 billion budget shortfall due to inflation and poor stock market performance, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The result is a budget proposal from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom with major cuts. One of the programs that may be vulnerable this year is the state’s nonprofit security grant program, which last year provided almost $50 million in grants to help nonprofit organizations fund security expenses.
Tides turning: If the program is not funded for the 2023-2024 year, it would mark a major reversal: In September, Newsom signed a billI pledging to keep the program going indefinitely, albeit subject to the annual appropriations process. Jewish community members in California are gearing up for a significant advocacy fight to ensure that the funding gets added back to the budget — and they’re asking for even more money than last year, citing rising antisemitism and other forms of hate.
Top priority: “This is literally item No. 1 on our agenda,” California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, an Encino Democrat who chairs the Legislative Jewish Caucus, told JI. Legislators from the Jewish Caucus will meet with Newsom on Thursday to discuss the security funding.
Unanswered questions: Newsom is expected to release a revised version of his budget proposal this month, but he has not indicated whether the security funding will be included. JI did not receive a response to a request for comment sent to Newsom’s office. “We’ve gotten indications from his advisers that there won’t be anything new added in May because of this budget shortfall, and that makes us deeply concerned,” said David Bocarsly, JPAC’s executive director.
CUNY commits to backing hate crimes reporting bill, despite initial skepticism
The City University of New York, which has faced scrutiny for its handling of a recent surge in alleged antisemitic incidents, confirmed its support for new state legislation that would require colleges to post campus hate crime statistics on their websites, even as representatives of the public university system had previously expressed skepticism of the bill, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Official statement: “CUNY is committed to and has policies in place to address incidents of discrimination, hate and violence in all its forms,” a spokesperson for CUNY said in a statement to JI. “This legislation is in keeping with that commitment, and if signed into law as expected we look forward to incorporating it into our existing policies.”
Different view: Before it passed the state Assembly last month, a legislative representative for CUNY had weighed in with a different assessment of the bill, which stemmed from concerns that the university system was not adequately confronting antisemitism. “We have not taken a position,” the CUNY representative wrote in late February, emphasizing that the university system “takes any hate crime very seriously,” according to correspondence reviewed by JI. “In essence, we feel like we are already implementing actions to address hate crime on campus without the directive of legislation.”
Addressing hate: The representative reiterated that sentiment in correspondence from early March, noting “the actions that CUNY has recently implemented to address hate crime including antisemitism.” Those efforts have included a recent partnership with Hillel International, a Jewish campus organization; new funding to address “religious, racial and ethnic bigotry” at CUNY; and an online portal, launched in January, for students and staff to report incidents of hate speech and violence.
Allegations of neglect: The countermeasures were instituted amid mounting allegations from elected officials and Jewish groups that CUNY had neglected to address rising antisemitism reported on its campuses. Last summer, for instance, CUNY’s chancellor, Félix Matos Rodriguez, withdrew from testifying before a City Council hearing focused on alleged instances of widespread anti-Jewish prejudice within the university system.
👵 Age-Old Question: Politico Magazine’s Joanne Kenen spotlights the debate in Washington — reignited by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) extended absence from Washington and declining cognitive abilities — over the removal of incapacitated lawmakers. “The framers, of course, could not have envisioned the problem of a Senate filled with rapidly aging members. Life expectancy in the late 18th century, when the Constitution was written, was much shorter than it is now. A minimum age for senators, 30, was established, but there was no upper limit. Dementia was less common in those days, simply because people died of other things first. And trying to impose a maximum age at this point would be highly contentious. ‘It’s an unwieldy solution as not everyone who is older is unable to serve — and it’s also disrespectful, if not quite disenfranchisement, of older voters,’ said Spelman College political scientist Dorian Brown Crosby, as it would deprive them of representation by their peers and send a message that all old people were washed up.” [Politico]
📜 History Lesson: In The Wall Street Journal, Ruth Wisse suggests that Republicans weighing support for former President Donald Trump apply a history lesson from David Ben-Gurion, who famously declared that the Jews, when faced with the British white paper limiting immigration to Mandate Palestine at the onset of WWII, will “help the British in the war as if there were no White Paper, and fight the White Paper as if there were no war.” “The two-pronged struggle allowed for no triangulation, no choice of the lesser evil. The mufti’s alliance with Hitler made it all the more urgent to help end the war, even as British appeasement of the Arabs made it more urgent to end the British occupation. Ben-Gurion’s strategy saw thousands of Palestinian Jews fighting on the Allied side and as many defying British rule to create the state of Israel. This double imperative I offer my fellow Americans who confront Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination. The need to support the former president and to defend his accomplishments dare not grant him the party’s endorsement, while the need to defeat him in the primaries must not empower those who sabotaged his presidency and remain primed to destroy him.” [WSJ]
🇸🇦 Facelift: CNN’s Nadeen Ebrahim highlights Saudi Arabia’s recent efforts to evacuate 65 Iranians from Sudan as a symbol of its wider quest to revamp its global image. “The diplomatic efforts are the latest in a series of moves that position Riyadh in a peacemaking role, which analysts say is a strategic pivot away from more than a decade of a confrontational and interventionist foreign policy. ’There is a new foreign policy at play here,’ Anna Jacobs, senior Gulf analyst at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank, told CNN. ‘Saudi Arabia is seeking to assert itself more and more on the international stage through mediation and raising its diplomatic profile.’ Riyadh’s new foreign policy is more independent and prioritizes Saudi interests, she said.” [CNN]
📚 Bookshelf: In Tablet magazine, Andrew Apostolou reviews Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in German-Occupied Poland, the condensed English translation of a Polish tome that looks at Polish complicity in the Holocaust. “The book provides a vital service by dispelling the connected Polish myths of Jews as passive victims and of Poles as rescuers. The tale that the Jews went to slaughter silently absolves Poles morally of their failure to become involved. As elsewhere in Europe, local non-Jews invented tales to remove themselves from history. Many later claimed not to know what the Germans were inflicting upon the Jews. Or they claimed that the Germans always killed those who aided Jews, thereby excusing their lack of assistance. Similarly, there is a deliberate policy in Poland, as elsewhere in Europe, to play up the role of non-Jews in rescuing Jews. Rescue becomes a morality play: Decent, principled Christians saved weak, confused Jews; sometimes the Germans killed the Christian rescuers. Grabowski calls such discussions of rescue, absent the larger context of wartime Poland, ‘a fallacy and misrepresentation of history.’” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🇷🇺 Pushing for Release: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said he has spoken to Russia’s foreign minister about the detainment of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and said the U.S. is “intensely engaged” in efforts to secure Gershkovich’s release.
🏃♂️ He’s Running: Former Nevada Assemblyman Jim Marchant, a Republican, announced his candidacy for Senate, challenging Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
🗳️ Backing Barbara: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who served as House majority whip in the last Congress, endorsed Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) for Senate in California.
⚠️ Trump Trouble: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is mulling a Senate bid, reportedly told a group of Republicans that an endorsement from former President Donald Trump no longer carries the weight it once did.
🤝 Sinema-Student Meet: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) met with members of the Jewish Latino Teen Coalition of Southern Arizona.
⚖️ A Harder Sell: House Democrats visiting Israel with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) last month reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the government’s judicial overhaul proposals have made it harder to defend Israel in the U.S. and with constituents, Axios reports.
👍 Got His Back: Peter Thiel told Bari Weiss that if Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee for president in 2024, Thiel will “strongly support him.”
🍺 Drunk Driving: California state Sen. Dave Min, who is running for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), was arrested and charged with DUI.
🏗️ Building Bust: Bloomberglooks at the challenges facing real estate developer Steven Roth as his company, Vornado, struggles to build up the area around New York’s Penn Station.
📘 Bookshelf:The Wall Street Journal reviewsThe Watchmaker’s Daughter, based on the true story of a young Dutch Christian woman who was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp after her family was found to be hiding Jews and other Resistance fighters.
📰 Rebuttal:The Daily Signal’s Tony Kinnett dissects the multi-part New York Times series on New York City yeshivas.
🍬 Sweet Tooth: Israeli customs caught two American couples trying to smuggle into Israel more than 650 pounds of fruit roll-ups, which are in high demand amid a new TikTok trend.
👂 Detroit rivals: Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia spoke to The Ringer’s Bill Simmons about his recent purchase of the team and his rivalry with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
🎙️ JI on Fox:Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch appeared on Washington’s Fox5 to discuss JI’s five-part investigative series into the murder of a prominent Washington rabbi in 1984. Read the full series here.
💵 Shapiro’s Share: Ben Shapiro invested $4.7 million in Oramed, becoming the struggling Israeli pharmaceutical company’s largest shareholder.
🛫 Hopes for Hajj: Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the approval of direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia to enable Israeli Muslim citizens to more easily take part in the Hajj pilgrimage next month is “under discussion.”
🪖 Terrorists Killed: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that IDF security forces killed the terrorists responsible for the murders of Lucy, Rina and Maya Dee last month.
🇸🇾 Missing in Syria: The U.S. has resumed direct talks with Syria over the fate of journalist Austin Tice and other Americans who have disappeared in Syria.
Pic of the Day
New York City Mayor Eric Adams met with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in New York on Wednesday.
Medalist in the women’s halfpipe event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Arielle Townsend Gold turns 27…
Former chairman and CEO of American International Group, now chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies, Maurice Raymond “Hank” Greenberg turns 98… Congregational rabbi, then executive director of the Texas A&M Hillel for 30 years, now a security consultant for the tourism industry, Peter E. Tarlow turns 77… Nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for climate change, he was previously the U.S. special envoy for climate change, Todd D. Stern turns 72… Executive director at Har Sinai Oheb Shalom Congregation in Baltimore, Lee Sherman… Partner at NYC-based Mintz & Gold, he was EVP and general counsel for both the Las Vegas Sands and News Corporation, Lawrence “Lon” A. Jacobs… Northern Virginia-based portrait artist, Ilisa G. Calderon… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-VT), Rebecca A. “Becca” Balint turns 55… Triathlete and winner of international Ironman competitions, Joanna Sue Zeiger turns 53…
Director of congregational education at NYC’s Park Avenue Synagogue, Bradley Solmsen… State attorney for Palm Beach County, Fla., first elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016 and 2020, Dave Aronberg turns 52… Chair and director at NYC’s department of city planning, Daniel Garodnick… Mechal Wakslak… President of national expansion at Veterans Community Project, Jason Kander turns 42… Managing director of food programs at NYC’s Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Jessica Chait… Tech entrepreneur, best known as a founder of both Vine and HQ Trivia, Rus Yusupov turns 39… VP at BerlinRosen, Allison Fran Bormel… Account executive at Crunchtime, Rebecca Leibowitz Wasserstrom… Production coordinator and assistant to the executive producer of ABC’s “General Hospital,” Steven A. Rosenberg… Speechwriter and senior advisor to the secretary of state, Shana Mansbach… Director of client services for ESG at Everfi, Sasha Altschuler… Actor best known for voicing the title character of the animated film “Finding Nemo,” Alexander Gould turns 29… Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, Olivia Breuer…