👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we take you into the room at last night’s SelectUSA reception at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and report on Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s remarks at the ADL’s National Summit. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Sean Patrick Maloney, Ahmed Bin Sulayem and Iddo Gefen.
The White House will host a reception to mark Jewish American Heritage Month on May 16, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. The event comes as the Biden administration prepares to release its national strategy on antisemitism.
The afternoon reception will be hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. The event is “not tied to the strategy release,” a White House official told JI on Tuesday.
White House domestic policy chief Susan Rice said in a Monday address to the Anti-Defamation League that the White House plans to release the strategy later this month. Rice, who leads the task force that is working on the strategy, is stepping down from her position at the end of May.
Several Jewish communal leaders tell JI that one detail to track is whether the White House plan embraces the consensus International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. Some groups on the left have advocated against adopting the IHRA definition, which tags certain slurs against the Jewish state (such as applying double standards to Israel and comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis) as antisemitic.
Shortly after Biden was sworn into office in 2021, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, in a letter to the American Zionist Movement, said the Biden administration “enthusiastically embraces” the IHRA definition, “including its examples.” Read more here.
On Capitol Hill, Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID), along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 24 other co-sponsors introduced a resolution to honor Israel’s 75th anniversary. The resolution is largely identical to a draft reported by Jewish Insider last week, with the addition of language recognizing threats to Israel from Iran and terrorist groups.
In Israel, a cease-fire was reported after 104 rockets were fired from Gaza over the past day, the IDF said, prompting the Israeli army to strike weapons manufacturing sites, military compounds and underground tunnels belonging to terrorist organizations. The latest round of violence flared following news yesterday morning of the death of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, Khader Adnan, after an 86-day hunger strike in an Israeli prison.
Nides: ‘Democracy is alive and well in the State of Israel’
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said Tuesday evening at the Israeli Embassy in Washington that Israel and its democracy remain strong and stable amid ongoing disputes over Israeli judicial reform efforts, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Nides was addressing a reception for the Israeli delegation to the SelectUSA investment summit, which seeks to promote foreign direct investment in American companies and organizations. Investment and business development officials from federal, state and local governments were also in attendance.
On the record: “Israel is going through a fairly complicated time the last two or three months. I tell people, when they come to me and say, ‘Oh my God, things are on fire,’ I say, ‘What are you talking about?’” Nides said. “Listen, the reality of this is, this is a living breathing democracy in Israel, make no mistake… Democracy is alive and well in the State of Israel.”
In response: Offering a similar argument to other pro-Israel Democrats, Nides said that the ongoing protests both against and in favor of judicial reform, which have resulted in a relatively low volume of arrests, violence and destruction, are proof of the strength of Israeli democracy. Nides’ comments appear to repudiate warnings from some Democrats that the judicial reform plan could imperil Israeli democracy or the U.S.-Israel relationship, which he described as “unbreakable.”
Strong support: “This relationship between the United States and Israel is — I knew it was strong, because I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t — but I didn’t know how strong it was,” he continued. “It’s who we are as people, it’s why we love Israel so much. And by the way, you can also disagree with people, even though you love them.”
Flashback: Nides had said in February, before the judicial reform legislation was paused, that the Biden administration believed Israel’s “democratic institutions are under stress and strain” and warned that the reform efforts could potentially damage Israel’s economy, prompting backlash from Israeli Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli.
state of the state
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore emphasizes ‘responsibility’ to make sure that ‘everybody in your state can feel safe’
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore emphasized yesterday that he sees his top responsibility in his new role — to which he was elected last November — as protecting his constituents’ safety, including pushing back against antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Quotable: “I knew coming in that the number one responsibility… is making sure that everybody in your state can feel safe in their own homes, in their own communities and safe in their own skins,” Moore, a Democrat, said in remarks at the Anti-Defamation League’s National Leadership summit in Washington, D.C. “Every Marylander should know that this is a state that is going to protect them.”
History: He highlighted the need to understand history to combat hate in the modern day. “We have to zero in on increasing education, increasing exposure and being very forthright about what type of state we are, and how we are going to be a state that actually honors history and not ignores it,” he said. “We are going to be a state that actually lifts up our history and our foundations and understands that, when we say things like ‘never again,’ people have to understand what… we mean by that.”
Hate speech: Moore also indicated that he supports efforts to crack down on hate speech, arguing that those who allow hateful ideologies to grow and recruit are “making people, making individuals, making children less safe.” “I understand when people are talking about the importance of free speech. I completely understand the argument. But when your free speech makes me and everyone else less safe, that’s no longer free speech, that’s very expensive and it’s very deadly,” he said. “We do need to have a greater level of responsibility over the tools that we are unleashing on our society with a clearer understanding of their consequences. We do need to have consequences when people misuse those tools.”
Bonus: The ADL announced that Rabbi David Wolpe, who is retiring from his pulpit at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles next month, will be joining the organization as its first rabbinic fellow.
Could brewing civil war in Sudan unravel its relations with Israel?
Amid the armed conflict between two rival military factions in Sudan, warnings are growing that an all-out civil war in the strategically located but turbulent African nation could not only spill over into neighboring countries but also impact the 2020 normalization agreement with Israel. For Israel, which last week offered to mediate between the two generals now at war, there is growing concern that if a cease-fire is not soon reached, a broader war could also threaten the implementation and expansion of the celebrated Abraham Accords, which it signed in 2020 first with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and later spurred bilateral normalization treaties with Morocco and Sudan, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Vested interest: In February, Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen traveled to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where he met with Sudanese Army Commander Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the two pledged to sign a more declarative peace pact later this year. “A signing ceremony is expected to take place in Washington after the transfer of power in Sudan to a civilian government that will be established as part of the ongoing transition process in the country,” a statement released following the visit read. With that transfer of power now on hold, Israel has a vested interest in helping to mediate a solution not only to keep alive the chances of real peace with the Muslim-majority country but also in order to prevent its arch-foe, Iran, from taking advantage of the unrest.
Mediation offer: In a bold statement last week, Cohen’s office said that he had been working “through various channels to bring about a ceasefire,” including “an offer to host a negotiation summit in Israel with the aim of reaching agreements that will allow an end to the violence and war in the country. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is working to promote calm, which will enable the signing of a historic peace agreement between Israel and Sudan in the near future,” the statement emphasized. The offer was reportedly made in coordination with the United States and various parties in the Middle East involved in mediation attempts.
Unlikely option: Yoni Ben Menachem, a senior analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that while Israel’s offer to mediate was genuine, it was very unlikely that it would be utilized – just like former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s attempts to mediate last year between Russia and Ukraine. “Israel has its own interests because it wants to sign this peace treaty with Sudan,” Ben Menachem, a former director general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, told JI. “Israel has good connections with Burhan, but it can’t bridge the gaps between the two generals, and the situation in Sudan is deteriorating.”
Wider impact: Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that he did not believe the conflict in Sudan would have a wider impact on the other normalization agreements signed with Israel. “Those will succeed or fail based on their own bilateral merits,” he observed. “The fate of this agreement [with Sudan], however, is entirely up in the air – if there is no functioning state, there is no functioning normalization agreement.”
🪖 Military Matters: In an interview with Foreign Affairs, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley discusses the challenges facing the U.S. as it seeks to deter China and Russia. “The World War II generation, the last group of people that fought a true great-power war, they’re passing very quickly,” Milley said. “I went to Normandy a few years ago, when I was Chief of Staff of the Army, and I saw this guy who was a paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division. He’s in a wheelchair, he’s an older guy. And I leaned over to him and talked to him, and I said, so, tell me, Sergeant, what was your lesson that you want to tell the Chief of Staff of the Army, what’s your lesson from World War II? And I thought he was going to tell me something about tactics or, you know, three second rushes, or how to shoot a weapon or whatever. And his eyes filled with tears, and he looked at me and he said, General, never let it happen again. Never let it happen again.” [ForeignAffairs]
🇦🇪 Dubai Dreams: In the Times of Israel, Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the executive chairman and CEO of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, touts Dubai as the “gateway” to the global marketplace. “The Abraham Accords was a watershed event for our region. In Dubai, we have witnessed a steady growth of Israeli companies of all sizes and sectors. But it is only the start. Given the similarities between the UAE and Israel markets it is hardly surprising that bilateral business collaborations are also growing. As more and more Israelis use Dubai as their launch pad to grow their businesses, they are increasingly realizing the potential of leveraging Dubai as the crossroads between the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe, from which products can be shipped to and from anywhere in the world within 45 days.” [TOI]
🛰️ Aid Advantages: In Newsweek, William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, details the reciprocal benefits of U.S. aid to Israel. “Proposals to cut or condition U.S. military aid to Israel ultimately enable extremists and those who seek to perpetuate violence. These initiatives ignore Israel’s right to defend herself and serve to play into the hands of those who wish to harm Israelis and destabilize the region, who will read such moves as weakening Israel, as well as indicating a lack of U.S. support for the Middle East’s only thriving democracy. We must not allow hate and bigotry to drive policymaking. Nor can we risk a breakdown in the prospect of future peace talks, as Israelis must be confident that they will be able to defend themselves from those who would seek to destroy them. Instead, we must work towards a future where Israelis and Palestinians can coexist peacefully and securely.” [Newsweek]
Around the Web
☎️ Dialing Abu Dhabi: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Khaled bin Mohamed Al Nahyan to congratulate him on his recent appointment and to discuss U.S.-UAE ties.
🛌🏻 Feinstein’s Faring: Notes observed by a Politico photographer during a press conference held by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) indicate that Schumer spoke with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Monday as the California legislator continues to recover from a bout of shingles, and she is “hopeful” that she will return to Washington.
📄 New Report: The U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority submitted a new report on the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but the findings, according to a senior U.S. official, did not include any new details or information.
🇫🇷 Maloney’s Move: Former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) is expected to be nominated to be the Biden administration’s ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, based in Paris.
🏈 Sports Sale: The NFL is in discussion with representatives of Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder over the potential sale of the football team to a group led by Josh Harris, with conditional approval of the sale to come as soon as this month.
🗞️ Spread the Message: Jimmy Finklestein’s media startup The Messengerwill launch on May 15, having staffed up with approximately 200 employees, two-thirds of whom will work on the news side.
🎭 Tony Nods: “Parade” and “Leopoldstadt” each picked up six Tony nominations, including, respectively, Best Musical Revival and Best Play.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews will meet with the editor in chief of The Guardian following the outlet’s publication of an antisemitic cartoon.
📗 Lit Hit:Jerusalem Beach author Iddo Gefen was announced as this year’s winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.
📺 Tube Time: Yes Studios released the trailer for its new series “Unsilenced,” which will air later this month.
🏫 Campus Beat: Yeshiva University is holding a Jewish studies conference in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Zayed University for Humanities in Dubai at the Crossroads of Civilization Museum today.
💵 New Venture: Mubadala Investment Company and Apollo Global Management are jointly investing $500 million in the U.S.-based company Brightspeed.
🛬 Travel from Tehran: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is traveling to Syria today, the first time an Iranian leader has visited the war-torn country in more than a decade.
🌊 Unsafe Seas: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a Panama-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
🥇 Press Prize: The U.N. awarded its top press freedom prize to three imprisoned Iranian female journalists, including the reporter who broke the news of the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.
📷 Candid Camera: Iranian authorities are using security cameras to identify women who are not wearing hijab in public and forcing the closure of businesses that serve unveiled women.
➡️ Transitions: The American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations, Kenneth Bandler, announced his retirement after more than 25 years at the organization. Darcy Hirsh, previously the associate vice president for public affairs and government relations at the Jewish Federations of North America, is joining Interfaith Alliance as senior director of policy and advocacy.
Pic of the Day
Rabbi Leo Dee and his three surviving children, who lost their mother and two sisters in a recent terror attack, visited the recipients of Lucy Dee’s organs yesterday and listened to her heart beating inside heart transplant patient Lital Valenci.
U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) turns 80…
Southern California-area writer and activist promoting wellness, she is the founder of the New Americans Museum in San Diego, Deborah Shainman Szekely turns 101… Founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, David A. Siegel turns 88… Senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University, Ely Karmon, Ph.D. turns 82… Television journalist, David Marash turns 81… Venture capitalist and economist, William H. Janeway turns 80… Francine Holtzman… U.S. senator (D-OR), his original family name was Weidenreich, Ron Wyden turns 74… Six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, Stewart F. Lane turns 72… Retired election law attorney, Benjamin L. Ginsberg turns 71… Retired in 2017 as chair and CEO of Mondelez International, Irene Rosenfeld turns 70…Real estate attorney, he is a senior counsel in the Chicago office of DLA Piper, Mark D. Yura turns 70… Political reporter and columnist for The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jeff E. Schapiro… Retired senior advisor at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Susan Steinmetz… EVP at NBCUniversal News Group, Stephen Labaton turns 62… Former owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Mikhail Prokhorov turns 58… Lobbyist since 2010, he was previously deputy assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs in the Bush 43 administration, Scott A. Kamins… Veteran of 13 NHL seasons, who in 2005 sat out a hockey game to observe Yom Kippur, he is now an assistant coach for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Halpern turns 47… Israeli singer and actress, Miri Mesika turns 45…Reporter for Politico New Jersey and author of New Jersey’s Playbook, Matthew R. Friedman… Educated at the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco, he was a defensive lineman in the NFL from 2004 until 2011, Igor Olshansky turns 41… Managing director and head of executive communications of SKDKnickerbocker, Stephen Andrew Krupin… President of Flaxman Strategies, Seth Flaxman… Israeli minister for women’s advancement, she is a member of the Knesset for the Likud party, May Golan turns 37… Chief public engagement officer at Israel Policy Forum, Avi Weinryb… Benjamin S. Davis…