👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at a new bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill focused on Iranian deterrence, and interview Dina Kraft about her new book co-authored with Anne Frank’s best friend. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Gal Gadot, Judge Judy and Ehud Barak.
Both chambers of Congress are back after the long weekend, with a laundry list of tasks ahead of the July 4th recess, which begins next week.
On Wednesday, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will begin marking up the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, the massive annual defense and national security policy bill — the House in open session and the Senate in closed session. The Senate’s markup could continue through Friday.
Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod has gotten a look at some of the amendments to the NDAA set to be introduced during the House’s markup.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) is planning to introduce amendments authorizing the administration to transfer retired U.S. aerial refueling tankers to Israel — which could assist a potential Israeli strike on Iran; directing the administration to report to Congress on Israel’s guided munition needs and whether those munitions are available to Israel; and requiring twice-annual military exercises with Israel including simulated long-range and large-scale strike missions, U.S. refueling of Israeli aircraft and U.S. logistics, intelligence and air defense support to Israel.
Reps. Pat Ryan (D-NY), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) will introduce two amendments on combating antisemitism and extremism in the military. One would require a report to Congress on the implementation of efforts to update security clearance processes to root out extremists and antisemites, as well as ensure that Jewish Americans are not targeted for perceived dual loyalty to Israel; the other would require the Defense Department to issue a training and education plan to combat extremist recruitment of Defense personnel.
“Antisemitism continues to grow at an alarming rate, threatening the very fabric of our democracy,” Ryan told JI. “We must immediately address the rise of antisemitism and hate across this country, and in particular, the risk that violent extremism within the military poses to our national security. I’m proud to join colleagues in pursuing critical legislation to combat these crises head-on. Inaction is not an option.”
Strickland added, “Antisemitism is a threat to national security and must be treated and evaluated as the serious threat to our armed forces that it is…. This year’s NDAA must equip Congress and our military with the tools needed to root out antisemitism and shore up our nation’s readiness in the face of violent extremist movements.”
We’re also expecting to see numerous additional amendments on Middle East policy issues; the NDAA frequently serves as a vehicle to which a range of other foreign policy bills are attached, and lawmakers have previously discussed with JI plans to attempt to add Abraham Accords-related legislation and additional Iran sanctions to the bill.
Also on Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet to discuss legislation extending long-standing Iranian energy sanctions and a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights violations. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will mark up a resolution expressing support for Iranian protesters.
On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias in the United Nations, Palestinian Authority and NGO community, with testimony from Yona Schiffmiller of NGO Monitor, Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum and Hillel Neuer of U.N. Watch.
Bipartisan group of senators urges Biden to ‘strengthen efforts to deter’ Iranian nuclear program
Amid reports that the Biden administration is engaging in discussions with Iran over its nuclear program, a bipartisan group of 26 senators wrote to President Joe Biden urging him to pursue stronger deterrence of Iran and warning against an ineffective agreement, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Bipartisan coalition: The letter was drafted ahead of recent revelations of talks between the U.S. and Iran, but takes on increased significance in light of those talks. Its signatories include a handful of Democratic lawmakers who were supportive of the original nuclear deal and efforts to rejoin it earlier in Biden’s presidency — indicating that Biden cannot necessarily count on widespread support from the Democratic side of the aisle for a new deal.
Deal or no deal: “Congress stands united behind the long held bipartisan position that Iran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. It is crucial for your administration to remain aligned with Congressional efforts related to Iran’s nuclear program and not agree to a pact that fails to achieve our nation’s critical interests,” the letter reads. “We urge you to take meaningful steps to curb Iran’s destabilizing activities and deter the regime from pursuing this nefarious ambition any further.”
Democratic concerns: The letter was led by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and James Lankford (R-OK). They were joined by Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). Notably, Peters, Blumenthal, Hassan, Warnock, Kelly, Wyden and Bennet were supportive of the original Iran deal and/or efforts to rejoin it earlier in Biden’s term. Padilla, who was not in the Senate at the time of the original 2015 agreement, does not appear to have publicized his opinion on the original deal or efforts to reenter it.
From across the aisle: Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Boozman (R-AR), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), John Kennedy (R-LA), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) also signed on. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) also joined the letter.
Krafting a new angle on Anne Frank
Dina Kraft is already well-known in Israel as a veteran journalist. In her long and illustrious career, Kraft has reported for the Associated Press from South Africa and The New York Times from Israel. In 2020, she won the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Award for Journalism in Diaspora Reportage and has been awarded places in prestigious media programs such as the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and the DART Center at Columbia Journalism School. Now, Kraft can add one more accolade to her extensive resume: the book she ghost-wrote together with Anne Frank’s best friend, Hannah Pick-Goslar, became a New York Times bestseller last week. My Friend Anne Frank, which hit bookshelves earlier this month to rave reviews, has already racked up no shortage of media coverage. “For lack of a better word, it feels like this has all been bashert,” Kraft, who is the opinions editor at the English edition of Haaretz, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash, using the Jewish word for “destiny.”
Life’s work: “I spent years writing Holocaust-related stories and, being the daughter of a family that fled Nazi Europe to the furthest corner of the globe – New Zealand, where my mother grew up – it felt like really something I was sort of working towards my whole life without realizing it,” Kraft said.
‘From the outside in’: “I think this gives you a different perspective on the story of Anne Frank, it gives you a story from the outside in,” explained Kraft. “Plus, you’re seeing the world that they came from, this beautiful leafy southern Amsterdam neighborhood that felt safe and coddled and warm even as the winds of war were approaching.” Kraft notes that while there’s been a “commodification of Anne Frank” and her story remains one of hope, with some pithy quotes, it is also a story of destruction even though we don’t get to see the destruction through Frank’s eyes.
up in the air
Israeli, Saudi aviation tech on display at Paris Air Show
The Paris Air Show opened yesterday, bringing airline executives, cabinet ministers and defense contractors to the world’s biggest aviation event. Saudi Arabia will use the seven-day exhibition to introduce its new carrier, Riyadh Air, which is negotiating with Boeing and Airbus over a fleet of narrow-body jets. The company plans to start flying its purple and blue aircraft in 2025 and announced a provisional order in March for up to 72 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, The Circuit’s Jonathan H. Ferziger reports in the latest edition of The Weekly Circuit.
SkySonic boom: Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems will for the first time show off its new SkySonic system, designed to intercept missiles that fly at several times the speed of sound. Interest is building at the French exhibition amid assertions by Russia that it has used hypersonic missiles against Ukraine. Iran claimed this month that it created a hypersonic missile called “Fattah” – Conqueror in Farsi – that can travel at 15 times the speed of sound. Rafael is testing SkySonic but hasn’t said when it will be ready for operation.
Berlin buy: The German Bundestag’s vote last week to approve the $4.3 billion purchase of Israel Aerospace Industries’ Arrow-3 missile-defense system is also generating buzz in Paris. “Basically, we have a solution for air defense on all layers, from very short-range like 10, 20 or 25 kilometers, to ballistic missiles,” Golan Haver, the state-owned company’s senior vice president for Europe, told The Circuit.
📚 Textbook Solutions: CNN’s Hadas Gold and Abbas Al Lawati look at the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s classroom textbooks toward a more inclusive curriculum, using research from the NGO IMPACT-se. “For decades, the government sought legitimacy at home and abroad [through] its status as the birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest sites, but the kingdom has in recent years moved towards a more secular form of nationalism. ‘This allows for the easing of religious language denigrating Shiism, Judaism, and Christianity. It also gives more strategic latitude for the leadership to bargain on these religious issues, as seen through the greater emphasis placed on peacemaking and tolerance,’ [the Gulf States Insitute’s Kristin Diwan] told CNN in an email. But Diwan cautioned that while the new language may show more religious tolerance towards Judaism, it leaves the ‘political acceptance of Israel in limbo.’ ‘This is consistent with efforts to ease religious intolerance of Jews, incrementally preparing the way should a political decision be made on Israel normalization,’ she said.” [CNN]
👨👧👧 Cult Following: The New Yorker’s Jessica Winter spotlights a new book by Alexander Stille on the Sullivanian Institute, an urban cult co-founded by labor organizer Saul Newton in the 1950s. “As in many places mistaken for heaven, the guy at the top mistook himself for God. Newton’s bulldozing megalomania helped to secure the Sullivanian Institute’s initial success and also insured its collapse. By the nineteen-eighties, Newton and his top therapists had demoniac control over their patients’ sex lives, social lives, how they earned or spent money (much of their income was swallowed up in dues, fines, and ‘assessments’ owed to the institute), and how they raised — or, usually, didn’t raise — their children. The idyllic commune was overrun by snakes and pestilence: financial exploitation, physical and sexual abuse, child neglect, and mushrooming paranoia. In Stille’s view, ‘the Sullivanian Institute encapsulates one of the great themes of the twentieth century: the tendency of utopian projects of social liberation to take a totalitarian turn.’” [NewYorker]
☢️ Radioactive Red Lines: The Financial Times’ Andrew England, Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Felicia Schwartz explore Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon, and efforts by diplomats to stem Tehran’s technological gains. “Israel has stepped up warnings that it will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, fuelling concerns about whether it would risk striking Iran. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his country would ‘do whatever we need to do in order to defend ourselves, with our own forces, against any threat’. ‘Given how advanced Iran’s nuclear programme is, Tehran has very little space to escalate without tripping US and Israeli red lines,’ says Kelsey Davenport, director for non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association. ‘There’s still a chance for workarounds . . . but the risk of miscalculation is growing and it’s going to continue to grow absent moves to de-escalate.’ But exactly what Iran will agree to is the question that has been dogging US and European diplomats as they have renewed discussions.” [FT]
👩⚖️ ‘Judy-Verse’: The New York Times’ Brooks Barnes interviews Judge Judith Sheindlin, known to daytime TV viewers as “Judge Judy,” as she builds what Barnes terms a “mini empire” on Amazon’s streaming service that includes the casting of her son and granddaughter. “‘Judy Justice’ quickly became Freevee’s No. 1 original show, racking up more than 150 million hours watched over two years, according to Amazon, and recently prompting the company to give Judge Sheindlin, 80, two spinoff shows and a fourth unscripted show that is still under wraps. Some people inside Amazon Studios, which is in Culver City, Calif., have been jokingly referring to Judge Sheindlin’s programming expansion as the Judy-Verse, a play on the interconnected stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As she builds a mini empire at Amazon, Judge Sheindlin is also adding to what has become known as the Nepo-Verse. (Insert an irritated roll of her eyes about that sentence.) Nepotism has always been prevalent in Hollywood, but lately the number of actors, directors, singers and reality stars who have benefited from family connections has become startlingly large. New York magazine deemed 2022 ‘the year of the nepo baby.’” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🐦 In the Twittersphere: Insider looks at the return of advertisers to Twitter after Linda Yaccarino’s hiring as CEO, and the subsequent placement of sponsored posts by big brands next to neo-Nazi propaganda.
📽️ Film Review: The Washington Postreviews “Persian Lessons,” a French film about a man who survived the Holocaust by pretending to teach a German officer Farsi.
👨🏫 Harassment in the Hallway: A Jewish middle school teacher in Western Massachusetts resigned in light of administrators’ handling of a sustained antisemitic harassment campaign against him by one of his students.
🧑🎓 CUNY Questions: CUNY Law commencement speakers Fatima Mohammed and Nerdeen Kiswami were the leaders of an April 2022 rally in New York City in which some demonstrators attacked a Jewish counter-protestor.
🕊️ Bronze Bird: A Uruguayan sculptor will melt down a 700-pound bronze eagle that previously adorned a Nazi warship, using the material to create a dove, following a lengthy court case.
🎬 Gal’s New Gig: Netflix released the trailer for “Heart of Stone,” a spy thriller starring Gal Gadot.
🇮🇱🇵🇸 Peace Proposal: Recently declassified documents reveal that in 2000, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to relinquish sovereignty over parts of the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, in response to then-U.S. President Bill Clinton’s proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
🛫 Dashed Hopes: Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said that direct flights between Israel and Mecca won’t happen for this year’s hajj pilgrimage, but expressed hope that the flights could take place next year.
🌞 Sunny Source: New Israeli non-residential construction will be required to have solar panels installed, as the country works to get 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
🌊 On the Missing Sub: Hamish Harding, the founder and chairman of the UAE-based Action Aviation, is among those on a submersible in the North Atlantic that has lost contact with its operator while on an expedition to visit the Titanic wreckage.
Pic of the Day
A delegation of former national security officials, former combat veterans and policy experts from the U.S. and Israel convened by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies met with senior Taiwanese officials in Taipei during a two-city trip that also included meetings in Tokyo.
The delegation met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and discussed Taiwan’s upcoming lengthening of its military conscription. Former Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger, who heads FDD’s China program, described to Tsai — in Mandarin — Israel’s military conscription. “In Israel, young men and women participate in compulsory military service. They train frequently and realistically as reservists,” he said. “And they maintain robust civil defense capabilities. Military service is held in the highest esteem across Israeli society. Men and women compete to serve in the most elite units the way Americans compete to enter Ivy League schools. And soldiers acquire leadership and technical skills that enrich Israel’s economy and prosperous technology sector.”
Governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro turns 50…
Weston, Fla., resident, Harold Kurte… Author of 72 books, Dan Greenburg turns 87… Former member of Knesset for the Ratz party, Ran Cohen turns 86… Owner of Schulman Small Business Services in Atlanta, Alan Schulman… Detroit-based pawnbroker, reality TV star, author and speaker, Leslie “Les” Gold turns 73… Chef, baker and author of eight books, she popularized sourdough and artisan breads in the U.S., Nancy Silverton turns 69… Host of Bully Pulpit from Booksmart Studios, Bob Garfield turns 68… Former assistant managing editor for politics at NBC News, now an adjunct professor at the University of Florida and FIU, Gregg Birnbaum… Federation leader, founder of Brilliant Detroit (helping children out of poverty) and of Riverstone Communities (owns and operates over 70 manufactured housing communities in 12 states), James Bellinson… EVP of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Moshe Hauer turns 58… Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and rabbi at Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Bergenfield, N.J., Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky turns 58… Israeli-American screenwriter, film director and producer of 20 films, Boaz Yakin turns 57… Senior legal affairs contributor at Politico, Josh Gerstein… U.S. Sen. Eric Stephen Schmitt (R-MO) turns 48… Singer, songwriter and hazzan, he is a co-founder of the band Moshav, Yehuda Solomon turns 46… Program director of civic initiatives at The Teagle Foundation, Tamara Mann Tweel, Ph.D…. Israeli author of crime and thriller books, Mike Omer turns 44… Journalist, blogger and EMT in NYC, Maggie Shnayerson turns 42… Director of brand strategy and digital innovation at Kivvit, Pearl Gabel… Deputy communications director in the Trump White House, now at Hiltzik Strategies and Blumhouse, Josh Raffel… Jennifer Bernstein… Valeria Bystritskaia Mowbray… Supervising producer at HardPin, Sara Pearl Kenigsberg… Writer, director, comedian, YouTuber, podcaster and mental health advocate, Allison Beth Raskin turns 34… Team captain of Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Basketball Premier League and the EuroLeague, John DiBartolomeo turns 32… Chief campus officer at Hillel Ontario, Beverley Shimansky… Director of corporate governance at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Jaime Reich…