👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to officials in Georgia about the effort to pass antisemitism legislation in the Peach State, and take a closer look at Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester’s voting record following her entry into Delaware’s Senate race. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Molly Gordon, Susan Glasser and David Corenswet.
Expect a lot of developments on the Senate landscape next month, as candidates prepare to announce publicly what they’ve been preparing for privately over the last several months.
Two leading GOP candidates are expected to jump into battleground Senate races in July: businessman David McCormick in Pennsylvania (for the seat currently held by Sen. Bob Casey) and Army veteran Sam Brown in Nevada (where the GOP nominee will face off against Sen. Jacky Rosen), according to sources familiar with their decision-making.
Both candidates are viewed favorably by national Republican officials, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And both races are in the second-tier of top Senate contests — Democratic-tilting battlegrounds with solid candidates, but where the possibility of former President Donald Trump at the top ticket could stunt the GOP’s chances.
Rosen, serving her first term as senator, is one of the most stalwart supporters of Israel among Democratic lawmakers — and has already secured an endorsement from AIPAC’s political action committee.
McCormick, as a mainstream Republican, has strong support from Jewish Republicans — and his candidacy would turn the Pennsylvania Senate race into a top priority for groups such as the Republican Jewish Coalition. He’s set to take the stage this afternoon at the Aspen Ideas Festival, discussing his recently released book, Superpower in Peril: A Battle Plan to Renew America, with businessman Tom Pritzker.
Earlier this week, Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL) led 18 fellow House members on a letter arguing that discussion of Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program is “premature as Israel’s treatment of certain American citizens at its borders raises serious questions about its ability to meet the most basic program requirement, reciprocity.”
Among the signatories to the letter is freshman Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC), who was backed by nearly $300,000 in spending from AIPAC’s super PAC in her primary race against an outspoken critic of Israel. AIPAC has been advocating for Israel’s entry into the program this year. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL), another freshman lawmaker, joined the group of frequent critics of Israeli policy in signing onto the letter.
Jackson said in a Zoom event yesterday hosted by the Arab American Institute, “I’ve been to the Middle East, I’ve gone to the West Bank. I’ve seen the atrocious conditions. I’ve taken this case to AIPAC, to J Street. I’m unapologetic. I’ve been given blowback and I stand firmly with you all’s right to self-determination and for your respect that you are due.”
peach state priorities
Ga. antisemitism bill in spotlight after neo-Nazi demonstrations
After a week that saw neo-Nazis threaten two Georgia synagogues, draft legislation seeking to help law enforcement combat antisemitism has again come to the forefront in the Peach State, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The measure, which would formally adopt the widely used International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in the state’s hate crimes statute, stalled in the state Senate this spring after passing the House.
Think twice: “If they knew there was a consequence that any crime they commit would be enhanced under the hate crime statute, maybe they’ll think twice,” state Rep. Esther Panitch, a Sandy Springs Democrat and the Statehouse’s only Jewish lawmaker, said of the neo-Nazi demonstrators.
Moving target: The bill’s backers in the House overcame objections from some on the left who feared that codifying the IHRA definition — which views some critiques of Israel as antisemitism — would stifle the speech of pro-Palestinian activists. But the General Assembly’s legislative session ended in March with no further action and no clues from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp as to his position on the bipartisan legislation. In an interview with JI in early June after he returned from Israel, Kemp said he “wouldn’t want to speak to something I haven’t seen right now.”
No updates: A spokesperson for Kemp told JI on Tuesday that his position has not changed following the neo-Nazi incidents. “We don’t have any updates regarding that,” said Garrison Douglas, Kemp’s press secretary. “That’ll be up to the Assembly to go through that process and go through that entire thing, and we’ll see what comes of it.”
Carper’s retirement could send McCollum bill supporter to the Senate
Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-DE) retirement, announced last month, is set to prompt a political reshuffling in Delaware, with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) seen as a strong favorite to succeed Carper in the Senate. Her election would make her one of the few Black women to ever serve in the Senate, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Of note: Blunt Rochester’s likely ascension — she’s backed by Carper, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President Joe Biden in a deeply Democratic state — would also bring her support of Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) legislation seeking to restrict U.S. aid to Israel to the Senate, adding to that of Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT).
Community view: David Margules, a member of Delaware’s pro-Israel community who has known Blunt Rochester for around three decades and was an early supporter of her first congressional campaign, told JI that, even when he has disagreed with measures Blunt Rochester has supported, she has remained open and communicative. “She will call things as she sees them, but she also has been very, very good about hearing people out on things, listening, and also very honest about issues and how she feels about them,” Margules said. “There have been a number of occasions where she was considering signing onto something that she knew that I might have a headache over, and she or her staff would call up in advance, tell us what she’s thinking, and want to hear what we have to say about it, and they’d take it into consideration.”
Legislative record: Blunt Rochester has also co-sponsored legislation opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement; supporting the expansion of the Abraham Accords; advancing a range of cooperative military programs with Israel; and backing health technology and PTSD research collaboration with Israel. She has voted in favor of recent pro-Israel bills and resolutions. “I don’t have concerns in the sense that she has been an absolutely rock-solid supporter of Israel’s security interests and U.S. support for Israel,” Margules said.
Netanyahu tells WSJ that contentious clause in judicial reform plan is ‘out’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the contentious override clause of his government’s judicial reform plan “is out,” in an interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Dov Lieber published this morning. The proposed clause would have allowed a simple majority of 61 Knesset members to strike down a Supreme Court ruling.
Additional revisions: “And it’s very clear that the way of choosing judges is not going to be the current structure, but it’s not going to be the original structure,” Netanyahu added, referring to the makeup of the Judicial Appointments Committee that appoints judges, which the government has been pushing to consist of a majority of coalition members.
Invitation issue: Asked about the absence of an invitation from President Joe Biden for Netanyahu to visit the White House, Netanyahu described a “close friendship” with Biden, despite frequent disagreements. “This issue of an invitation clouds people’s views and actually their knowledge of what is happening with our two governments and in fact the security cooperation, military cooperation and the intel cooperation, including cyber, is stronger than it’s ever been under our two governments,” Netanyahu said. “I may not go to Washington but Washington is coming here with a steady flow…” Netanyahu informed members of Congress who visited Jerusalem this week that he is set to visit China soon. Meanwhile, Israeli President Isaac Herzog is scheduled to visit the White House next month and is set to address a joint session of Congress on July 19.
On the Russia-Ukraine war: Netanyahu described the growing military relationship between Moscow and Tehran as “very disturbing” and noted that Israel had conveyed its concerns to Russia. Addressing Israel’s resistance to providing Iron Domes to Ukraine to help it defend itself against the Russian invasion, Netanyahu said, “If that system were to fall into the hands of Iran, then millions of Israelis would be left defenseless and imperiled.”
📁 Setting the Stage: The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser reflects on how former President Donald Trump’s clashes with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the subject of two recent books, led to the eventual discovery that the former president had held onto classified documents about a potential strike on Iran. “One thing the books did not reveal was Milley’s concern throughout the volatile post-election period that Trump might escalate a confrontation with Iran. I learned about this as part of my reporting for ‘The Divider,’ a book on Trump’s [p]residency I was working on with my husband, Peter Baker of the Times, and decided to publish the information then, given its relevance to the new disclosures about the Trump-Milley rift. The resulting July 15, 2021, piece described repeated meetings after the election, during which Milley objected to the prospect of strikes, which were being pressed on Trump by a circle of Iran hawks around the President as well as by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Milley even flew to Israel to have a meeting with him, at his home in Jerusalem, to urge him to back off. ‘If you do this, you’re gonna have a fucking war,’ Milley told Netanyahu. Iran was in fact the subject of the final meeting Milley had with Trump, on January 3, 2021, when the chairman and other national-security advisers were summoned to the Oval Office on a Sunday afternoon to debate the matter one last time.” [NewYorker]
🇺🇸 Carter Callback: In The Wall Street Journal, the Hudson Institute’s Mike Watson cautions that the Biden administration’s approach to Israel and the broader Middle East appears to mimic the blueprint used by former President Jimmy Carter. “Mr. Biden is in danger of repeating the mistakes of the Carter years, and the Palestinians would be the biggest losers. Having grown disenchanted with Henry Kissinger’s security-focused, incremental approach to Arab-Israeli negotiations, Mr. Carter decided to try for a comprehensive peace with all of Israel’s neighbors. Rather than slog toward a settlement with the Palestinians, Soviets, and Syrians, leaders in Egypt and Israel sidestepped the White House peace effort and instead pursued a bilateral agreement. Egypt got the Sinai, Israel got peace, Mr. Carter got a photo-op for hosting the final round of talks, and the Palestinians got nothing.” [WSJ]
⭐ Rising Star: The New York Times’ Alexis Soloski interviews actress Molly Gordon, who stars in the second season of “The Bear,” which came out last week. “A career on camera — and more recently, behind it — is Gordon’s birthright, more or less. The only child of the director Bryan Gordon and the writer and director Jessie Nelson, she grew up in Los Angeles, a precocious presence on her parents’ sets and at their dinner parties. She began acting as a toddler, participating in a neighborhood children’s studio, the Adderley School, where she met the actor Ben Platt… Eventually, a Gordon type emerged: poised young women who could also express some kindness, some vulnerability. She seems to have come by that poise honestly, though as Platt said, the offscreen Gordon is more self-effacing and silly and neurotic. ‘She often plays very cool characters,’ Platt said. ‘She is a lot more funny and Jewish than that.’” [NYTimes]
📽️ Behind the Scenes:New Lines Magazine’s Jonathan Rosenbaum spotlights Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was briefly imprisoned for his work in 2010 and remains unable to travel outside the Islamic republic more than a decade later, though he continues to make movies. “In a 2016 documentary short called ‘Where Are You, Jafar Panahi?’ we follow Panahi as he drives a colleague to visit [the late Iranian filmmaker Abbas] Kiarostami’s grave on the outskirts of Tehran while recounting how all his pre-arrest films describe Iranian society as he saw it, out on the streets, but all his post-arrest films can describe only his own situation, removed from that society. This explains, in a nutshell, why his earlier, ignored features have more lasting value than his recent ones, however much the recent ones testify to Panahi’s resilience and ingenuity. To appreciate his earlier works, one needs to understand non-Western societies, where being able to smoke a cigarette if you’re female has a different significance than in the West; where dress codes for women are enforced — sometimes brutally — by the authorities; and where laws governing marriage and divorce impose strictures on women. But ignoring these matters makes it much easier to identify with Panahi not as a social analyst or critic but as a martyr.” [NewLines]
Around the Web
🔥 Regional Repercussions: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said the U.S. has communicated to Israel that the uptick in violence in the West Bank has complicated efforts to expand the Abraham Accords to other Arab countries.
🤐 Secrets Spilled: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed concern to his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, that Israel is leaking information about the U.S.’ ongoing talks with Iran.
🌊 Task Force Talk: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said that the Joint Task Force lacks both speed and “a common goal in the future.”
🗳️ Montana Moves: Politicolooks at how Senate Republicans are getting involved in Montana’s GOP Senate primary, following the entry into the race of businessman Tim Sheehy, who is backed by the party’s campaign arm, and the possible candidacy of Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT).
🗽 Jeffries’ Journey: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) is expanding his efforts to bolster Democratic gains in his native New York, deputizing members of the state’s House delegation to oversee local political operations.
💬 Torres’ Retort: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) decried the “demonic double standard” against Israel in response to a tweet from the Democratic Socialists of America’s Palestinian working group that argued that no Israelis are civilians.
🎓 Campus Beat: Brandeis University is facing criticism for a double-page ad it took out in The New York Times Magazine proclaiming “Brandeis was founded by Jews. But, it’s anything but orthodox.”
🦸♂️ Jewish Superman: Rolling Stone spotlights David Corenswet, the first Jewish actor cast to play Superman.
🎸 At Home With The Sternbergs: The New Yorkervisits the home of singer-songwriter Joanna Sternberg.
🥯 A Hole List: Bon Appétit names the best bagels to be found outside of New York.
🕊️ Dove Debate: Efforts in Uruguay to recast a WWII-era German bronze eagle into a dove are facing pushback from activists and politicians who argue that the artifact, which was rescued from a shipwreck, is a piece of history.
🇩🇪 Antisemitism in Germany: Germany’s Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism documented nearly 2,500 antisemitic incidents in the country last year, including nine instances of “extreme violence,” including three that are being investigated for potential links to Iran.
🇫🇷 Peril in Paris: Scores of people were arrested following violent protests in France overnight, following the killing of a 17-year-old by a French police officer.
⚽ Soccer Punch: Israel’s Under-21 soccer team qualified for the European Championship quarterfinals after beating the Czech Republic 1-0 with a goal in the 82nd minute of play.
🪖 AI Army: The IDF’s information technology and cyber commander, speaking at the Tel Aviv University Cyber Week Conference, predicted that the army would operate in “every area of warfare” using artificial intelligence within a few years.
🕵️♂️ Ben-Gvir Task Force: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former MK Yair Golan are being investigated by a task force set up by Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir over their calls for resistance against the government’s judicial reform proposals.
🇪🇺 Staying In Place: European Union officials told Iran that they plan to keep in place sanctions on the Islamic republic that are set to expire later this year.
🚑 Shooting in Saudi: A U.S. consulate guard was killed in a shooting incident in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, yesterday; the assailant was killed in an exchange of fire with security forces.
🇸🇦 Saudi Stalling: Riyadh has not yet committed to allowing Israeli officials into the country for the upcoming World Heritage Committee slated for September.
Pic of the Day
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (center) and her family meet with the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Former attorney general of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit turns 60…
Baltimore-area gastroenterologist, he is an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Marshall Bedine, M.D…. Stand-up comedian and actor who has appeared in 40 episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Richard Philip Lewis turns 76… Chairman of Carnival Corporation and owner of the NBA’s Miami Heat, Micky Arison turns 74… Rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Brisk in Jerusalem, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Soloveitchik turns 74… Resident of both D.C. and Arizona, Helene Carol Resnick Kahan… Former assistant surgeon general of the U.S. and deputy assistant secretary of HHS for women’s health, Susan Jane Blumenthal, M.D. turns 71… Former SVP and counsel at L Brands for almost 30 years, Bruce A. Soll… CEO of four firms including MajorGiftsNow, Joshua Karlin… Israeli actress, screenwriter, playwright and film director, Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari turns 63… Founder and president of Medallion Financial Corp., Andrew Murstein turns 59… Screenwriter, director and producer, he has won nine Emmy Awards for his work on AMC’s “Mad Men” and HBO’s “The Sopranos,” Matthew Hoffman Weiner turns 58…
Senior rabbi of Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation, Rabbi Steven C. Wernick turns 56… Theatre, film and television screenwriter, his credits include the 2017 film “Wonder Woman,” Allan Heinberg turns 56… Israeli political consultant and former chief of staff to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ari Harow turns 50… Consultant, facilitator, trainer and coach, Nanette Rochelle Fridman… Rabbi of The Young Israel of Bal Harbour, Gidon Moskovitz… Film director and writer, Gillian Robespierre turns 45… Former member of the U.K. Parliament for the Labour party, she is now a member of the House of Lords, Baroness Ruth Smeeth turns 44… Israeli actor and model, Yehuda Levi turns 44… President and dean of Phoenix-based Valley Beit Midrash, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz… Partner at FGS Global, Andrew Duberstein… Pitcher in the New York Mets organization, he pitched for Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Charles Irvin “Bubby” Rossman turns 31… Campaign finance consultant, David Wolf… Steven Kohn… Sara Sansone… Fred Gruber…