👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on an Arizona congressional candidate who previously voted against statewide antisemitism legislation, and scoop the bipartisan push on Capitol Hill for increased funding for a joint U.S.-Israel international development program. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Gabe Amo, Dr. Rachel Brem and John Bolton.
Former Vice President Mike Pence will kick off his presidential campaign in Iowa today, as he tries to recreate a traditional coalition of conservatives to topple his old boss, former President Donald Trump. Minutes ago, Pence released his first campaign video, titled “Best Days,” which includes an image of the former VP with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the 32-second mark, as well as video of Iran firing a rocket.
Pence — who is celebrating his 64th birthday today — faces tough odds in a Republican primary: While he maintains goodwill with evangelical voters and establishment-oriented Republicans, the most loyal Trump supporters view him negatively after he lived up to his constitutional duty and certified the 2020 election results.
As a more traditional GOP candidate, he also faces stiff competition from Republican rivals with similar worldviews — including former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who launched his campaign yesterday.
Iowa is a critical state for the former vice president, given its concentration of religious conservative voters that make up his political base. Pence attended Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) Roast and Ride event in Des Moines last Saturday — and was the only presidential candidate to ride a motorcycle with Ernst.
Earlier this week, Pence attended the Chabad of Indiana’s gala dinner to celebrate Chabad activities and to honor the family of the late Jill and Irwin Rose.
If you were in Washington last night, the odds are good that you were at the Israeli Embassy’s Yom Ha’atzmaut party at the National Building Museum. (No spotted list, but don’t worry, we saw you all there.) Roughly 2,000 attendees packed the venue, where they mingled with senators, members of Congress and administration officials and noshed on a variety of Israeli and regional foods and desserts, including beef kofte, fish kebabs, chicken pastilla, vegan mushroom shawarma and several varieties of baklava and rugelach.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was in attendance with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, addressed the crowd as the administration’s representative at the event, which also featured remarks from Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog and TikTok influencer Montana Tucker, and video remarks from Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
Harris reiterated the administration’s support for a two-state solution and to fighting antisemitism, quoting from the recently released national strategy on antisemitism, and praised Israeli technological innovations. She also made brief mention of efforts in Israel to reform the country’s judiciary. “Under President Joe Biden and our administration, America will continue to stand up for the values that have been the bedrock of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which includes continuing to strengthen our democracies, which, as [Ambassador Herzog] has said, are both built on strong institutions, checks and balances, and, I’ll add, an independent judiciary,” Harris said, to cheers from some in the crowd.
In her remarks, Harris also pledged that “the commitment of the United States… to Israel’s security will remain unwavering” and that the U.S. will work to “continue to build on Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and on Israel’s historic agreements with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco… to support Israel’s normalization with countries in the region and beyond.”
Among those in the audience for Harris’ speech: Israeli MK Simcha Rothman, a leading proponent of the judicial reform efforts, who has been in the U.S. for the past several days. Rothman requested a last-minute invitation to the gala, according to the embassy.
Responding to Harris’ remarks this morning, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s public broadcaster, “If we were to ask Kamala Harris what bothers her about the reform, she wouldn’t be able to name a single clause.”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides responded to Cohen’s comments, noting that Harris’ presence at the celebration “speaks for itself about the relationship of the two countries.” Nides said he has “respect for FM Cohen, but [Harris] said things the administration says [at] every opportunity regarding the shared values and policies. Harris is a strong supporter of Israel.”
Phoenix congressional candidate Raquel Terán faces scrutiny for voting record on antisemitism
A leading candidate for a coveted open House seat in Phoenix is facing increased scrutiny from Jewish community leaders for her recent opposition to an antisemitism reporting bill that was overwhelmingly approved by Arizona’s state legislature last year. Raquel Terán, a progressive activist and former state lawmaker running to succeed outgoing Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), was among nine Democratic state senators who voted against legislation requiring that Arizona’s Department of Public Safety collect information on criminal offenses motivated by antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Community concerns: Terán, who led the state Democratic Party before launching her House campaign two months ago, has not publicly explained her decision to oppose the legislation, even as she had previously voted in favor of a similar bill that ultimately stalled in the upper chamber. Now that she is seeking higher office amid a sharp uptick in antisemitic incidents — which the Biden administration is seeking to address at the federal level — some Jewish activists in Arizona are voicing skepticism of Terán’s broader commitment to the Jewish community’s ongoing concerns.
Voting record: “I do not consider her a friend to the Jewish community and have never heard her stand up for our community,” state Rep. Alma Hernandez, a Jewish Democrat in Tucson who served with Terán in the state legislature, told JI in a bluntly worded assessment on Monday. “When she had the opportunity to vote with our community to protect Arizona Jews from being targeted, she voted against it.”
Read the full story here.
Frankel, Wilson introduce legislation to reauthorize, expand U.S.-Israel development program
Reps. Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) are set to introduce legislation today to reauthorize and push for increased funding for a joint U.S.-Israel international development program, as well as seek opportunities for bringing Abraham Accords nations into such partnerships, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
In the bill: The collaborative program between the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) supports development and sustainability programs in developing countries. Since its establishment in 2019, the program has supported projects in Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America in areas including agricultural technology and education. The new bill would reauthorize the program, currently set to expire this year, through 2026 and propose doubling funding for it from $2 million to $4 million annually. It would also require USAID to report to Congress on the prospects for including Arab regional partners in new development projects.
Why it matters: “Not only does [the program] strengthen the countries where the work is being done, but also it fosters good will,” Frankel told JI. She added that the program, which shares Israeli technological advances with the world, helps spread “goodwill” for Israel and can potentially fight antisemitism. Bringing Abraham Accords’ allies into the program, she continued, “increase[s] the normalization, but it [also] could be a segue to other types of relationships… When people get to work [with] and know each other, it fosters and grows a friendship, which can lead, obviously, to other benefits.”
one to watch
Rhode Island Democrat looks to parlay high-profile connections towards a seat in Congress
When seven-term Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) announced that he was retiring from Congress in the middle of his term — he formally stepped down last week to run a nonprofit — politicians and activists from across his heavily blue district pounced. Of the 15 declared candidates in the race, seven currently hold office in Rhode Island. Three others have run for office in the past. But one of the newcomers to watch, according to political insiders in Rhode Island, is Gabe Amo, a first-time candidate who resigned from a position at the Biden White House to return to his home state and run for Congress, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Throughline: Amo, 35, grew up in working-class Pawtucket and has worked in politics — both in Rhode Island and Washington — his whole career. The son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants, he traces his passion for civics to helping his mother study for her citizenship test when he was a child. From there, it was a relatively straight line from high school student government to campaign staffer, and now from White House aide to congressional candidate. “That’s all been part of my commitment to helping people,” Amo told JI in a recent interview.
Political capital: Amo’s pitch to voters leans heavily on his ties to the Biden administration. In part, he is arguing that President Joe Biden has good ideas and a strong track record — and that Amo was a part of that success in his role as a special assistant to the president, and that he knows how to bring similar successes to Rhode Island. This is Amo’s message on foreign policy, too: look to the Biden White House and let them take the lead.
Israel answers: “We should speak with one voice and and support the president and the administration as they lead our engagement in the region,” Amo said, when asked what role he thinks Congress should play with respect to the U.S.-Israel relationship. He declined to elaborate on how Congress should approach Israel, but when asked whether he would support U.S. military assistance to Israel, Amo said yes. He also said he is “not supportive” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
The Washington doctors helping women navigate breast cancer
One in eight American women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. That ominous fact opens Dr. Rachel Brem and Dr. Christy Teal’s new book, No Longer Radical: Understanding Mastectomies and Choosing the Breast Cancer Care That’s Right for You. Despite the disheartening statistic, Brem and Teal’s 307-page guide to all things breast cancer was not meant to evoke fear. Rather, it’s a resource to help women understand all of their options as they navigate an incredibly difficult time in their life, Brem and Teal — who have personal histories with breast cancer themselves — explained in interviews with Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel.
Filling a void: “When I saw my ultrasound, I knew what it was,” Brem, 64, told Jewish Insider last month ahead of the book’s launch. In a twist of fate, Brem discovered her own breast cancer while testing new ultrasound equipment at the hospital. “My emotional response to that was, I feel so sorry for all the women who are in these shoes, you know, [who] find out they have breast cancer and don’t have the vast experience and intricate knowledge of the literature that I do. So [No Longer Radical] was written to try to fill that void.”
Knowing your options: Decisions such as whether or not to get a mastectomy, which type, or opting instead for a lumpectomy or other treatment, are all explored at length in the book. Yet, the duo makes clear they are not trying to push readers into a specific course of care. “We’re not pro-mastectomy. We are pro-educating and telling patients what their options are, and just having a conversation and a discussion. Ultimately, it should be the patient’s choice,” Teal, 56, told JI.
🌎 Bolton on Biden: In The Wall Street Journal, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the G.W. Bush administration, suggests that the Biden administration support its Mideast allies and slow its efforts to reach a new nuclear agreement with Iran. “During Mr. Biden’s term, America’s resistance to Iran’s proliferation and terrorism has become ineffective. The president couldn’t have more thoroughly alarmed and alienated the Gulf Arab states and Israel if he had planned it. The White House convinced regional allies that Mr. Biden was effectively abandoning them and empowering their enemies by ignoring concerns about the failed nuclear deal and the effect of ending sanctions… These tectonic developments augur impending strategic failure for America and its key allies. Instead of trying to second-guess and undercut a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program, the White House should prepare for what happens after Ayatollah Khamenei is called to his maker. Waiting for the ayatollah’s end before we begin planning could forfeit the opportunity. Iran has only had two supreme leaders. This is our chance to make sure there isn’t a third.” [WSJ]
👀 A New Neighborhood: The New York Times’ Tom Friedman reflects on his recent trip to the Middle East, which saw him spend time in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel. “This journey was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in a region that has long been my second home, and it allowed me to grasp something quite remarkable: how onetime enemies and rivals across the Middle East are on the cusp of becoming so much more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. It’s creating previously unthinkable partnerships, as well as huge internal stresses, as people in the neighborhood are trying to figure out just how modern, secular, open, entwined — and democratic — they want to be. No two countries exemplify this moment better than America’s two most important Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both are simultaneously undergoing fundamental internal struggles over their identities. The relationship between religious authorities and the state — as well as the very legal, social and economic rules of the game — in both Saudi Arabia and Israel has never been more up for grabs since each country’s founding.” [NYTimes]
⚖️ Court Qualms: In The Hill, Andrew Tucker, Gregory Rose and David Benger caution against the politicization of the International Court of Justice, following the passage of a U.N. resolution backing the PLO’s efforts to bring sanctions against Israel through the ICJ. “First, the ICJ has no jurisdiction to hear this case, because the General Assembly had no right to request the opinion. Under Article 12 of the UN Charter, only the UN Security Council can make such a request, as this dispute is assigned to it exclusively. Second, the resolution completely ignores and in fact undermines the Oslo Accords, which the General Assembly endorsed a quarter century ago when they were brokered by President Bill Clinton and signed voluntarily by the Palestinian and Israeli leadership… Third, the resolution requesting the ICJ opinion is full of factual allegations that are simply untrue, and which the ICJ does not have the capacity to interrogate in any case. For example, the resolution presumes that Israel has taken ‘measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.’ The ICJ has no investigators to examine the veracity of such an assumed ‘fact,’ whose uncritical acceptance would undermine fundamental principles of the rule of law.” [TheHill]
🤔 Republican Reflections: In Real Clear Politics, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus calls on conservatives to reconsider their strategies following last year’s GOP showing in the midterms. “Change at the margins is not enough – not with inflation at 50-year highs; rampant crime in our streets; military preparedness and our children’s education compromised at the altar of wokeness; social experimentation occurring in our schools without parental knowledge; protection of our southern border having collapsed; government and large corporations coordinating censorship of certain viewpoints; and weaponization of the Department of Justice and FBI. Against this backdrop, it is stunning that Republicans were unable to win a majority in the Senate and only able to win a slim majority in the House in last year’s midterms. This must serve as a wake-up call to conservative donors that we need to do things differently going forward. Fortunately, a growing number of conservative donors now realize this and are asking the appropriate questions: ‘Where did Republicans fall short in the midterms;’ ‘Are there more effective strategies than those we now use;’ and ‘Are there more effective consultants and organizations than those we currently fund?’” [RealClearPolitics]
Around the Web
🇺🇸🇸🇦 Meeting Readout: Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met for an hour and 40 minutes in Jeddah early Wednesday morning, in what a U.S. official described as an “open, candid” conversation that touched on potential Israel-Saudi normalization and other regional challenges.
📝 Cabinet Call: White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients is asking members of the Cabinet to tender their resignations in the coming months if they plan to leave, as President Joe Biden gears up for his reelection campaign.
⛳ Linking Up: The PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf announced a merger, as Riyadh steps up its efforts to become a major player in global sports.
🚫 New Sanctions: The Treasury Department announced sanctions on more than a dozen individuals in Iran, China and Hong Kong accused of aiding Tehran in its efforts to procure materials critical to its ballistic missile development.
✡️ Backing Lipstadt: The State Department stood by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt’s criticism of Roger Waters’ recent concert in Berlin, during which he engaged in Holocaust distortion and donned a Nazi uniform, saying the performance was “deeply offensive to Jewish people” and noting Waters’ “long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people.”
👨⚖️ Santos Saga: Rep. George Santos’ (R-NY) request to keep the names of his bail guarantors private was rejected by a federal judge in Long Island, who gave the embattled congressman time to appeal the ruling before the names are made public.
😟 Tar Heel Trouble: North Carolina Republicans are raising concerns that Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the GOP frontrunner in the state’s gubernatorial race, is alienating suburban and independent voters with controversial statements and a checkered personal and professional background.
🎭 Theater Circuit:The New York Times interviews stage actress Miriam Silverman, one of the stars of the Broadway revival of “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.”
🤝 Land Deal: The Associated Press reports on the recent leasing of 25% of Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter to an Israeli-Australian investor, authorized by a since-defrocked priest now living in self-exile in California.
🛂 Passport Control: The Israeli government is preparing legislation that would force new immigrants to prove residency in Israel for one year before obtaining an Israeli passport.
🏥 Tragic Death: A Palestinian toddler died from wounds sustained in a firefight last Thursday between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen near the Neveh Tzuf settlement in the West Bank.
🌊 On the Water: Iran has held a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker for more than a month, following an interception of the vessel by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ naval forces in the Arabian Gulf in early May.
🚢 Rerouting: Semaforlooks at how Iran is routing weapons shipments to Russia through the Caspian Sea, whose bordering countries have shown a reluctance to allow American and NATO forces to operate in the waters.
☢️ In Defense: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency defended the nuclear watchdog’s work in Iran following criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after investigators ended one of their inquiries in the Islamic republic.
Pic of the Day
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft gives the keynote speech at United Hatzalah’s fourth annual New York gala last night in Manhattan.
Kraft began his keynote address with an excerpt from the coming weekend’s Torah portion, Beha’alotecha — which he recited, with trope, from memory of his own bar mitzvah, to the excitement of the audience of 1,000 attendees, who collectively pledged upwards of $5 million to the organization during the gala. Read more here.
One-half of the Arab-Jewish electronic music duo Chromeo, David “Dave 1” Macklovitch turns 45…
Chicago- and Aspen-based businessman and philanthropist with large stakes in Maytag, Hilton Hotels, the New York Yankees and the Chicago Bulls, Lester Crown turns 98… Rehoboth Beach, Del., resident, Dennis B. Berlin… Former five-term Democratic congressman from California, he now serves as counsel in the Century City office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Mel Levine turns 80… Professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, and author of 25 books, Deborah Tannen turns 78… Epidemiologist, toxicologist and author of three books about environmental hazards, Devra Davis turns 77… Deputy secretary of state of the U.S., Wendy Ruth Sherman turns 74… Senior advisor in the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. State Department, Hillel Weinberg… President of Shenkar design and engineering college in Israel, he is a grandson of former Israeli PM Levi Eshkol, Sheizaf Rafaeli turns 68… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-PA), Susan Ellis Wild turns 66… Former vice president of the United States, Mike Pence turns 64… Jerusalem resident, Deborah Lee Renert… U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York, Jesse Matthew Furman turns 51… U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) turns 51… Brooklyn rapper better known by his stage name Necro, Ron Raphael Braunstein turns 47…Israeli actress, singer and pianist, Ania Bukstein turns 41… Director of voice, creativity and culture at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Isaac Luria… Editor of The New York Review of Books, Emily S. Greenhouse… Actress and model, Emily Ratajkowski turns 32… Canadian ice hockey forward, currently playing with Mountfield HK in the Czech Extraliga, Ethan Werek turns 32… Andrea Gonzales…