👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the White House’s rollout of its antisemitism strategy and how officials appear to be steering clear of the Jewish state, and spotlight the Republican Senate primary in Montana following the entry of businessman and former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Michael McCaul, Asher Fredman and Shira Haas.
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said yesterday in a virtual event with the Jewish Democratic Council of America that President Joe Biden “has been very clear” with top advisors about his interest in pursuing Saudi-Israeli normalization. “I think ultimately the president has to be willing to expend some political capital to try to see if there’s an opportunity to get this done,” Nides said. “It would be a game-changer, no question about it.”
Nides also insisted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will receive an invitation to the White House. “I have no doubt that he’ll be coming. I don’t know when — that will be the decision of the White House — but ultimately he’ll be coming, and the president and prime minister have a very, very strong relationship.”
Nides predicted that the Israeli governing coalition will not implement the entire judicial reform proposal unilaterally, which he said would prompt a “dramatic” reaction in Israel. “In my humble view, this was never the prime minister’s major objective in becoming the prime minister. Now his coalition partners have a different objective, but I think he himself, he wants to do big things, he wants to focus on Iran, he wants to focus on normalizing with Saudi Arabia,” Nides added.
This morning in Colorado, attendees at the Aspen Ideas Festival will hear from panelists debating the business world’s approach to environmental, social and corporate governance, more commonly known as ESG. The session comes days after BlackRock CEO Larry Fink told attendees at the confab that he was “ashamed” to be a part of the debate over ESG, which, he said, has become politically “weaponized.” Fink tried to distance himself from the term itself, saying, “I’m not going to use the word ESG because it’s been misused by the far left and the far right.”
This afternoon, the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, who was imprisoned in Iran for a year and a half and charged with espionage, will speak on a panel on hostage diplomacy alongside Roger Carstens, the State Department’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, among others.
In rollout of antisemitism strategy, the White House steers clear of the Jewish state
In a Tuesday Aspen Ideas Festival event touting the Biden administration’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall condemned the neo-Nazis who flew swastika flags outside synagogues in Georgia last weekend and criticized former President Donald Trump for his comments after the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. The nearly hour-long conversation did not mention or touch on one issue that, despite its appearance in the 60-page strategy, has been absent from White House public messaging on the document: Israel, and the ways that anti-Zionism can translate into antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Strategy roundtable: After the Aspen panel, Emhoff and Sherwood-Randall participated in a roundtable with faith leaders, philanthropists and activists about the White House strategy. One participant told JI that while Emhoff and Sherwood-Randall did not speak about Israel, multiple attendees mentioned anti-Zionism, particularly as it plays out among college and high school students.
Unanswered question: In an interview last week with JI, a senior White House official who worked on the strategy declined to share how matters related to anti-Zionism would be handled in the strategy’s implementation in the coming year. “How long is the report? There’s a lot in there on all of this,” said the official. “We refer you to the text.”
No comment: The White House official also did not say whether it was concerned about, or aware of, a May incident at the City University of New York Law School in which a student commencement speaker attacked Israel and Zionism. The official pointed to a letter that the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for civil rights sent to college administrators across the country last month, alerting them to “nationwide rise in reports of antisemitic harassment, including in schools.”
on the treasure trail
Montana Senate race to test influence of GOP establishment in key battleground state
The battle for a key Senate seat in Montana appears to be headed for a bitter primary clash between a hard-right congressional firebrand and a political newcomer handpicked by GOP leadership. Tim Sheehy, a businessman and former Navy SEAL officer, launched a widely expected Senate campaign on Tuesday, setting the stage for a potentially bruising showdown with Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), a combative conservative who has indicated that he is plotting his own bid, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
One to watch: In an increasingly familiar scenario, the hypothetical primary matchup would pit an establishment favorite — albeit one with no experience in electoral politics — against a two-term incumbent who has defied Republican leadership while stirring controversy for his engagement with right-wing extremists. The race to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), a vulnerable three-term incumbent who defeated Rosendale in 2018, promises to be among the most closely watched Senate contests of the 2024 election. Not only could the race determine the balance of power in the upper chamber, but it could test the influence of the GOP establishment in primary campaigns — particularly in the wake of an election cycle in which party leaders struggled to recruit winning Senate candidates in a handful of pivotal races.
It’s personal: The primary is also a personal test for the leader of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who encouraged Sheehy to run. Immediately after Sheehy announced his campaign on Tuesday, Daines, a former Montana congressman, gave his endorsement to the fledgling candidate, wasting no time in his effort to consolidate support before the field widens. His nod was soon echoed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and more endorsements from top Republican lawmakers are likely to follow as the campaign unfolds, according to a source familiar with the race.
planting a flag
Bipartisan resolution rejects nuclear Iran, supports Israel’s ‘freedom of action’ to prevent it
A new bipartisan resolution introduced on Tuesday reiterates the U.S.’ opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran and declares support for Israel’s “freedom of action” to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Who’s on board: The resolution, which comes amid rising bipartisan concern over Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon and the Biden administration’s renewed efforts to engage with Iran over its nuclear program, is sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX), joined by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Rich McCormick (R-GA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Jared Golden (D-ME), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Kathy Manning (D-NC).
Policy statement: The resolution declares that it is U.S. policy that a nuclear Iran “is not acceptable” and cannot be permitted “under any circumstances or conditions”; that the U.S. will “use all means necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”; and that U.S. partners and allies, including Israel, have the “freedom of action… to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
UAE, Israel create ‘Crystal Ball’ platform to fight hackers
The United Arab Emirates and Israel are working together on a new strategy to battle cybersecurity threats, Shoshanna Solomon reports for The Circuit.
Looking into the future: Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, the UAE’s head of cybersecurity, introduced the “Crystal Ball” project in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, a digital platform for detecting and repelling hackers. Microsoft, Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Abu Dhabi-based CPX are providing the technological backbone, and an unspecified number of countries will also participate.
Goals: Al Kuwaiti, who met on Monday night with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a group with other national cyber directors attending the conference, said the platform will enable partner countries to “easily and seamlessly share information.” The collaborative international effort will be strengthened by the combination of abilities, processing power and volume of data, he said.
🇨🇳 PA Pivot: In Newsweek, Asher Fredman considers the broader implications of the warm relationship between the Palestinian Authority and China. “For [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, strengthening economic and political ties with China is a way to attract funding and investment, while potentially creating financial opportunities for the Palestinian elite. Strengthening diplomatic ties with China can also help bolster Abbas’ battered image as a statesman, while catering to anti-American sentiment on the Palestinian street. Lastly, Chinese support in the international arena is critical to the Palestinians’ continued attempts to delegitimize Israel in international institutions…. The growing PA-China partnership may create significant challenges for both the U.S. and Israel. Increased Chinese presence and investment in key infrastructure projects may pose a security threat to both Israel and to American personnel and assets in the region. In light of China’s goal of dominating global trade routes via the BRI, investment in the PA, located along a potential overland route linking East to West via the Middle East, may help advance China’s aims. Israeli and American security agencies will need to carefully monitor these developments.” [Newsweek]
🇮🇷 Iran Assessment: In National Review, Shay Khatiri and Andrew Ghalili assess the Biden administration’s efforts to reach a new agreement with Iran. “Any kind of support for the Islamist regime helps prop it up at a time when its end seems to be in sight — which is the key reason that the regime is open to this deal. Its security forces, including the Islamic Revolution’s Guardians Corps (IRGC; usually, and imprecisely, translated as ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’), are in disarray. The signs of discontent among the rank and file have been there for some time, but a leaked memorandum of a conversation among the senior leaders of the guards and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei confirmed these suspicions. Reading through the memorandum, one can be excused for believing that it is an honest assessment of the czar’s army in 1916. Commanders, one after another, complain about rampant poverty within their units. Speaking last, Khamenei tells them to stand strong, and that faith and financial accommodations would take care of those problems. Whether ‘faith’ will help here is uncertain, but accommodations appear imminent.” [NationalReview]
🇮🇱 Reform Ramifications: In The Wall Street Journal, William Galston suggests that the current debate in Israel over the government’s judicial reform proposals could usher in an era of centrist leadership. “The paradox is that the forces that most favor majoritarian reforms — the religious parties — don’t enjoy widespread support. Most Israelis oppose state subsidies for religious schools that don’t teach basic subjects and passionately reject religious demands for exemption from military service. Two-thirds of Israelis — and three-quarters of Likud supporters — favor universal civil or military service for young adults. The coalition is trying to use its majority to ram through policies that a majority of Israelis — and Likud members — oppose. A mobilized public opposition is making it hard for the coalition to succeed, and recent polls indicate a significant erosion in the coalition’s public support. If internal divisions trigger its collapse, it will likely lose its parliamentary majority.” [WSJ]
📖 Author Interview: NPR’s Deena Prichep talks to author Sandra Fox, the author of a recently released book on the history of Jewish summer camps in the U.S. “‘The Holocaust had just happened,’ Fox explains. ‘And so in the shadow of the Holocaust, American Jews were incredibly anxious about the future of Jewish culture and Judaism as a religion and Jewish summer camps came to be seen as solutions to all kinds of communal ills, but in particular, the problem of assimilation.’ Summer camps became a way to hold onto and rebuild Jewish heritage. But in attempting to maintain Jewish traditions, these camps created a whole new form of it. One huge component was embracing Israel and its founding as a source of pride. ‘The idea was basically that Israel was something that could inspire American Jewish kids more than looking towards the Jewish past of oppression and violence in Europe,’ observes Fox.” [NPR]
Around the Web
📞 Diplomatic Dish: Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen spoke on Tuesday for a conversation that covered “efforts to advance Israel’s integration into the region and countering Iran’s destabilizing behavior,” as well as recent violence in the West Bank, the same day that the U.N. Security Council, with the backing of both Russia and the U.S., issued a statement calling for a cessation of violence in the territory.
👨 Debate Dip: Former President Donald Trump is mulling skipping the first Republican presidential debate, slated for August in Milwaukee, according to a number of his advisors.
🎉 Pelosi at the Party: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will headline a fundraiser tomorrow night for Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who is challenging Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) in next year’s Senate race.
➡️ New hire: The White House hired CUNY Law School professor Ramzi Kassem as a senior policy adviser for immigration in the Domestic Policy Council. In unearthed writings, Kassem has called a two-state solution “not viable, nor is it desirable,” and accused Israel of committing “systematic genocide” against the Palestinians.
📱 Troublesome Texts:Breitbartobtained a number of antisemitic text messages from conservative influencer Pedro Gonzalez, an online supporter of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
🧑⚖️ Trump Charges: A Defense Department memo on a potential strike on Iran that is believed to be in the possession of former President Donald Trump is not related to the charges of willful retention of national defense information that the former president is facing.
⚖️ Death Sentence Debate: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazettelooks at the debate in the city’s Jewish community over the potential issuance of a death sentence to the man convicted of carrying out the 2018 Tree of Life attack in which 11 community members were killed.
🚇 Location, Location, Location: Steven Roth’s Vornado is putting $1.2 billion into two development projects around New York’s Penn Station, touting the proximity to the commuter rails as an attractive selling point that avoids the need to take a subway further in Manhattan.
🏫 Shapiro’s School Push: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board praises Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s efforts to push ahead with a school voucher program in the Keystone State.
📽️ Ye on BBC: A new BBC documentary airing tonight, “The Trouble with KanYe,” will include the revelation of new accusations that the artist made antisemitic comments to a one-time friend and business partner, who is Jewish.
🕯️ Larry Kramer’s Memorial: Writer and AIDS activist Larry Kramer was eulogized by Tony Kushner, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Sheila Nevins and others at a memorial service earlier this week for Kramer, who died in 2020.
⚽ Code of Ethics: A new initiative in Italy will see professional soccer players prohibited from wearing jerseys with the number 88, a number associated with Adolf Hitler, as part of a broader effort that will include the creation of a code of ethics in line with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
📄 Survey Says: A new Pew Research poll found that Israelis have the second-highest favorable view of the U.S., with 87% of Israelis holding positive views of the country, second only to Poland, where 93% of those surveyed have favorable views.
Ξ Seized Stash: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel had seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency assets linked to Iran’s Quds Force.
🕵️ AI Spy: Israel’s Shin Bet security service is using artificial intelligence to foil threats.
📺 Haas Drama: Shira Haas will join yes Studios’ upcoming drama series “Night Therapy,” co-starring Yousef Sweid.
✍️ TV Review: The Wall Street Journal reviews “Inside the Iranian Uprising,” the new PBS documentary compiled from the personal videos of Iranians before, during and after the protests that swept the country last year.
🕯️ Remembering: Psychologist Reuben Baron, who co-authored “The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research,” the most often-cited paper in his field, died at 86.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a bipartisan congressional delegation visiting Jerusalem on Tuesday. The meeting focused on the Iranian nuclear threat and artificial intelligence technology, according to the Government Press Office.
From left: Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Barry Moore (R-AL) and Jared Golden (D-ME), Netanyahu, Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Ami Bera (D-CA), Jim Baird (R-IN) and Jake Ellzey (R-TX).
Former member of Congress for 16 years and now a distinguished fellow and president emerita of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman turns 78…
Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor, director, composer and comedian, Mel Brooks (born Melvin James Kaminsky) turns 97… Laguna Woods, Calif., resident, Saretta Platt Berlin… Owner of NYC’s United Equities Companies and retired chairman of Berkshire Bank, Moses M. Marx turns 88… Political consultant, community organizer and author, Robert Creamer turns 76… Novelist, journalist, conservative commentator and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, Mark Helprin turns 76… Author of crime fiction for both adults and children, Peter Abrahams turns 76… Documentary producer and adjunct associate professor at USC, James Ruxin turns 75… West Orange, N.J., resident, Saralee Rosen… Professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, Kenneth Alan Ribet turns 75… Shareholder in the Tampa office of Carlton Fields, Nathaniel Doliner turns 74… Rabbi and historian, author of a 2017 book Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan, David G. Dalin turns 74…
Member of the California State Senate following two terms in the State Assembly, Martin Jeffrey “Marty” Block turns 73… Retired partner at Chicago-based accounting firm of Morrison & Morrison, Mark Zivin… Founding partner of NYC law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, Marc Kasowitz turns 71… Israeli journalist for Haaretz, Amira Hass turns 67… Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, Brian L. Roberts turns 64… Rabbi of the Har Bracha community in Israel, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed turns 62… U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues, Ellen J. Germain turns 61… Principal of GPS Investment Partners, Marc Spilker turns 59… Actress and singer, Jessica Hecht turns 58… Diplomatic correspondent for Al-Monitor, Laura Rozen… Novelist and short story writer, Aimee Bender turns 54… Israeli actress residing in Los Angeles, Ayelet Zurer turns 54… Centibillionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk turns 52… Former member of Knesset, Michal Biran turns 45… Toltzy Kornbluh… Chany Stark… Naum Koen… Associate at Latham & Watkins, Molly Rosen… Mark Winkler…