👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Qatar-funded trip to Doha for last year’s World Cup, and spotlight two Israeli-American entrepreneurs breaking into Tel Aviv’s dining scene. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Brad Raffensperger, Tevi Troy and Stella Rapp.
A fourth indictment against former President Donald Trump drew headlines earlier this week, as much for the content of the indictment — that Trump sought to pressure officials in Georgia to overturn the results of the presidential election in that state — as for the broad range of alleged co-conspirators, which include Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who served as an attorney for Trump; and Mark Meadows, the former North Carolina congressman who left Capitol Hill for a job as Trump’s chief of staff in 2020.
Among the prosecution’s key pieces of evidence is a phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state official tasked with certifying the results of the election. In a recording of their conversation, the former president pressed Raffensperger to “find” the “11,780 votes” he claimed had been misreported due to voter fraud.
In an unreleased episode of JI’s podcast that was recorded in December 2021, Raffensperger spoke with co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein about the call with Trump. “At the end of the day,” Raffensperger said, “I wanted President Trump, but I really want the entire American people, but particularly Georgians because this is a Georgia race, [to know] is that they need to understand that President Trump came up short.”
“As I was talking to President Trump,” Raffensperger continued, “he mentioned that there was 5,000 dead people that voted. His legal team actually said there was 10,315. There was actually a total of four…They said that there were 66,000 underage voters, there was zero. They said that there were thousands of felons [who voted], it was less than 74. They said that there were people who were unregistered voters, 2,423, there was zero of those. I was really dispelling all those myths.”
Raffensperger also dispelled Giuliani’s claims: “Unfortunately, Rudy Giuliani was allowed to come into a State Senate meeting, he wasn’t sworn in [to] tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help him God, and so he just gave his testimony. And what he did is he took a video and sliced and diced it, and then he narrated it to show something that didn’t show…When you look at the whole run of tape, there was no ballot stuffing.”
For Ilhan Omar, not all foreign influence spending is bad
During her time in Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has frequently voiced concern over the influence of foreign interests on American politics — most controversially with regard to the pro-Israel community in the U.S. But when she visited Qatar last November to watch the World Cup, it was initially unclear who had paid for the trip, which the progressive lawmaker neglected to clarify. Omar’s trip, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports, was funded by the Qatari government, according to an annual House financial disclosure filed in May.
On Doha’s dime: The new statement, which has not previously been reported, shows Qatar paid for the four-day visit to Doha that overlapped with the U.S. men’s team’s opening match against Wales. Both “food” and “lodging” were covered by the Gulf nation, the disclosure indicates. The Qatari Embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed it had paid for Omar’s visit to the Gulf kingdom last year. The congresswoman “accepted an invitation from the Embassy of Qatar to attend events in Doha in November 2022,” a spokesperson told JI last week, “as part of a program authorized under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act,” or MECEA, which allows House members to take trips funded by foreign governments provided that the travel is later disclosed in their annual financial statements.
Money matters: “Perhaps [Omar’s] most famous quip is that support for Israel is ‘all about the Benjamins,’” Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said, referring to comments Omar made as a freshman that were condemned as antisemitic and for which she later apologized. “If there is a lobby right now that is truly ‘all about the Benjamins,’ it is the lobby that is spending tens of millions of dollars per year in order to acquire influence in the capital of the United States,” he said of Qatar, which has drawn condemnation for its treatment of migrant workers and ban on homosexuality, among other matters. “She does not seem to be bothered by that.”
Joining in: In addition to Omar, the Qatari government also paid for Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Bryan Steil (R-WI) to visit Doha during the World Cup, according to financial statements reviewed by JI. At least two other House members — Reps. David Valadao (R-CA) and Lou Correa (D-CA) — accepted invitations to attend the World Cup in Doha but failed to disclose the travel on their financial statements, their offices confirmed to JI on Tuesday. “Rep. Valadao was in Doha on this trip,” said a spokesperson for the congressman. “There was a mistake in his financial disclosures, which we are now working to amend.” A spokesperson for Correa attributed the omission to an “inadvertent oversight” and said the “trip was mistakenly not added” to his annual financial statement. “As such, the congressman has amended his financial disclosure to include this trip.”
taste of tel aviv
American immigrants spice up Tel Aviv’s food scene with family-run cooking studio
Growing up in Berkeley, Calif., sisters Aliya Fastman and Shaendl Davis would set up a makeshift restaurant for their parents, present them with menus, take their orders and serve them meals that they had cooked together. Now that the duo is all grown up and living in central Israel, they’re doing much the same, except this time the two are teaching others how to do it in a cooking studio they run together under the name Citrus and Salt. “I grew up in the Bay Area, which is quite the culinary scene, international really,” Fastman told Jewish Insider’s Tamara Zieve in a recent interview. “So I grew up having Pakistani food, or Chinese food or Taiwanese. And it was just normal to me that there were so many flavors available.”
Starting early: Fastman’s familiarity in the kitchen began at an early age. “My parents are rabbis and they would teach bar mitzvah students after school. So we would be home and we would need something to eat, so I would cook for my sister and I,” Fastman said. Her grandmother would make “classic Ashkenazi dishes,” such as matzo ball soup, kreplach and brisket. Intrigued, Fastman began experimenting with recipes. “It comes very easily to her, she’s very creative — it’s just always been her thing,” Davis said of her sister. “So she started cooking very young and then kind of got me involved. And then now with the workshops, it was kind of a similar thing. It was something that she had started…and then eventually got me involved as well.”
Building a business: Fastman decided to “go all in” a year and a half ago — with a push of encouragement from her sister — after seeing that business was thriving, despite almost throwing in the towel due to the COVID pandemic when they turned to online classes. “But people kept writing, so we kept teaching,” Fastman said. The duo expanded their target audience to locals as well, having learned from the pandemic that they couldn’t rely solely on tourism. The sisters rented a neglected space in Tel Aviv’s funky Florentine neighborhood and put in flooring, water, gas and colorful fresh paint to transform it into a bright and cheerful cooking studio, decorated with plants and wall hangings. They opened their doors a year ago and in the first months ran an average of four classes a month — demand fluctuates according to the season — and last month they reached their peak, holding 10 classes per week.
Global appeal: The school draws people from all over the world. A class Fastman taught lately included students from Sudan, Argentina, Spain, France, the United States and Canada. “When you go into a class like that, you’re spending a significant amount of time with them,” Fastman continued. “So you know, being able to facilitate conversation, people just share their backgrounds, and oftentimes people will exchange numbers or leave their little group to go talk to the other group that’s come, or invite people over like, ‘Oh, when you come to New York, come to Shabbat.’ And that’s significant because it’s just this point of connection in a very chaotic city.”
🇧🇾 Minsk’s Menace: Semafor’s Jay Solomon looks at the deepening relationships Belarus is building with the Wagner Group and Iran, as Minsk continues to support Russia in its war against Ukraine. “The building of an Iranian drone production facility in Belarus would also significantly enhance Russia’s ability to hit Ukraine. Russia has been deploying Iranian-made kamikaze drones since last fall. Many of the drones, according to U.S. and NATO officials, were ferried from Iran to Russian forces over the Caspian Sea. And Russia has started building an Iranian drone production facility in the autonomous region of Tatarstan. But a site in Belarus would allow the Kremlin to launch kamikaze drones from another front, and drastically increase its supply. Belarusian opposition groups have reported seeing Iranian engineers visiting the city of Gomel, which is near the Ukrainian border, alongside Russian intelligence officers in recent weeks.” [Semafor]
👨 Rules to Live By: The New York Times’ Tom Friedman compares Israel’s current political situation to that of Lebanon in the 1970s and ‘80s, when he lived in Beirut. “Lebanon and Israel have two big features in common: They are really small in geography and incredibly diverse in population — religiously diverse, ethnically diverse, politically diverse, linguistically diverse, educationally diverse. When your democracy is really, really small and really, really diverse, there’s only one way to maintain stability — all the diverse actors must respect the principle of ‘live and let live.’ Or, as the Lebanese described it each time some faction there breached that principle, plunged the country into civil war and then had to re-establish balance among sects, ‘no victor, no vanquished.’ Everybody has to abide by certain limits on their reach…. In breaking that live-and-let-live balance by sheer force — thanks to a tiny, transitory political advantage in Parliament — Netanyahu and his coalition have broken something much more important than a law. They have broken the unwritten norm holding Israel together. It is hard to see how the country will ever be the same.” [NYTimes]
⚖️ Prison Posture: In Tablet magazine, Yisrael Eliashiv looks at the Jewish approach to the concept of prison reform and post-incarceration rehabilitation. “According to the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe, Judaism’s vision of crime and punishment is encapsulated in the verse ‘man was born to toil.’ The meaning of the verse is that a man should not spend his day idly but should rather be productive. To accomplish this, however, an individual needs self-determination, and yet prison is the opposite of self-determination. How then can prisoners possibly fulfill their G-d-given purpose in such an environment? The answer is simple: If a man is in prison, it should not be a punishment but an occasion to reflect on his undesirable actions. He should be given the opportunity to learn, improve himself, and prepare for his release, at which point he can embrace an honest and peaceful new life. Instead of wasting his days in prison, he will look back on those days as having been filled with meaning.” [Tablet]
🤝 Taking on Tehran: The New York Times’ Bret Stephens weighs in on the Biden administration’s recent prisoner exchange with Iran, which also includes the release of more than $6 billion in oil reserves. “The long record of negotiating with the Islamic republic shows it never pays to pay Tehran. ‘The regime’s hostility toward the U.S. isn’t reactive but proactive,’ Wang Xiyue, a former hostage of Tehran, has noted. ‘It survives and thrives on its self-perpetuated hostility against the West.’ Far from smoothing the way toward another nuclear deal with Iran, as the administration hopes, the hostage agreement means Iran will raise its price, probably past what President Biden can politically afford to pay. In the meantime, other hostages are sure to be taken. There’s a better way. Every time Iran takes another hostage, the administration imposes another sanction. Every time Iran or its proxies attack a single U.S. military installation, the United States retaliates against multiple Iranian targets. Every time Iran supplies offensive weapons to Russia or other outlaw states, the United States supplies long-range fire and other advanced munitions to Ukraine.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🗳️ Endorsement Alert: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks over Rep. David Trone (D-MD) in the Democratic primary to succeed Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
🎓 Malley’s Moves: Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, who was suspended in June from his role with the State Department over the alleged mishandling of documents, is joining the faculty of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs as a John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs & Co. Visiting Professor and visiting lecturer.
🇺🇦 Ukraine and the GOP: Bill Kristol and Sarah Longwell are launching Defending Democracy Together, a $2 million campaign calling on Republicans in Washington to support Ukraine against the ongoing Russian invasion.
💰 Campus Beat: Pew Charitable Trusts announced a $500,000 grant to Hillel International to support the group’s Campus Climate Initiative.
⚽ Neymar’s New Team: Brazilian soccer star Neymar signed a two-year, $300 million deal with Saudi Pro League Al Hilal, after six seasons with Paris Saint-Germain.
⛔ Dead Deal: Intel nixed plans to purchase Israel’s Tower Semiconductor for $5 billion after being unable to obtain approval from China’s State Administration for Market Regulation for the bid.
🪖 Backing the Military: The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office made a statement that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “reject any attack on senior security establishment officials and fully back the commanders and soldiers of the IDF” following public comments lambasting the military made by both Netanyahu’s coalition partners and his son.
🏢 Return to Jerusalem: Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Paraguay intends to reopen its embassy in Jerusalem within the year, several years after a prior government in Asunción relocated the post back to Tel Aviv.
🇮🇱 Ground Game: Israeli archeologists discovered a 5,500-year-old city gate near the modern city of Kiryat Gat, changing historians’ prior assumptions about the timeline of urbanization in the region.
🛰️ Drone Detente: The U.S. asked Iran to cease its drone sales to Russia as Washington looks to deescalate tensions with Tehran.
⚡ Power Problems:The Wall Street Journal looks at how aging power networks across the Mideast and North Africa are struggling with the high temperatures roiling the region.
💼 Transition: Tevi Troy is joining Yeshiva University’s Zahava & Moshael Straus Center for Torah & Western Thought as its inaugural senior scholar and impact office director.
🕯️ Remembering: Stella Rapp, the head of the consular division at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, died. Marc Becker, Apollo Global Management’s co-head of impact investing and formerly chairman of the board of Park Avenue Synagogue, died at 51.
Pic of the Day
Attendees stroll through the “Festival of Lights” at the Tel Aviv port on Tuesday night.
Founder of Value Retail Plc and co-owner of the New York Islanders professional hockey team, Scott David Malkin turns 65…
Solicitor general of New York State, Barbara Dale Underwood turns 79… Former member of Congress after serving in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, Richard Alan “Dick” Zimmer turns 79… Sportscaster who is known as the “Voice of the Dallas Cowboys,” Brad Sham turns 74… President and CEO of the Business Roundtable, he was previously the White House chief of staff in the Bush 43 administration, Josh Bolten turns 69… Maryland secretary of aging until earlier this year, Rona E. Kramer turns 69… Gerald Platt… Media consultant, Sol Levine… Former commander of the Israeli Air Force and later CEO of El Al, Eliezer Shkedi turns 66… Senior partner in the Denver office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and an AIPAC board member, Steven C. Demby… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Associated Press, Martha Mendoza turns 57… Founder of Walk Swiftly Productions, she spent 17 years on-air at ESPN/ABC and CBS covering the Super Bowl, NBA playoffs and MLB playoffs, Bonnie Bernstein turns 53… Johannesburg-born model, actress and singer-songwriter living in NYC, Caron Bernstein turns 53… Senior staff writer for Politico Magazine and editor-at-large of The Agenda, Michael Grunwald…
Lieutenant governor of Vermont, David E. Zuckerman turns 52… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Vladimir Beliak turns 50… Former senior editor of Kol HaBirah, Kami Troy… President of Profitero and board member of Campbell Soup Company, Sarah Hofstetter… Co-founder and co-CEO of The Creative Counsel, Gil Oved turns 48… Political and public relations consultant based in Albuquerque, Jonathan Lipshutz… CBS producer, Matthew J. Silverstein… VP at BlackRock, Julian Olidort… Studio manager at Barre3 Bethesda and founder of Atom, LLC, Anna Dubinsky… Founder and CEO at Project Healthy Minds, Phillip Schermer… Argentine professional tennis player, Diego Schwartzman turns 31… Virtual engagement project manager at AIPAC, Rachel Berman… Recent graduate of The George Washington University law school, Katherine Dolgenos… Member of AJR, an indie pop multi-instrumentalist trio, together with his two brothers, Jack Metzger turns 26… Managing director and head of the London office of Tier One Rankings, Galit Tassi Imbo… Director of public affairs at J Street, Cooper Boyar… Senior fellow at the Urban Institute, Mike Pergamit… Ellen Weissfeld… Marshall Cohen… Dave Jacobsen…