👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we delve into the political implications of former President Donald Trump’s federal trial date, and interview German Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert one year into his posting. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Saudi Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mitchell Silk and Chloe Fineman.
Will political reporters be spending more time in the courtroom or on the campaign trail next year?
That’s the big question that could well determine the trajectory of the GOP presidential primary, especially after D.C. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan set the trial date for the federal election interference case against former President Donald Trump for March 4 — one day before Super Tuesday, when Republicans from 15 states will be going to the polls.
So far, Trump’s political fortunes have been supercharged after each of his four indictments. His primary polling average has surged from 43% at the beginning of the year to just under 50% in the latest FiveThirtyEight tally. He raised over $7 million since his mug shot in Georgia went viral, underscoring the depth and resilience of his grassroots support.
But there are also signs that if Trump is convicted, some Republican voters would have second thoughts about nominating a candidate who could be spending time in jail. About half of Republicans said they would not vote for Trump if he were convicted of a felony, according to an August Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Just over one-third of independents said they would be “less likely” to vote for Trump if he’s convicted, according to a separate POLITICO Magazine/Ipsos poll.
The disconnect between most Republicans defending Trump and the prospect that more would defect if he’s convicted is a pragmatic one. Many Republicans instinctively side with Trump, and agree with him that there’s a political motive behind the legal blitz.
At the same time, with Trump in a courtroom, the implications of nominating a possible convicted felon will be more real. Electability doesn’t feel like a relevant issue to many voters now (especially with some general election polls showing Trump running competitively against President Biden), but that could change quickly as a trial progresses.
All told, we are in uncharted political territory. To have a shot at unseating Trump, Republicans will need to narrow down their field of challengers before Super Tuesday, JI Editor in Chief Josh Kraushaar writes.
“Most Republicans aren’t looking to be rescued from Donald Trump. The fact is, they really do like him, and at this point they think he’s their best shot,” Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson wrote in The New York Times. To that point, an August CBS poll found a clear majority of GOP voters believe Trump is the surest political bet against Biden.
That means it will likely take a consequential event outside the political realm — like Trump facing jail time — to get Republicans to shift their presidential voting preferences. It’s likely up to the legal system to determine whether a Trump alternative will have a shot at emerging.
With polished Hebrew, Germany’s ambassador to Israel draws inspiration from the job
If the unique diplomatic relationship between Israel and Germany is defined by events of the last century, namely the atrocities of the Holocaust, then Steffen Seibert, the German ambassador who arrived in the Jewish state just over a year ago, is in the right job. A former journalist and news anchor, who more recently spent 10 years as the government spokesman under former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Seibert is smooth, sharp and as sensitive as one can be in a country that still bears the scars of the systematic Nazi genocide of Jews in Europe more than 75 years ago. Seibert sat down for an interview with Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash at the German Embassy just over a year after taking up his post in Tel Aviv.
Getting acquainted: Seibert has already made impressive strides in getting to know the country, meeting with leaders both in the current and former governments, ordinary citizens and Holocaust survivors, some of whom he hosted in his living room earlier this year as part of a special Yom HaShoah program. Oh, and he has also managed to learn fluent Hebrew. “My wife thinks I’m a total nerd and I think she might be right,” Seibert, who regularly uploads snappy and polished videos in Hebrew to social media, told JI last week. “Speaking in videos is still very different from speaking in real life. Hebrew is one difficult language to learn.”
Holocaust awareness: A main focus of Seibert’s work in Israel has been to connect with the last remaining Holocaust survivors, to hear their stories, and also to explore ways to keep their memories alive. “There is always the question of how we can make sure that every future generation will know about what happened. We need to pass on the knowledge and do it in a way that doesn’t let the Holocaust become just a chapter in history,” he explained. “For us Germans, it is part of our identity. Not a question of personal guilt for today’s generations but one of responsibility – and that mustn’t get lost.”
Saudi Arabia aims to address gap between ivory tower, economy
Saudi Arabia is getting more nimble as it tweaks the direction of its biggest research university to provide economic opportunities for the country. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced an ambitious strategic overhaul at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, known as KAUST, The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner reports.
Fresh fund: The plan includes a new institute to accelerate the commercialization of the university’s research and a new $200 million deep-tech fund to invest in early stage companies. The prince dubbed it “a new era for the university” that seeks to more tightly connect the school’s research priorities with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil revenues.
Sector-specific: The university, which is located in Thuwal, a coastal village north of Jeddah, will focus its research efforts on economically productive sectors like health, sustainability and the environment, energy and industry, according to a statement. The new investment fund also bridges a gap: deep tech, which often addresses complex engineering or scientific problems, is underinvested in the region, with Middle East venture capital investors often looking to pour money into already-proven technologies or business models that have been successful elsewhere.
💬 From Boro Park to Beijing:Tablet magazine’s Armin Rosen profiles Mitchell Silk, an expert on Chinese law, who became the first Hasidic Jew to be confirmed by the Senate after he was nominated to be assistant secretary of the Treasury for international markets during the Trump administration. “‘My grandfather didn’t have a beard,’ said Silk. ‘He didn’t have a library in his house. Nobody had seforim. Who had the money? Who had the space? He had one set of chumashim.’ The books weren’t strictly necessary, since he had whole volumes of Talmud and Midrash memorized. ‘He was an embroiderer,’ said Silk. Secular-presenting schmatta-makers who prayed three times a day and recited pages of Shas off the top of their heads established a community that became much richer and more comfortably Jewish a couple generations later. Traditional Orthodox Jews followed a recognizably American immigrant pattern of greater prosperity and confidence over time, except without the usual subsumption into the mainstream society. Today there are doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs on the stricter ends of Jewish observance. ‘We’re able to enjoy liberty, independence, freedom in ways that we couldn’t 60 years ago,” said Silk.’” [Tablet]
👀 Progressives and Populists: The Atlantic’s Michael Powell considers how the progressive left could find common cause — and solutions to societal challenges — with conservatives. “[Sen. Chris] Murphy backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries and Joe Biden in the 2020 round but nods now toward a populist polestar. ‘There is a realignment afoot out there in America that is not recognized by the elites,’ Murphy said. ‘Tackling this metaphysical crisis for the working class may involve elements of the Bernie Sanders coalition and the Trump coalition.’ The Democrats’ challenge, he notes, extends beyond white people. Latino working-class voters have steadily distanced themselves from Democrats in recent elections. Even Black working-class support, the very core of the Democratic Party, has shown signs of fracture… Murphy, who is the clean-cut son of a corporate lawyer and has what appear to be national ambitions, makes an unlikely populist. But he seems intent on listening. Earlier this month, he headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains city of Boone, North Carolina, where 37 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. ‘It’s one of the poorest regions in America and offers a different conversation than in suburban America,’ he said. ‘That trip reinforced to me that we should not obsess on what divides us.’” [TheAtlantic]
🏡 Jericho Gentrifying: Bloomberg’s Ethan Bronner spotlights the growing housing market in Jericho, which is attracting Palestinian buyers from both the West Bank and Israel. “Abdul Karim Sidr, the mayor of Jericho, says his job is constantly complicated by the threat that the Israeli army will lock down Jericho: The closure that followed the shooting at the start of the year lasted 12 days. But the shifting economics in the area have him dealing not only with the familiar complications of the occupation but also with new challenges stemming from one of the world’s more unlikely real estate booms. Jericho Gate, the first vacation-home development in the Palestinian territories, is part of a broader local renaissance. There have been 7,000 housing units built in this city of 20,000 residents over the past decade, 1,200 in the past year. Once cheap land is suddenly a hot commodity. Last year 2.2 million foreign tourists visited Jericho, and thanks to Jericho Gate and smaller nearby projects, it’s rivaling Bethlehem as the biggest tourist destination in areas under the Palestinian Authority. Tourists are beginning to rent the villas for weekend trips to the Dead Sea. And the Japanese government recently refurbished the site of Hisham’s eighth century palace, displaying and protecting a series of magnificent mosaics.” [Bloomberg]
🏖️ Beating the Heat:The New York Times’ Vivian Nereim reports on Dubai’s “night beaches,” which provide respite from the scorching summer temperatures and have gained popularity among residents and visitors to the Gulf. “Each year, as the suffocating heat of summer creeps in, Dubai’s beaches gradually grow emptier. Weather that would constitute a deadly heat wave in Europe or the United States is the norm in the Arabian Peninsula, and in August, Dubai feels like a steam room. But the coast comes alive long after sunset, when joggers and bicyclists emerge and families set out picnics on folding tables. At midnight or even 4 a.m. on any given day, the beach in Umm Suqeim — an upscale neighborhood on Dubai’s coast — is busy. It is the favorite of several locations that the Dubai municipality has designated as ‘night beaches,’ where swimming is allowed 24 hours a day and spotlights illuminate the water.” [NYTimes]
🏀 Hoops Over Hate: CBC Radio interviews participants in a 1983 basketball game that matched up Jewish campers with students who had been taught by a Holocaust denier. “Jody Miller Elliot was one of [James] Keegstra’s students. She remembers that he liked to debate, but only as long as he won. ‘He was an effective teacher, which was scary, because the content he taught you, you learned,’ said Elliot, 57, who now lives in Langley, B.C. ‘Luckily, I had a family that was very forward-thinking and … they understood what he was teaching was incorrect,’ she said, noting that the affair ‘divided the town.’ Elliot was 16 when she arrived at Camp BB Riback. She says staff at her school hoped that having students spend time with Jewish kids around their ages would help dispel some of what Keegstra taught them. She remembers being nervous, because of ‘everything we were told, that Jewish people were evil,’ she said. But there was still a sense of anticipation. ‘Up to that point, I don’t remember ever meeting a person of Jewish faith.’” [CBC]
Around the Web
🇮🇷 Tehran Trouble: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) called on the State Department to conduct a “top-to-bottom review” following the publication by Iranian state-run media of a purported memo informing Iran envoy Rob Malley, who has been on leave amid an investigation of his handling of classified documents, of his suspension.
💰 Blackstone’s Bet: Blackstone is selling a 22% stake in Las Vegas’ Bellagio to Realty Income for $300 million.
🤣 Comic Relief: The Wall Street Journal interviewed “Saturday Night Live” star Chloe Fineman.
🎭 Sondheim’s Swan Song: New York magazine published an oral history about the creation of “Here We Are Together,” Stephen Sondheim’s final musical, which he created alongside playwright David Ives and director Joe Mantello.
🏫 N.J. Settlement: The New Jersey attorney general’s office reached a settlement with Jackson Township, adjacent to Lakewood, which had been accused of adopting measures that effectively barred the local Jewish community from establishing new religious schools, a year after settling a separate lawsuit with the Justice Department over alleged discriminatory actions against Jews.
😋 Eating Good: Gabriel Stulman and the chef April Bloomfield plan to open a new restaurant called Sailor in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood.
✋ No Go: Canada’s immigration minister said Ottawa plans to deny temporary residency to former Iranian Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, who has recently been seen in Montreal, over the Iranian regime’s human rights violations.
🤨 Murky Past: The deputy premier of Bavaria, Germany, is facing allegations that as a high school student he distributed antisemitic leaflets to classmates.
🇵🇹 Paging Portugal: Israel was ranked highest in the number of its citizens who applied for Portuguese citizenship last year, with more than 20,000 Israelis submitting applications.
🛬 Surprise Saudi Stopover: A flight from the Seychelles to Tel Aviv made an emergency stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last night, due to a technical issue; the passengers, which reportedly included 128 Israelis, boarded a replacement plane this morning.
😠 Foggy Bottom Fury: U.S. officials raised concerns to Israel’s Foreign Ministry following Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s publicization of a meeting with his Libyan counterpart, who was suspended following reports of the secret sit-down.
🇱🇾 Tripoli Ties: On the heels of the backlash following a meeting between the foreign ministers of Israel and Libya, The Times of Israel interviews Libyan Jews about the prospects of improved relations between the two countries.
👮 Police Patrol: Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the Israel Police to stop collaborating with the U.S.-based Wexner Foundation, alleging the group has ties with “obvious left-wing political movements”; a Wexner spokesperson told eJewishPhilanthropy that “we are not now nor have we ever been associated with any political party or ‘movement.’”
💸 Unfrozen Funds: Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich will unfreeze some NIS 200 million earmarked for Arab communities, following a five-hour meeting with Israeli security officials, including the head of the Shin Bet and Minister of the Interior Moshe Arbel.
🏃♂️ Running Mates: Former Israeli Consul General in New York Asaf Zamir is joining forces in a joint run for mayor of Tel Aviv with incumbent Ron Huldai; if elected, Zamir will serve as deputy mayor, a role he held from 2008-2013.
🛢️ Slippery Saga: Iran summoned a Swiss diplomat in Tehran over the U.S.’ recent seizure of cargo — believed to be Iranian crude oil — aboard a Marshall Islands-flagged ship moored off the coast of Texas.
Pic of the Day
The United States Mission to the United Nations hosted a briefing yesterday afternoon for Jewish community leaders with Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt for a discussion about U.S. priorities for the upcoming U.N. General Assembly as well as efforts to counter antisemitism and anti-Israel bias.
Longtime movie and television actor, Elliott Gould turns 85…
Interior designer and fashion icon, she is the only centenarian with more than 2 million followers on Instagram (2.8 million), Iris Apfel turns 102… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration, Robert Rubin turns 85… Retired IDF major general, he is the founder of Commanders for Israel’s Security, Amnon Reshef turns 85… Head of Yeshiva Ahavat Shalom in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Hillel turns 78… Hotel and real estate mogul, she is the U.S. ambassador to Malta since 2022, Connie Milstein turns 77… Former dean of Duke Law School following 17 years as a U.S. District Court judge, David F. Levi turns 72… Founder of Yad Sarah and former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski turns 72… Los Angeles resident, Warren B. Stern… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration, Jacob Joseph ‘Jack’ Lew turns 68… Former senior counsel at the Federal Communications Commission for 23 years, Amy L. Nathan… President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation since 2017, Richard E. Besser turns 64… Director of operations at Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue, Laura Kamer-Israel… CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the first woman in JDC’s history to hold the position, Ariel Zwang… Journalist, author and blogger, Lisa Frydman Barr… District attorney of Queens since 2020, Melinda R. Katz turns 58… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 2017, Neil Gorsuch turns 56… Director, screenwriter and editor, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz turns 54… Head of the global business group at Facebook / Meta, Nicola Sharon Clyne Mendelsohn turns 52… Partner at D.C.-based HLP&R Advocacy, Jerr Rosenbaum… Election law guru at Dickinson Wright PLLC, Charles R. Spies… Hip-hop fashion designer, entrepreneur and artist, born in Lakewood, N.J., as Marc Milecofsky, Marc Ecko turns 51… Author and senior editor for books at The Atlantic, Gal Beckerman… Rosh Yeshiva and head of school at Bnei Akiva Schools in Toronto, Rabbi Seth Grauer… Israeli computer hacker, known as “The Analyzer,” Ehud Tenenbaum turns 44… Rabbi of Congregation Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill, N.J., Michael Z. Davies… Television and film actress, Lauren Collins turns 37… Winner of the Tiberias Marathon and the Jerusalem Marathon, mother of five, Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch turns 34… Robin Rubin… Adam Shapiro…
BIRTHWEEK: North American board chair of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Mark S. Freedman turned 72 on Sunday… JI podcast host, he is a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and served in the Trump admin National Security Council, Rich Goldberg turned 40 on Sunday…