Today is Monday, the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the implications of the Mideast infrastructure deal inked at the G20 summit on Israel’s economic ambitions, and report on an effort by some Senate Democrats to raise concerns about Israel’s entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Amb. Deborah Lipstadt, Rachel Bloom and Michael Bloomberg.
The White House is not on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s itinerary for his trip to the United States for the U.N. General Assembly next week. The visit will start off with a stop in San Francisco for a day, followed by five days in New York, Jewish Insider’s senior political correspondent Lahav Harkov reports.
Netanyahu is expected to meet with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the General Assembly, where the Israeli leader will be giving a speech on Friday. Netanyahu had hoped to get an invitation to the White House, but the Biden administration has resisted rolling out the red carpet for Netanyahu, in light of his ongoing efforts at a judicial overhaul.
When Netanyahu floated a compromise last week whereby he would give up on changes to the judiciary for the next year and a half, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and others accused the prime minister of trying to convince Biden to invite him to the White House — a gambit that failed.
But there is lingering hope for a Biden-Bibi meeting: the Prime Minister’s Office says the schedule is subject to change.
The Prime Minister’s Office also said that Netanyahu will hold meetings in Silicon Valley to advance cooperation with Israel on artificial intelligence. One of those meetings is reportedly with Elon Musk, who has been feuding with the Anti-Defamation League over allegations the social media company is boosting antisemitic hate on its platform. The two previously spoke on the phone in June about the potential of artificial intelligence.
Meanwhile, Israeli-American mogul Haim Saban told Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot that Biden “breaks out in hives” over extremist figures in the current Israeli government, about a week after having lunch with the president at the White House.
The major Democratic donor called the Netanyahu government’s behavior “inexplicable” and lamented the “arrogance” of [Israeli Finance Minister] Bezalel Smotrich and [National Security Minister] Itamar Ben-Gvir, as well as the leading figures in Israel’s judicial changes, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman Simcha Rothman, who, he said, behave as though Israel does not need military aid from the U.S. “They know that’s not the truth,” Saban said. “They’re saying it for political reasons alone.”
Saban also weighed in on Netanyahu’s planned visit to China, which the Hollywood mogul described as a threat to pivot away from the U.S. “It’s a real joke… How can people with so much experience, wisdom and intelligence do such things?” If the U.N. Security Council discusses sanctions on Israel, Saban asked, “Will the Chinese veto it?”
Saban expressed “a hope that is hopeless,” as he characterized it, that Israel’s leadership “finds a way to send the Israel-haters Ben-Gvir and Smotrich home, and that [National Unity Party leader] Benny Gantz and [Opposition Leader] Yair Lapid will enter the government” — but, he added, he understands Gantz and Lapid’s considerations in thus far refusing to join a Netanyahu-led government.
As for the Democratic Party, Saban told Yediot that Biden and congressional leadership – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) – are still solidly pro-Israel, and there are only about a dozen members who are anti-Israel. He called Sen. Bernie Sanders “a self-hating Jew, an Israel-hater, and you can quote me on that.”
Saban also defended his backing of AIPAC’s super PAC, which played a key role in electing pro-Israel Democrats to Congress in 2022. The group, however, drew criticism from left-wing opponents for endorsing candidates who denied that Biden won the 2020 election. “The only goal of this organization is to prevent people who are against U.S.-Israel relations from advancing and to support those who support relations between Jerusalem and Washington… Many Democrats called me and said ‘are you stupid? you’re a Democrat who supports [2020 election deniers]?’ I always say the same thing: It’s a specific, defined issue, and that is the U.S.-Israel relationship. In that sense, I’m not interested in anything else.”
As aid workers in Morocco continue rescue and recovery efforts following a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the North African nation on Friday, killing more than 2,100 people, Israeli officials are pledging assistance, as Jewish and Israeli aid groups travel to the hardest-hit areas.
Netanyahu opened the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday by offering condolences to Moroccan King Mohammed VI and all of the country’s citizens. “The State of Israel will render all possible assistance to Morocco, including – if requested – a rescue mission that is standing ready to help them. The State of Israel stands beside Morocco at this difficult time,” Netanyahu said.
The Foreign Ministry sent a delegation to Morocco to help Israeli citizens, 479 of whom were known to be in the country and all of whom have been accounted for, to return home.
Among the groups on the ground in Morocco are IsraAid and United Hatzalah, which are providing the bulk of Israeli aid as Morocco has not yet approved offers of assistance from the Israeli government, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports. Israel’s military and civil search-and-rescue teams, which are ordinarily some of the first to deploy to disaster areas — including Turkey earlier this year — are in a holding pattern until the assistance is authorized by Rabat.
eye on infrastructure
Expansive Mideast railway project expected to provide economic boon to Israel
Israel may reclaim its historic role as a central stop on trade routes between Asia and Europe with the new international infrastructure project President Joe Biden and other global leaders announced on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on Saturday. Israel and Saudi Arabia are both partners in the initiative, which comes amid normalization talks between the countries. However, Jerusalem and Riyadh will not be coordinating directly, diplomatic sources tell Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov; all talks towards realizing the project will go through Washington.
Linking up: The initiative is meant to link South Asia to the Middle East and then Europe through railways and ports, and present an American-backed alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The project also includes laying a hydrogen energy pipeline, fiber optics communications infrastructure and electricity cables.
Major move: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement and said the initiative puts Israel “at the focus of [the] unprecedented international project…that will change the face of the Middle East. Israel will be a central junction in this economic corridor. Our railways and ports will open a new gateway from India, through the Middle East, to Europe, and back – from Europe to India via Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.” The project will be the largest international cooperation project in Israel’s history, and Netanyahu instructed his cabinet to take a whole-of-government approach to its implementation.
Elsewhere at the G20: Speaking at the summit, Biden suggested that China’s economic downturn is mitigating the chances that Beijing would invade Taiwan.
Who are the 15 Senate Dems urging Blinken to block Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program?
Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) led a letter on Friday to Secretary of State Tony Blinken highlighting ongoing concerns about Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, arguing that Israel is still not in compliance with program regulations and likely will not be by the Sept. 30 deadline, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Allegations: The letter alleges that Israel is establishing a “two-tiered system that discriminates between different groups of U.S. citizens” and that admitting it to the program would be a “violation of law.” Given that Israel is reportedly on track to enter the program, the letter appears to be a last-ditch effort to stop it, with the lawmakers requesting a phone call with Blinken “as soon as possible.”
Signatories: The letter was co-signed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
New lawsuit looks to block ‘antisemitic’ ethnic studies curriculum in Calif. school district
A coalition of national and international organizations filed a new lawsuit to block the implementation of an ethnic studies curriculum in the Santa Ana, Calif., school district, which it considers to be antisemitic and anti-Israel, on the grounds that the school board violated state transparency laws, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.
Joint action: The lawsuit was filed jointly by the Anti-Defamation League, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the American Jewish Committee and Potomac Law Group with the goal of preventing “antisemitic material from being taught in Santa Ana schools,” the organizations said in a statement. The effort was also supported by StandWithUs.
Details: This is not the first lawsuit against a school district aiming to implement a controversial curriculum in California that, among other things, refers to Israel as a “settler colonial’ and “racist” state. However, unlike other cases that focus on the content, the lawsuit filed on Friday argues that the school board in question deliberately obscured the details of the curriculum from the public in order to prevent debate over the topics and that when it did allow discussion, the board permitted Jewish speakers to be “harassed, humiliated and heckled,” L. Rachel Lerman, one of the attorneys leading the case from the Brandeis Center, told eJP.
Antisemitism envoy to address U.N. Human Rights Council
In a pre-Shabbat briefing for the Jewish community on Friday, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, revealed two important pieces of news: First, that she will address the United Nations Human Rights Council this week at the invitation of the U.S. ambassador to the body, Michele Taylor. And second, Lipstadt shared the story of an afternoon Mincha minyan held at the State Department so that she could say the Mourner’s Kaddish on the anniversary of her mother’s death — the first time such a minyan has been held at State’s Foggy Bottom headquarters, as far as Lipstadt knows, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
On the UNHRC address: “Too often human rights work on the international stage has not only not included Jew-hatred, but has been fueled by Jew-hatred,” Lipstadt said of the Human Rights Council. “Maybe they need explaining, maybe they need reminding, of the pernicious nature of antisemitism.”
Making a minyan: “I had an event that evening which I had scheduled long before I realized it was the [her mother’s] yahrzeit,” said Lipstadt. “I began to make calls to rabbi friends, to others, [asking] ‘Where is there a minyan in downtown Washington?’ Everyone said there is not one [at that hour].” Aaron Keyak, the deputy special envoy, offered to drive her to a minyan further away. When Lipstadt declined, Keyak put the word out to State Department staffers. Several more than the 10 necessary for the prayer quorum showed up, including former spokesperson Ned Price and Dan Shapiro, the senior adviser for Middle East regional integration. “People showed up, people who we had no idea were Jewish. We gathered in someone’s office. People were saying Mincha using their iPhones,” Lipstadt recalled. “I got a chance to talk a little bit about my mother.” Lipstadt said she didn’t think an afternoon minyan had been held at Foggy Bottom before, but she — once a historian, always a historian — plans to ask the State Department historian this week, and to give him a photo of the group for official recordkeeping.
🇮🇱🇸🇦 Slow but Steady: In The Hill, Harley Lippman, a board member of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Partnership for Peace Fund, suggests that Israeli-Saudi normalization will occur incrementally through a series of smaller agreements addressing different shared challenges. “The momentum toward normalization and ultimately a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia is not going to be determined by their respective domestic policies or local concerns. Rather, a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia will emerge from their continued incremental progress toward normalization to create markets and security frameworks. This may come together within broader geopolitical concerns, such as U.S.-China competition to extend influence in the Gulf and across the Middle East.” [TheHill]
🤝 Deal Discussion: In The New York Times, Hussein Ibish looks at the U.S. incentive to serve as a conduit for normalized relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. “The Biden administration has been energetically pursuing this triangular deal because it would secure an invaluable global competitive advantage. What remains unclear is whether Washington has sufficient leverage over the Israeli government, which appears allergic to the concessions toward the Palestinians that Saudi Arabia reportedly seeks, or whether there is enough time before the president’s re-election bid to hammer out such a complex arrangement. It seems that Washington and Riyadh might be ready to overcome their bilateral differences. But without Israeli participation and Saudi-Israeli normalization, a simpler bilateral agreement won’t give Washington what it needs: a potent network of friendly states based on a rapprochement between the United States’ two key strategic partners in the Middle East.” [NYTimes]
🏦 Big Bucks: The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Louise Ensign spotlights private banker Jane Heller, who has risen in the ranks at Bank of America and now works as the bank’s top lender. “Her clients are titans of industry like Carl Icahn and A-list celebrities like [Martha] Stewart. She has spent four decades lending them huge sums of money for homes, yachts and business ventures — and making sure they pay her back. Lending to the well-heeled was relatively niche when she started out as a young mom mining BusinessWeek for prospects. Now all the major banks are eager to lend to the wealthy, an important line of business where the fees are steady and the loans rarely go bad. It’s all part of a bigger shift in banking toward units that generate reliable streams of cash, and balance out the notoriously boom-and-bust cycles of investment banking and trading. The 77-year-old Heller spends her days advising clients and working to get their often-complex loans quickly approved. Her client list includes Ron Perelman and real-estate investor Aby Rosen, people familiar with the matter said. The Steinbrenner family that owns the New York Yankees are also clients, and Heller sits in the front row at games. Michael Jackson borrowed millions from her, secured in part by his ownership stake in a song catalog that included Beatles hits ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Hey Jude,’ according to news reports at the time.” [WSJ]
✖️ Echo Chamber: In The New York Times, columnist David French considers how X owner Elon Musk has created an echo chamber for digital antisemitism on the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Instead of creating a platform for free speech, Musk created a platform for Musk’s speech — or, more precisely, Musk’s power. First, he has demonstrated that he’s perfectly willing to take action against people or entities that challenge him or challenge X.… Second, rather than create a free marketplace of ideas, Musk uses X as a marketplace where you can pay to privilege your thoughts. Under the pay-to-play system, the people who fork over a monthly fee to join X’s premium service have their reach substantially extended, including by being granted ‘prioritized rankings in conversations and search.’ And because Musk has centered himself in the platform’s public image, a disproportionate number of these premium accounts seem to share Musk’s trollish right-wing persona and create the unmistakable sense that X is becoming dominated by far-right voices that often revel in cruelty, bigotry and misinformation.” [NYTimes]
🇵🇱 Poland’s Path: The Atlantic’s Yascha Mounk opines that next month’s parliamentary elections in Poland are an opportunity for voters to steer the country away from autocratic rule. “After the Soviet Union disintegrated and lost its hold over vassal states in Central Europe, the fates of countries that were formerly under Moscow’s control diverged. Some, such as Belarus, became brutal dictatorships. Others, including both Poland and Hungary, seemed to be on a path to sustaining genuinely free societies. Three decades later, those assumptions look unduly optimistic. The dream of a successful transition from communism to democracy remains alive in Warsaw, and elsewhere in Central Europe, but whether these countries can withstand the trend toward authoritarianism is now, tragically, very much in doubt.” [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
🤔 Dem Dilemmas:Semaforassesses the overall challenges facing the Democratic Party’s progressive wing following Gabe Amo’s victory in the special election primary in Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, noting that no incumbent Democrats in the House are facing serious challenges from the left.
💪 Torres vs. Beinart: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) called out Peter Beinart on X over his views on Israel and Hamas.
🗳️ McCormick’s Moment: Pennsylvania Republicans are waiting for former Senate candidate David McCormick to announce his entry into the 2024 Senate race in the commonwealth.
🏙️ City Concerns: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighs in on the mounting migrant crisis building in New York and other urban areas.
💻 AI Incoming: Meta is working on an AI system on par with the products launched by OpenAI, to debut next year.
Rahm Goes Rogue:Bloomberglooks at how U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel’s tweet about China’s ousted foreign minister risks complicating the Biden administration’s diplomacy with Beijing.
🇷🇺 Seeking a Swap:The Wall Street Journalspotlights Russia’s efforts to repatriate Vadim Krasikov, who has been imprisoned since a 2021 murder conviction for carrying out the assassination of a Chechen leader in Germany, including the possibility of swapping Krasikov for journalist Evan Gershkovich.
🧑🎤 Ch-Check It Out: Officials in New York City held a ceremony co-naming the corner of the Lower East Side’s Rivington and Ludlow streets “Beastie Boys Square.”
🎭 Blooming Off Broadway: The New York Timesinterviews Rachel Bloom ahead of the Off Broadway opening of her play “Death, Let Me Do My Show.”
🎶 Remembering Amy: The Financial Timeslooks at the lasting impact of Amy Winehouse’s music to mark what would have been the late singer’s 40th birthday.
👮 Fighting the Flyers: Officials in San Diego are crafting a local ordinance criminalizing the distribution of antisemitic flyers, following a series of incidents in which the leaflets have been posted in the community.
🏫 Campus Beat: A new Ipsos survey found that a majority of Jewish American college students — 57% — have experienced or witnessed antisemitism on campus; 5% of non-Jewish students said they’d experienced or witnessed antisemitism.
🇬🇧 London Calling: U.K. Foreign Minister James Cleverley is traveling to Israel this week and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, among others.
🔨 Going, Going, Gone: A centuries-old Jewish prayer book sold at auction for £71,250, well above the £5,000-£10,000 it was expected to fetch.
👨 Bachar Beat: The Jerusalem Postinterviewed political strategist-turned-Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, Israel Bachar.
🪧 Protest PR: Blue and White Future, an Israeli nonprofit coordinating mass protests around the country, has retained Washington-based consultancy Trident DMG for a three-month contract worth $75,000.
🛬 Ground Game: An Israeli delegation traveled to Saudi Arabia for a UNESCO conference, the first time an official Israeli delegation has made a public trip to the Gulf nation.
🎙️ Podcast Playback: Former Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt weighs in on the changing dynamics in the Gulf.
✍️ Inking It: The U.S. and Bahrain are expected to sign an agreement bolstering U.S. security assurances to Manama when Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa travels to Washington this week.
⚠️ Mossad Warning: Mossad chief David Barnea cautioned Iran against further efforts to attack Israelis abroad, warning that Israel will strike “in the heart of Tehran” to find those responsible for more than two dozen plots against Jewish and Israeli targets.
👬 Unlikely Friendship: The Associated Press spotlights the friendship between a U.S. Navy veteran and an Iranian activist who were imprisoned in Iran’s Mashhad prison.
🙏 Birthday Wish: The family of Swedish diplomat Johan Floderus, who was arrested in Iran last year, is pleading for his release on his 33rd birthday.
🇺🇸🇮🇷 In the Works: A prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Iran could take place as soon as next week, once Iranian funds that had been frozen in South Korea are transferred to Qatar.
🌐 Biden Strategy: In The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Spyer considers the Biden administration’s efforts to engage with Iran as its proxy Hezbollah steps up its threats against Israel and the U.S.
🚑 Infighting: At least four Palestinians were killed in clashes at the Ein el-Hilweh camp in Lebanon amid clashes between Fatah and Islamic militants.
😎 Cool Creativity: The heat wave in Dubai is causing residents to come up with new and creative ways to keep cool amid the sweltering temperatures.
Pic of the Day
Western Wall Heritage Foundation staff remove thousands of prayer notes from the Kotel in Jerusalem on Sunday, as is done every year ahead of Rosh Hashanah. The removal is carried out according to halachic instructions and using gloves and disposable wooden tools, with the goal of making space for new notes from visitors to the holy site. More than 20,000 notes from 100 countries were sent from abroad to the Western Wall over the past half year, according to the foundation.
CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Dubowitz turns 55…
Lyricist and songwriter, together with his late wife he won four Emmys, three Oscars and two Grammys, Alan Bergman turns 98… Wisconsin resident, Janis Gershon Kohlenberg… French physicist who was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics, Serge Haroche turns 79… 7-foot basketball center who played for the Bulls and Hawks in the NBA, David L. “Dave” Newmark turns 77… Senior U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Ohio based in Cincinnati, Judge Susan J. Dlott turns 74… Pediatric nephrologist, Dr. Jonathan Heiliczer… Member of the New Jersey General Assembly, he is the first Orthodox Jew to serve in the New Jersey Legislature, Gary Schaer turns 72… Television producer and executive producer, Jon Meyersohn… Global real estate advisor at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, Rosy Lofer… Owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, he is also the founder and president of Appaloosa Management, David Tepper turns 66… Director of sales and marketing at Hillcrest Royale Senior Living in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Marian Rubinstein… Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge, Ellen Ceisler turns 66… Co-founder of the U.K. hedge fund Brevan Howard Asset Management, he is a former director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, Alan Howard turns 60… London-based CEO and founding partner of Stanhope Capital, Daniel Pinto turns 57… Israeli journalist, political commentator and investigative reporter, Raviv Drucker turns 53… CEO of NYC’s 92nd Street Y, Seth William Pinsky… Executive director at JP Morgan Chase, Daniel E. Berger… Former member of the Illinois Legislature, now the CEO of NYC’s Chevra Hatzalah Volunteer Ambulance Service, Yehiel Mark Kalish turns 48… Arbi Tatevosian… Artificial intelligence researcher and writer on decision theory and ethics, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky turns 44… Jessica Sebella Setless Spiegel… Writer and leader of the Altneu synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt… Director of partnerships at Masa Israel Journey, Gali Gordon… Udi Ben Zeev…