👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on an upcoming international law conference that plans to honor Navi Pillay, the head of the U.N.’s Commission of Inquiry into Israel, and interview Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s incoming special envoy for combating antisemitism. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Marty Baron, Jake Cohen and Mike Pompeo.
Former President Donald Trump wasn’t at the Reagan Presidential Library for the second GOP presidential primary debate last night, but the lack of a standout performance by his rivals will help cement his substantial advantage for the nomination, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar writes from Simi Valley, Calif.
In a sign of confidence of his dominant political standing with Republicans, Trump called on the Republican National Committee to stop holding presidential debates — and prepare for a general election where he’s the GOP nominee against President Joe Biden.
Only two of the seven Republicans on stage — former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — even criticized the front-running former president on stage. Christie made a point of going after Trump aggressively, even tagging the former president as “Donald Duck” for ducking debates. DeSantis merely tweaked the former president’s record on spending and called him out for urging pragmatism on abortion.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, after a standout first debate, was the most aggressive candidate on stage, going after several of her leading rivals — DeSantis (over energy policy in Florida), Vivek Ramaswamy (over TikTok), and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (over his spending record and, yes, curtains). She didn’t clearly win any of these exchanges like she did with Ramaswamy over foreign policy at the first debate in Milwaukee.
And Haley’s leading rivals in the race had respectable performances themselves. DeSantis clearly laid out his conservative governing record in Florida in a way that would appeal to MAGA allies and traditional Republicans alike. Scott had a more engaged performance than in the first debate, including offering a Reaganesque paean to American exceptionalism.
If Haley looked like a clear, more-electable alternative to Trump at the first debate, the field of Trump challengers looked a lot more muddled after Simi Valley.
Trump’s appearance in Michigan at a non-unionized auto parts supplier showcasing solidarity with blue-collar workers only underscores that he’s already thinking about a general election, and is looking past the primary.
Time is running out for Trump’s rivals: We’re just about four months away from the Iowa caucuses, without many opportunities left to change the trajectory of the nomination fight.
In Israel today, the country’s High Court of Justice is holding a hearing on the “Incapacitation Law,” which specifies that a prime minister can be only declared incapacitated — and therefore removed from office — for reasons of physical or mental health. In addition, the decision would be ratified by a special majority of the Knesset, JI’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Israeli law has been clear for the past two decades that a prime minister may remain in office while there are criminal proceedings against him or her, and Knesset transcripts from the time show lawmakers specifically did not want to give one person, the attorney general, the power to depose a prime minister. Still, this law was meant to head off proposals to declare Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “legally incapacitated” because of his ongoing trials. Petitions to the High Court argued that laws should not be passed to benefit a specific person and should only take effect after the next election, rather than immediately.
This is another case in which the courtis considering whether to review a Basic Law, which is meant to be a building block of an eventual Israeli constitution. Supporters of the government’s judicial reform plans and the High Court’s conservative judges argue that the court does not have the authority to strike down the laws that it treats like a constitution, while liberal judges and opponents of judicial reform say that when Basic Laws are legislated capriciously, they do not deserve special treatment.
Like in the recent High Court hearing about the “reasonableness standard” amendment to a Basic Law, this has the potential to turn into a constitutional crisis. Netanyahu has been noncommittal as to whether his government would heed a court that overturns a Basic Law. In addition, if the court overturns this law, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara — who was appointed by the previous government and often clashes with the current one — could see that as a signal to declare Netanyahu “legally incapacitated.”
Anti-Israel U.N. official to be feted at law conference sponsored by Morningstar law firm
The law firm commissioned by Morningstar amid controversy over the financial services firm’s sale of products found to have an anti-Israel bias is co-sponsoring an upcoming conference at which controversial former U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay will be honored, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports.
Background: Pillay, who heads the open-ended Commission of Inquiry targeting Israel, which has been condemned by members of the international body over its anti-Israel bias, will receive the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the International Law Association’s International Law Weekend, slated for Oct. 20-21 in New York City. The executive chair of the International Law Association, Christine Chinkin, was one of the authors of the 2009 Goldstone report on the 2008-2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas, which was denounced by Jewish groups as containing antisemitic blood libel.
On the Case: White & Case is one of several co-sponsors of the conference, alongside Debevoise & Plimpton and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. White & Case came under fire for its sponsorship of last year’s conference, held in Chicago, which included a panel titled “Racism and the Crime of Apartheid in International Law” and featured Omar Shakir, an activist and Human Rights Watch staffer who was expelled from Israel in 2019 over his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Morningstar retained White & Case to produce a report on the company’s ratings system, which White & Case found to have no systemic anti-Israel bias but fixable cases of potential bias. Critics of the report said that the sourcing for Morningstar’s ratings constituted systemic bias.
COI concerns: American legislators have sought to shut down the Commission of Inquiry launched after the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May 2021, but have so far failed to move forward on a bill introduced in the current and previous sessions of Congress that would designate U.S. policy to “seek the abolition” of the commission. Last December, dozens of lawmakers called on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield to cut off funding to the COI. Pillay has rejected criticism of the COI, and defended a committee member accused of antisemitism after he referred in an interview to a “Jewish lobby” and questioned whether Israel should be a member of the United Nations.
Israel’s new antisemitism envoy primed for battle in ‘ongoing war’
When Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced earlier this month that Michal Cotler-Wunsh would be Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, there was an outpouring of support and well-wishing, but Cotler-Wunsh said her appointment has a big downside. “People are congratulating me and I want to cry,” Cotler-Wunsh told Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov during an interview in Jerusalem this week. “It’s 2023 and countries need to appoint special envoys for combating antisemitism… It’s not something we should be celebrating. It’s a testament to the rise and mainstreaming of antisemitism.”
Together and apart: The special envoys in the U.S., Canada, U.K., European Union, Germany and many South American states work together as a coalition, while they each “have a responsibility to make a difference both domestically, advising their own governments…using the [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s] working definition of antisemitism, and in the international arena, transcending borders of religions, nations and political partisanship,” Cotler-Wunsh said.
Background: Cotler-Wunsh is a lawyer and conflict-resolution expert who spent many hours of her childhood in the hallways of the Knesset where her mother worked for Menachem Begin’s Likud party, before they moved to Canada when her mother married human rights attorney and eventual Justice Minister of Canada Irwin Cotler. She was a member of Knesset for the Blue and White party in 2020-2021, where she co-founded the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, and has dedicated herself to that mission ever since. While in the U.S. State Department, the special envoy role is a Senate-confirmed, ambassador-level position, Cotler-Wunsh is serving Israel on a volunteer basis — as did her predecessor, actress and producer Noa Tishby.
on the hill
Congress examines paths for ending Palestinian Authority’s ‘pay for slay’
A House subcommittee considered proposals on Wednesday to address and end the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of terrorists, known as the “pay to slay” program, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Among a panel of three expert witnesses before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia subcommittee, a proposal to implement a more broad needs-based social welfare program to replace the terror payments appeared to have consensus support.
The proposal: “Israelis and others who are very familiar with this dynamic, they suggest the implementation of a social security program that would begin to provide a safety net for all destitute Palestinian people who are in need, and cut [pay to slay] entirely,” Jonathan Schanzer, the senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said. “You could have people who are in jail, or the families of those who are in jail, receiving the same amounts as any other family in the West Bank. That would, I think, be an equalizer, if you will.”
Calling out: Lawmakers and some members of the panel accused the administration of looking for ways to circumvent the Taylor Force Act, including in ongoing talks with Saudi Arabia. The administration has reportedly pushed Saudi Arabia to resume payments to the PA as part of those talks. “They’ve actually been encouraging other countries to raise payments to the PA. It’s absurd,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) said. “This is just another example of the Biden administration neglecting the Taylor Force Act, and instead choosing to bolster the credibility of the antisemitic anti-Israel and pro-terror PA.”
Over in the Senate: As JI scooped on Tuesday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) was formally announced as the new chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Also, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he expects the departure of Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) from his role will allow the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey to proceed. Menendez, who pleaded not guilty yesterday in a Manhattan federal court to the bribery charges against him, is set to address Senate Democrats today, and his fate in the caucus and access to classified information beyond that remain uncertain.
House boosts proposed NSGP allocation by an additional $20 million
The House moved on Wednesday to add an additional $20 million to its proposal for 2024 funding for nonprofit security grants, bringing its total proposed allocation to $335 million, $30 million above current levels, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The House approved by a voice vote an amendment boosting funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program introduced by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) as part of a larger bipartisan en bloc package of amendments to the 2024 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations.
‘Duty to protect’: “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their place of worship. But there is a clear gap in need and what funds exist for this essential program,” Pascrell said in a statement. “The United States Congress has a duty to protect these nonprofit organizations and I will continue fighting for increased federal funds that help keep our neighbors safe.”
Community response: The House vote was met with praise from Jewish community advocates, who’ve been urging lawmakers to increase funding for the program despite overall budget cuts across many areas of the federal government. “We appreciate that the House put down a strong marker that NSGP should be increased — and certainly not cut as the currently pending Senate bill would do,” Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, told JI. “As everyone knows, the appropriations process is still a long and winding road. But this is a very helpful step along the way.”
Today on Capitol Hill: Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) and other members of the House antisemitism task force are set to meet with Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights at Department of Education, to discuss implementation of the administration’s antisemitism strategy. The lawmakers are expected to hold meetings with other administration officials about the strategy going forward.
U.S. groups laud Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, say it heralds deeper ties
Israeli citizens looking to visit the U.S. for family weddings and bar mitzvahs, for vacations or for short-term programs would first have to face a lengthy and costly visa process, and still face the possibility of rejection. But no more. On Wednesday, Israel became the 41st country to enter the coveted U.S. Visa Waiver Program, joining nations like the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports.
In two months: By the end of November, Israelis will be able to travel to the U.S. for fewer than three months without a visa. Dozens of American Jewish groups and leaders hailed Israel’s entry into the program and said the move would benefit both countries, though some organizations and politicians also expressed concern about the implementation, saying Israel is discriminating against different groups of Americans traveling to the country.
CoP reaction: The leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — the umbrella group’s chair, Harriet Schleifer, and its CEO, William Daroff — commended the decision in a statement on Wednesday, calling the move, which they said will “bring tangible benefits to both American and Israeli citizens,” a “long overdue” step.
👨 The Making of Menendez:Politico’s Dustin Racioppi looks at Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) political history to better understand the longtime legislator’s relations with — and popularity among — his constituents in New Jersey. “Menendez gained local clout as mayor and became a sort of folk hero at home once he moved on to the state Capitol in Trenton, where he was a representative, and then to Washington, D.C. For the last 17 years, he has served as an immensely powerful senator. He became known as an effective legislator who mastered constituent services. Even as the powerful chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — where he dealt with dictators and globally consequential matters like Iranian nuclear deals — Menendez recognized the power of local retail politics. On just one day in August, for example, he held a press conference on funding for a new hospital program, held a round table with farmers and appeared with families of drug overdose victims to push legislation to crack down on fentanyl. ‘If you ever followed Bob Menendez in any of the parades … the guy is the pope,’ said one Democratic official close to the meeting among Murphy and state leaders following the indictment. ‘People are coming up to him, taking pictures, hugging him. People just see him as what their children can become.’” [Politico]
🐘 Seeing Red: Puck’s Teddy Schleifer examines the efforts of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and his brother, Gabe, to woo conservatives. “The campaign was all part of an effort by the Bankman-Fried brothers to curry favor on the right, where they saw an opportunity to rebalance FTX’s reputation and also to make some G.O.P. friends who might be willing to fund pandemic-prevention initiatives — and also, presumably, to generate some goodwill around the cryptocurrency industry. (Before [a meeting with Sen. Mitch McConnell], according to talking points prepped for it, Sam was instructed not to bring up crypto with McConnell, a topic the 80-year-old politician couldn’t have cared less about.) Some effective altruists believed there was better R.O.I. in winning over conservatives versus winning over liberals; moreover, McConnell, a childhood survivor of polio, was seen by the effective-altruist crew as ‘empathetic’ to the pandemic-prevention cause, a source familiar told me. McConnell, in turn, pitched S.B.F. on being more of a centrist. The McConnell-S.B.F. dinner — one of at least two dinners I’m aware of, including another with McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao — is among several new details I’ve come across that reveal how much S.B.F. invested in the conservative movement, making donations that would make his progressive mother, Barbara, squirm if she knew their full extent. Sam was personally left-of-center, sure, but he cared about relevance and power and progress on his pet issues, and he knew that building an influence machine meant playing both sides of the game.” [Puck]
🇵🇸 Palestinian Prospects: Newsweek’s Tom O’Connor talks to Mideast experts about concerns over the lack of a successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “‘This is the worst point that I’ve seen the PA since its creation,’ Ghaith al-Omari, a former Palestinian National Authority official who previously served as an advisor to its negotiating team and is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells Newsweek. ‘We often used to talk about the PA collapse as an abstract, a distant threat,’ he adds. ‘I think this is now a much more pressing concern. In many ways, we are witnessing the unraveling of the PA.’ Should the PA collapse altogether, Omari predicts that, ‘at least for a couple generations, this will be the end of the Palestinian national movement.’ … Lacking unity, strong governance and any semblance of a path toward renewed peace talks, Palestinians find themselves at risk of ultimately losing their dream of statehood, going the route of countless other disaffected ethnic groups such as Balochis, Basques and Kurds, all of whom have failed to gain independence through decades of diplomacy and armed struggle.” [Newsweek]
🍻 Hip Hops: The Washington Post’s Tony Rehagen spotlights American beermaker Zahra Tabatabai, who opened her own brewery, which features flavors from her Iranian family’s kitchen, during the COVID-19 pandemic. “According to a recent audit by the Brewers Association, fewer than 24 percent of U.S. craft breweries are woman-owned, and only 2 percent are owned by a person of Asian ethnicity. Tabatabai is one of even fewer brewers making beer influenced by a part of the world that is not closely associated with the industry. She believes that last differentiator, her Middle Eastern spin on familiar beer styles, will be the secret to her success in a saturated marketplace — and at the same time, help her empower immigrants and women in a White-male-dominated beer world. ‘It was really important for me to share our culture and bring something new to beer,’ Tabatabai said. ‘I wanted to bring a new flavor and twist with ingredients that are popular flavor profiles in our cuisine. And I want to educate people about beer in that region.’” [WashPost]
Around the Web
🗳️ Back on the Ballot: Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a Republican, will announce her entry into the state’s Senate race next month.
🧑🎤 Muddy Waters: A British documentary about Roger Waters released this week includes accusations from former colleagues that the former Pink Floyd frontman used disparaging language to describe Jewish people.
📖 Reporting Revelations: Former Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Marty Baron writes in his upcoming book that Jared Kushner, then a top White House staffer, had pushed Post publisher Fred Ryan to fire Baron over the newspaper’s coverage of Russian election interference, work that garnered the Post a Pulitzer Prize.
🏗️ Condo Compromise: Officials in Surfside, Fla., reached a compromise over the construction of a loading dock near the site of a memorial to the 98 people who were killed in a condominium collapse in the beach town two years ago.
👋 Golden Rules: Three Golden Globes voters — including an Egyptian journalist whose writings have contained antisemitic content — were ousted for violating the company’s code of conduct.
🍲 Cohen’s Cookbook: The New York Timesinterviews cookbook author Jake Cohen about his newest book, I Could Nosh: Classic Jew-ish Recipes Revamped for Every Day.
🎭 Sondheim’s Swan Song: “Here We Are,” the final musical written by Stephen Sondheim, premieres today on Broadway amid questions over whether the manuscript had been completed before the composer and lyricist’s death in 2021.
🇵🇱 Polish Plea: Poland’s education minister is taking steps to pursue the extradition of a 98-year-old Ukrainian man who was honored by the Canadian Parliament last week, despite having been a member of a Nazi unit in WWII; Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, whose grandfather was the editor of a newspaper that printed antisemitic content during the Holocaust, said that Ottawa is going to be “very thoughtful” about reopening an investigation into Nazi war criminals in the country.
📚 Bookshelf: The New York Timesreviews German historian Volker Ullrich’s new book, Germany 1923: Hyperinflation, Hitler’s Putsch, and Democracy in Crisis, which looks at the political and economic dynamics in Germany between the two World Wars.
🇷🇺 Russian Wrath: Russia’s U.N. envoy accused the U.S. of backing Israeli-Saudi normalization that he said circumvents the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that predicated peace between Israel and Arab states on a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
🇸🇦🇮🇱 Pompeo’s Point: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told The Jerusalem Post that a Saudi-Israel normalization deal would be “impossible” to reach if Palestinian statehood is a prerequisite.
🪦 Ancient Tomb: Israeli archeologists discovered remains believed to be of a Greek courtesan buried near Jerusalem some 2,300 years ago.
🤝 When Shapiro Met Smotrich: Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich met with conservative media pundit Ben Shapiro in Jerusalem this week. This afternoon, Shapiro will co-host an X livestream on antisemitism alongside X owner Elon Musk and Bnai Zion CEO Ari Lamm.
🏪 Supermarket Spar: Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal pulled out of a deal with Dutch company Spar following the imposition of restrictions by the Israel Competition Authority; Spar still plans to open stores in Israel beginning in early 2024.
🚫 Sanctioned: The Treasury Department issued new sanctions on a combined seven entities and individuals in China, Iran, Turkey and the UAE for involvement in efforts to procure technology for Iran’s UAV program.
🌌 Space Success: Iran announced the successful launch into space of an imaging satellite, amid Western concerns over the role Tehran’s space program could play in its nuclear efforts.
Pic of the Day
The United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington hosted a discussion with the trade representatives from the UAE, Israel, Bahrain and Morocco to mark the third anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords.
French businessman who, with his brother, own the controlling interest in the House of Chanel and several prominent vineyards, Alain Wertheimer turns 75…
International Emmy award-winning Scottish television producer, Sir Jeremy Israel Isaacs turns 91… Former governor of Vermont, the first Jewish woman elected to govern any state, she was also the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, Madeleine May Kunin turns 90… Physician and theoretical biologist, he was a 1987 MacArthur Fellow, Stuart Kauffman turns 84… Former president of Warner Home Video, Warren Lieberfarb turns 80… Real estate agent in New York’s Hudson Valley, Jerry Weiss… Teaneck, N.J.-based real estate attorney, Gary E. Miller… U.S. senator (R-LA), Bill Cassidy turns 66… Pediatrician and author of the book Winning A Debate with An Israel Hater, Dr. Michael Harris… Bestselling author of more than 20 books and magazine journalist, Ben Greenman turns 54… Area director for San Diego and Orange counties for AIPAC, Elliott Nahmias… Winner of four Olympic gold medals for the USA in swimming in 2000 and 2004, Leonid “Lenny” Krayzelburg turns 48… News editor and correspondent at Voice of America, Michael Lipin… Israeli Ironman triathlete, Nina Pekerman turns 46… SVP at the Katz Watson Group, Lauren France… Marketing manager at the Anti-Defamation League, Samantha Collidge… Regional director for the OU’s Teach Coalition, Hadassa Levenson… Chief of staff at Tel Aviv-based iAngels, Ayelet Cohen… 2023 graduate of Yale Law School and author of a coming-of-age novel set in the Modern Orthodox community, David Hopen turns 30… Former NFL, XFL and CFL wide receiver and kick returner, Daniel Braverman turns 30… Head of strategic communications for Tel Aviv’s Number 10 Strategies and former political correspondent for The Times of Israel, Raoul Wootliff…