👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at how pro-Israel groups are approaching primary challenges to Squad members, and talk to author Franklin Foer about his latest book. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Mike Pompeo, Amy Herzog and Dafna Linzer.
The Biden administration approved the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds, as the parties move closer to a prisoner exchange that could take place as soon as next week. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told NBC News’ Lester Holt that the “money belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money.”
Meanwhile, officials in Tehran shared the names of the five Iranians who will be freed in the agreement. In a thread on X, Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department senior advisor on Iran now with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, noted that among the prisoners being released in exchange for five Americans is an individual who tried to obtain $2.6 million in items “that could have been used in nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other military items.”
Another of the five had been sentenced for attempting to send equipment to Iran for nuclear enrichment purposes. Another man, Kambiz Attar Kashani, was sentenced earlier this year for attempting to procure technology for the Central Bank of Iran, which Noronha added, is “the main funder behind Hamas, Hezbollah, and the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].”
The exchange comes as the House resumes its regular activity after its summer recess. Against the backdrop of the prisoner swap, this week the House will vote on three Iran-related measures, and hold two separate hearings on Iran policy.
Three bipartisan pieces of legislation — the Fight CRIME Act, a sanctions bill aimed at Iran’s missile and drone program; the MAHSA Act, bill targeting Iran’s leadership; and a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights violations — are set for votes on Tuesday, each of which would require two-thirds support.
The MAHSA Act was the subject of some controversy over its language when it came through the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and was the subject of intense negotiations. It ultimately passed by a voice vote, but Democrats on the committee said they wanted further negotiations before final passage.
On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing on “the Biden Administration’s Failures on Iran,” with testimony from Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Advisor (and JI podcast co-host) Richard Goldberg, JINSA CEO Michael Makovsky and Victoria Coates, vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation.
On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia will hold a hearing focused on policy responses to Iran’s malign activities, with testimony from former National Intelligence Manager for Iran Norman Roule, FDD Senior Fellow Behnam Ben Taleblu, activist Masih Alinejad and Brookings Institution Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Suzanne Maloney.
The House is also set to consider the defense appropriations bill for 2024 this week, setting up renewed clashes over U.S. aid to Ukraine. Other proposed amendments to the bill seek to prohibit military stores from selling products by people or companies that boycott Israel; combat antisemitism in the military; cut off aid to Jordan until convicted terrorist Ahlam Tamimi is extradited; prevent the implementation of an Iran nuclear agreement without congressional approval; and leverage U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia.
The Homeland Security Appropriations bill is also moving toward the floor; one proposed amendment to the bill would boost Nonprofit Security Grant Program funding by an additional $20 million to $335 million.
Clarification: In yesterday’s Daily Kickoff, we mistakenly referenced congressional endorsements from AIPAC’s super PAC. The endorsements came from AIPAC’s federal PAC.
Pro-Israel advocates face early challenges in effort to unseat Squad members
While AIPAC has indicated that it is weighing a more aggressive approach to challenging anti-Israel incumbents this election cycle, the pro-Israel group is facing some early hurdles as several of its favored House recruits remain undecided about running. Meanwhile, in a couple of pivotal races involving Squad members, the field of challengers is growing, potentially reducing the chances for an upset, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Twin Cities test: In Minneapolis, AIPAC has been courting a moderate city councilwoman, LaTrisha Vetaw, to challenge Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). But while Vetaw had initially suggested she would run, according to a Democratic operative familiar with her thinking, she has recently backed away from a firm commitment as she campaigns for reelection to the City Council. In the meantime, two Democrats from opposing ideological wings of the party have already entered the race, and Don Samuels, who came close to unseating Omar in 2022, is strongly leaning toward running again, the operative told JI.
Looking to Latimer in N.Y.: AIPAC’s preferred candidate to challenge Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Westchester County Executive George Latimer, has continued to sit on the sidelines. In a text message to JI last week, Latimer indicated that he is in no rush to confirm his plans, even as another moderate challenger has entered the race. “Nothing new,” he said, noting that he is “so tied up with current issues,” including migrants and budgetary matters, “to focus forward.” A local Jewish activist close to AIPAC said that Latimer has been urged to decide by Wednesday. “I am worried that he will decline,” the activist told JI. “I don’t think there is much of a plan B if he doesn’t run.”
Pittsburgh play: In another primary on AIPAC’s radar, Jewish and pro-Israel activists in Pittsburgh are backing Bhavini Patel, a potential Democratic challenger to Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) who is expected to announce a campaign in the first week of October, according to a source informed of her plans. “At this point in time, I am deepening my engagements with the local community, as I seriously consider the path ahead,” Patel, an Edgewood councilmember, told JI on Monday. But she might not have the opposing lane to herself, said local activists who are aware of other Democrats mulling challenges. “As soon as there is more than one challenger to an incumbent, it’s a loser of a challenge,” cautioned one pro-Israel advocate in Pittsburgh. “And that, my friend, is AIPAC’s dilemma.”
brand of politics
Franklin Foer’s new Biden book portrays a Washington that still works — for now
On the day President Joe Biden took the oath of office, journalist Franklin Foer was under contract to write a book on the Biden presidency — and struggling to find something new to say about the elder statesman who had been in politics for decades. After observing the transition to the Biden administration, days after an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol threatened the peaceful transfer of power, Foer came to a very Washington conclusion: “As I watched that, I thought, ‘Well, maybe there is a lot of benefit to having experience, and people with experience, who understood the mechanics of government on some sort of deeper level,’” he told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in an interview last week.
Working government: Foer’s new book The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future, chronicles Biden’s first two years in office and presents a picture of a presidential administration that is functional and even successful, at a time when many Americans think of government as deeply dysfunctional.
Just a footnote: Foer’s book takes up the matter of Biden’s age — he is the oldest sitting president — but largely brushes aside concerns about it. Biden “will be remembered as the old hack who could,” Foer writes. But his central argument will be tested next year, as Biden faces a potential rematch against former President Donald Trump, a man whose entire political persona rests on his opposition to the Washington brand of politics as normal. “If he loses to Trump,” Foer told JI, “it’ll make the stuff that I wrote about look a little bit more like a footnote.”
Democratic divide: One chapter focuses on Biden’s actions during the war between Israel and Hamas in 2021, and describes a generational divide on Israel within Biden’s administration. “Biden came from a different generation than his foreign policy team,” Foer writes. “He grew up in a world where most Americans, especially liberals, regarded Israel as both a historical miracle and a sympathetic underdog.”
Meet cute: Foer recounts the story of Biden’s first time meeting Nancy Pelosi in the 1970s: “She was helping a San Francisco neighbor organize a fundraiser for Israel. Biden was the keynote speaker. Pelosi loaned her Jeep, for the sake of squiring Biden around town so that he could extol the case for Zionism.”
Israeli High court hears petitions against ‘reasonableness’ law
Israel’s High Court of Justice is today hearing eight petitions against the first law passed in the government’s judicial reform, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports. That law, passed in July, canceled the justices’ ability to cite “reasonableness” in judicial review of executive decisions.
For and against: Critics of judicial activism argue that “reasonableness” is too subjective of a standard and allows the court to intervene excessively in the policies and makeup of the government, disturbing the balance between the branches of government. Opponents of judicial reform counter that the reasonableness standard is an important check on the power of the executive branch and gives citizens recourse against corrupt and capricious government decisions. Without it, “who will ensure that the ministers actually act reasonably? There is a law, but no judge,” Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said in court on Tuesday.
Right to adjudicate: The government is also arguing that the High Court doesn’t have the right to strike down this law, as it doesn’t have the authority to reverse Basic Laws — the law banning the reasonableness standard was an amendment to a Basic Law. Israel began legislating Basic Laws in 1958, intending them to be building blocks of an eventual constitution. The Supreme Court began treating them as a basis for striking down other laws in 1995.
Checks and balances: Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman asked the judges on Tuesday: “If you are the last ones to decide on this matter as well, where are the checks and balances in our democracy?”
Facing a constitutional crisis: Some coalition members made it clear in advance that they would not abide by a court ruling that strikes down a Basic Law. “The Knesset will not submissively allow itself to be trampled,” the legislature’s speaker, Amir Ohana, said last week. A decision will likely be delayed by the High Holy Days starting with Rosh Hashanah this week, and could take until January.
king of queens
Two Orthodox Jewish candidates vie for Queens state Assembly seat
Voters in central Queens head to the polls today to fill a vacant state Assembly seat in a race that pits two Orthodox Jewish candidates against each other — in a traditionally Democratic district that backed former Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) for governor by double digits last year, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Head to head: The Democratic nominee is 25-year-old law school graduate Sam Berger, who has the backing of outgoing Democratic Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (who was recently tapped as UJA-Federation of New York’s vice president for governmental affairs). Berger is squaring off against Republican David Hirsch, an Orthodox rabbi who works in education policy.
Not like the past: The race is expected to be a nail-biter, multiple sources told JI. A political strategist familiar with recent independent polling said the two candidates are now statistically tied. “The 1 reason why Dems are crossing over and plan on voting Republican: migrants,” the strategist explained in a text message on Friday.
Migrant crisis: Within the district, the city’s worsening migrant crisis has become a polarizing issue. In late July, a shelter for asylum seekers opened in College Point, drawing opposition from community members. Hirsch has aggressively capitalized on local discontent with Democrats’ handling of the crisis. “It’s completely not about candidates anymore,” a Democratic source familiar with the race told JI. “It’s completely about migrants.” There’s a sizable bloc of Jewish voters in the district who typically back Democrats, but have grown increasingly disenchanted with the leftward drift of the state party.
Sign of the times: If Republicans score an upset in the heart of Queens, it’s a sign of a continued backlash against the progressive bent of Democratic leadership in both chambers of the New York state legislature.
🌆 A Master Builder’s Newest Project: The New York Times’ Christopher Maag sits down with Dan Doctoroff as the businessman and former top advisor to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as he works to raise money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which he was diagnosed with in 2021. “Once, and it wasn’t so long ago, Dan Doctoroff had more power to decide what got built in New York City than anyone since Robert Moses. Now he is diagnosed with A.L.S., a neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s that attacks the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, causing patients to lose control of their voluntary muscles. A.L.S. turns the body into a prison. Only the eyes and brain remain mostly unaffected. Death comes by lung failure and suffocation, usually within three to five years of diagnosis. Mr. Doctoroff is 65. He was diagnosed almost two years ago. As a powerful man loses authority over his own body, how does he change? And what remains?” [NYTimes]
✍️ Draft of History: In The Atlantic, Jeff Nussbaum, a former speechwriter and special assistant to President Joe Biden, spotlights a written-but-never-delivered speech that was set to be read on September 11, 2001, by Condoleezza Rice, then-President George W. Bush’s national-security adviser. “What I found was more measured and more thoughtful than I had expected. It also held some surprises. As we mark the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the speech might be more relevant than at any time since the morning on which it was suddenly scrapped. On August 6, 2001, Matthew Waxman, who was serving as Rice’s executive assistant, tapped out an email to John Gibson, the National Security Council’s director for foreign-policy speechwriting. ‘DCR would like to change the focus of the Rostov Lecture,’ he wrote. “Instead of focusing on the unilateralism/isolationism issue, she’d like to speak on missile defense … She wants to emphasize that missile defense is one part of a larger effort to transform the relationship w/Russia. As she says it, ‘lets take a shot at 10 years of calling it the post-Cold-War era.’ It’s time to move beyond.’” [TheAtlantic]
⛔ No PA Linkage: In The Hill, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sander Gerber caution that the Palestinian Authority should not be part of any Saudi-Israel normalization agreement. “It is past time to stop funding Palestinian aid through an organization like the Palestinian Authority that has no intention of yielding a return on that investment, and whose corruption and misgovernance works directly at cross-purposes with shared U.S., Israeli and Saudi goals of promoting peace, prosperity and stability. Instead, the United States and Saudi Arabia should create a responsible mechanism for helping the Palestinians — not furthering PA corruption and support for terrorism. Establishing a new aid organization would enable the United States to provide assistance to the Palestinian people without violating the Taylor Force Act. Removing the PA from the aid equation would better ensure that aid reaches the Palestinian people and not PA coffers or as a subsidy for terrorist attacks against Israelis.” [TheHill]
❓ Musk’s Mindset: In The New York Times, David Austin Walsh weighs in on X owner Elon Musk’s recent attack on the Anti-Defamation League. “What explains Mr. Musk’s questionable decision making? It does not take much of a leap to imagine that an immensely wealthy businessman — one who strongly believes in his own messianic mission to uplift humanity and who is facing intense and sustained public criticism over his politics and business acumen for the first time in decades — might conclude that nefarious forces are at work to undermine him. What separates this simple scapegoating from full-blown conspiracism is the sense one gets from Mr. Musk and his acolytes that criticism of him imperils the utopian future of mankind. That, combined with the fact that Mr. Musk has been consistently boosting far-right, white nationalist, and antisemitic accounts on Twitter since the beginning of his tenure, effectively melds his sense of victimhood with the conspiratorial antisemitism of the most toxic elements of the right.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💥 GOP Civil War: A government shutdown centered on GOP discord over Ukraine aid is looking increasingly possible at the end of the month, Punchbowl News reports. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been aggressively pushing back against right-wing House Republicans who want to cut off aid to Ukraine.
🎧 Podcast Play: GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is launching a podcast called “The Truth with Vivek Ramaswamy,” with plans to interview far-right figures, including “Libs of TikTok” creator Chaya Raichik and Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe.
📁 Records Request: Members of a Senate Homeland Security Committee subcommittee on investigations called on the Justice Department and the FBI to release unredacted documents related to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
🧑⚖️ Feinstein Family Feud: A California superior court judge ordered Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and her family to resolve their differences through mediation, following weeks of disputes over the estate of the senator’s late husband.
🤝 Kevin Goes A-Courting: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has made several trips to upstate New York to meet with Hasidic Jewish leaders in an effort to win over voting blocs critical to swing-district Republicans.
💻 Talking Tech: The Washington Post’s Josh Tyrangiel spotlights OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s approach to government regulation of AI technology.
✖️ Control-X: X CEO Linda Yaccarino edited a post linking to a company blog spot on fighting antisemitism four times in a short span; the first version read, “X is committed to combating antisemitism. And here’s what we’re doing about it,” while the final version read, “X opposes antisemitism in all its forms. Antisemitism is evil and X will always work to fight it on our platform. And X is also always open to proactively working together in that fight with all groups.”
⚖️ Wheels of Justice: Illinois bar officials are recommending that a former federal prosecutor, whom state legal authorities said “demonstrated a pattern of hostility toward Jews,” be suspended for three years.
🎭 Broadway Bound: Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Herzog’s play “Mary Jane,” about a single mother who befriends a Hasidic Jew in a similar situation, will open on Broadway in the spring.
🇺🇦 Caught in the Violence: A Jewish aid worker was killed last weekend in Ukraine when a projectile, likely a Russian mortar shell, struck a rescue vehicle she was in alongside three colleagues, one of whom was also killed.
🇮🇷 Iran Encroachment: Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the military had discovered an Iranian terror base — believed to be an airport — in southern Lebanon, located 20 kilometers from the Israeli border.
🤝 Diplomatic Meetings: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met yesterday with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Jerusalem; Cohen’s meeting with his counterpart was also attended by Rabbi Leo Dee, who was appointed this week as the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for social initiatives.
🛃 Looming Deadline: Weeks before the deadline to show compliance with the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, Israel is loosening restrictions on Palestinian Americans in Gaza transiting through Israel.
🇲🇦 Reporter’s Notebook: Israeli news website Kikar HaShabbat’s Chen Schimmel traveled to Morocco to document the devastation left by the recent earthquake that struck the country.
➡️ Transition: Dafna Linzer, most recently the executive editor of Politico, is joining U.S. News & World Report as its editorial director and executive vice president.
Pic of the Day
The Moroccan flag is projected onto the wires of Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge this week in support of the earthquake victims in Morocco on September 10, 2023.
Israeli singer, songwriter and musician, he has performed around the world, Idan Raichel turns 46…
2020 Nobel Prize laureate in medicine, Harvey James Alter turns 88… Chairman at Waxman Strategies, he served for 20 terms through 2015 as a Democratic congressman from Los Angeles, Henry Waxman turns 84… 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, University of Chicago behavioral economist, Richard H. Thaler turns 78… Director of intergovernmental affairs in the Obama White House, he was previously lieutenant governor of Kentucky and mayor of Louisville, Jerry Abramson turns 77… President of Israel21c, she is also a former president of AIPAC, Amy Rothschild Friedkin… Former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, he was governor of Kansas and a U.S. senator, Sam Brownback turns 67… Miami-based chairman of American Principles Super PAC, Eytan Laor… SVP of government and public affairs at CVS Health, Melissa Schulman… Internet entrepreneur and a pioneer of VoIP telephony, Jeff Pulver turns 61… Attorney specializing in the recovery of looted artworks during the Holocaust and featured in the 2015 film “Woman in Gold,” E. Randol (Randy) Schoenberg turns 57… Paralegal at The St. Joe Company, Sherri Jankowski… Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Max A. Boot turns 54… Deputy chief advocacy officer at the Credit Union National Association, Jason Stverak… Founder of the Loewy Law Firm in Austin, Texas, Adam Loewy… Venture capitalist and one of the co-founders of Palantir Technologies, Joseph Todd “Joe” Lonsdale turns 41… AIPAC’s area director for Philadelphia and South Jersey, Kelly Lauren Stein… Actress, director and singer, she starred in the 2022 Peacock miniseries “Angelyne,” Emmanuelle Grey “Emmy” Rossum turns 37… Former advisor to the prime minister of Israel for foreign affairs and world communities, Sara Greenberg… Manager of operations communications at American Airlines, Ethan Klapper… National political correspondent at Politico and the author of The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power, Ben Schreckinger… Senior product manager at Amazon, Natalie Raps Farren… Film and television actress, Molly Tarlov turns 31…
BIRTHWEEK: Media and foreign affairs advisor to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Betty Ilovici (was yesterday)…