👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sit-down with X owner Elon Musk, and have a scoop on a bipartisan call from Congress for the administration to fully enforce its sanctions on Iran. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Jason Rezaian, Gov. Josh Shapiro and Sarah Al Amiri.
Amid conversations about a possible Israel-Saudi normalization agreement, which reportedly could include a U.S.-Saudi defense pact, conversations are picking up in Washington about the possibility of a U.S.-Israel defense pact as well.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the most prominent supporter of such an approach in the Senate, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod last night that he had “just had a conversation” on the subject and that the potential trilateral deal would require the U.S. to “make some hard decisions pretty quickly.” Graham said he wants to “help the administration to the extent I can to provide support from the right for a normalization with Saudi Arabia recognizing Israel.”
Graham did not say whether he’d be comfortable with a deal that cemented a U.S.-Saudi defense pact without a similar U.S.-Israel agreement. “The main thing is [to] get Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel,” Graham said.
The Jewish Institute for the National Security of America, which has advocated for a defense pact with Israel for several years, is set to release a new report on the subject today, and will hold a webinar on the subject on Wednesday.
Michael Makovsky, JINSA’s president and CEO, said that conditions appear ripe for a defense pact, given the Saudi talks and interest from Israel’s government. Such an agreement could help deter Iran’s nuclear program and potential retaliation against Israel, if Israel were to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, he added, as well as insulate the U.S.-Israel relationship from a future “hostile president of the United States.”
“There’s a great opportunity here for the United States,” Makovsky said. “It’s in the U.S. interest to try to deter Iran, it’s in the U.S. interest to try to stabilize the region. I think a treaty like this helps us focus on other regions more, like Indo-Pacific, while also aligning our policies more with Israel.”
Some 200 miles up the Northeast Corridor, President Joe Biden will take the stage at the U.N. General Assembly at 10 a.m. ET today, giving a speech that is expected to focus on cooperation between governments to combat global issues, as well as the war in Ukraine. Tonight, Biden will host a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the world leaders who traveled to Turtle Bay for the General Assembly — though, The New York Times notes, fewer high-profile names are in attendance this year. French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are all absent from this year’s gathering, and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are no-shows at the event for the second year in a row.
Also in New York today, Gov. Kathy Hochul is slated to make an announcement on the state’s efforts to combat antisemitism. She’ll be speaking just after noon local time at Manhattan’s Center for Jewish History.
silicon valley sit-down
Seeking partnership with Musk, Netanyahu treads lightly on antisemitism
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a charm offensive to draw Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, to invest in Israel, even as Musk has courted controversy with recent remarks on antisemitism and a threatened lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports from Fremont, Calif. Musk and Netanyahu broadcast a 45-minute conversation live on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday morning, focused, Netanyahu tweeted, on “how we can harness the opportunities and mitigate the risks of [artificial intelligence] for the good of civilization.”
Time at Tesla: Netanyahu and Musk spoke at the Tesla factory in the Bay Area city, in front of an audience made up almost entirely of members of the prime minister’s delegation at the start of his visit to the U.S., planned around the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Their private and broadcasted meetings came about after Netanyahu and Musk spoke on the phone three times and texted occasionally in recent months, a source in the prime minister’s delegation said. Outside the factory, a group of protestors organized by Israeli expats demonstrated against Netanyahu.
Trip highlight: While Netanyahu is scheduled to speak at the U.N. on Friday and meet with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, members of his delegation indicated that he saw his time in Silicon Valley as the highlight of the trip. Though it did not come up in the entire recorded discussion, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said one of Netanyahu’s major goals for the visit was to convince Musk to invest in Israel. The investment would ideally take the form of building a research and development center in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, which has long been seen as an emerging tech hub.
WSJ weighs in: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board writes that Netanyahu has “distanced himself from his government’s initial plan to reform the judiciary” and appears to be gravitating toward Israel’s political center after the Israeli premier told Musk an original Israeli government reform proposal was “bad.”
Bipartisan lawmakers raise alarms about growing China-Iran relationship
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on the administration to further crack down on the growing ties between China and Iran, urging the administration to “fully enforce” U.S. sanctions on Iran, which have been repeatedly violated by Chinese entities, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Claudia Tenney (R-NY), joined by 19 colleagues, wrote to Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Tuesday outlining a number of areas of growing cooperation between the two U.S. rivals, which the lawmakers say “cannot be tolerated.”
Sanctions evasion: “The Chinese-Iranian alliance presents a unique challenge and dangerous partnership antithetical to American national security interests,” their letter, obtained by JI, reads. The letter highlights China’s “rapidly increasing” imports of Iranian oil, in “willful disregard” of the U.S.’ sanctions on Iran’s oil trade. The letter argues that this trade “reduces economic pressure on Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, support for terrorism, and continued bankrolling of malign activities around the world.”
John Hancock: The letter was co-signed by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Rich McCormick (R-GA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Max Miller (R-OH), Cory Mills (R-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Tom Kean (R-NJ), Don Davis (D-NC) and Wiley Nickel (D-NC).
on the hill
Mixed reactions on Capitol Hill to U.S.-Iran hostage swap
The finalization of the Biden administration’s deal to free U.S. hostages from Iran in exchange for Iranian prisoners held in the U.S. and the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian funds held in a South Korean bank was met on Monday with mixed reactions from Capitol Hill, including from some key Democrats, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Skeptic: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East subcommittee, expressed preliminary concerns about the agreement. “Iran is a clear and present danger, and the prisoner swap deal is disconcerting on the surface,” Phillips said. “That said, it’s irresponsible to draw conclusions until the administration shares more information. I’m hopeful there’s more than meets the eye, and will opine once that’s clear.”
In support: Some Democrats, including those leery of talks with Iran, are supportive of the deal. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) indicated that he’s generally supportive, echoing the administration’s position that the frozen funds belonged to Iran and would be subject to strict controls only allowing them to be spent on humanitarian causes. Cardin said that we “have to make sure that’s the case” that the restrictions will be enforced, but added, “I’m pleased that we were able to get Americans home.”
Other side of the aisle: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) raised alarms about reports that some of the Iranian prisoners released from U.S. custody, including one who worked as an unregistered foreign agent for Iran, would remain in the United States. “If the deal isn’t reversed, you should at minimum remove all Iranian agents from American soil,” Cotton said in a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Cotton demanded answers from Blinken about whether the released individuals could be deported and how the administration plans to monitor their activities and communications.
NYC’s Perelman Performing Arts Center opens at World Trade Center site
The Perelman Performing Arts Center, also known as PAC NYC, opened its doors this week near the site of the World Trade Center after years in developmental limbo. The $500 million center, which will host its inaugural performance on Tuesday night, marks the completion of a 20-year-long master plan to rebuild Ground Zero and the section of Lower Manhattan destroyed on 9/11. “The ultimate response to hatred is love, and the ultimate response to destruction is creation,” Bill Rauch, PAC NYC’s artistic director, told Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel. “I think it’s so appropriate that at this particular location, that there is a building and an organization that is devoted to creativity and to community — to making connections between people, bringing people together.”
Making it happen: The cube-shaped center with a striking marble facade was first proposed 20 years ago as an unspecified performing arts center to fill the final space at the new World Trade Center site. After a series of delays and operational shakeups, construction finally got off the ground in 2016, thanks to businessman Ronald O. Perelman, whose $75 million donation reignited the project and inspired the building’s name. While the center bears Perelman’s name, its biggest benefactor is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose previously undisclosed donation of $130 million was made public in June. Bloomberg, who also chairs the 9/11 Memorial & Museum board, took over as chair of PAC NYC’s board in 2020, a position previously held by Barbra Streisand since 2016.
Making it official: Ahead of Tuesday’s grand opening, the center held a ribbon cutting last Wednesday, with over 200 in attendance. Both Bloomberg and Perelman spoke during the event, alongside New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, 9/11 Memorial & Museum trustee Paula Grant Berry — whose husband, David Berry, died in the attack — Rauch and PAC NYC’s executive director, Khady Kamara. In his remarks, Bloomberg noted that Lower Manhattan had never housed a performing arts center, and that adding such a space to the rebuilding plans was a top priority from the start.
✖️ Risky Business: In The New York Times, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Yoel Roth, formerly Twitter’s head and trust and safety, considers the obligations that social media platforms have to users and employees while facing pressure from governments. “If social media companies cannot safely operate in a country without exposing their staff to personal risk and company decisions to undue influence, perhaps they should not operate there at all. Like others, I worry that such pullouts would worsen the options left to people who have the greatest need for free and open online expression. But remaining in a compromised way could forestall necessary reckoning with censorial government policies. Refusing to comply with morally unjustifiable demands, and facing blockages as a result, may in the long run provoke the necessary public outrage that can help drive reform. The broader challenge here — and perhaps, the inescapable one — is the essential humanness of online trust and safety efforts. It isn’t machine learning models and faceless algorithms behind key content moderation decisions: it’s people. And people can be pressured, intimidated, threatened and extorted. Standing up to injustice, authoritarianism and online harms requires employees who are willing to do that work.” [NYTimes]
👀 Oslo in Review: In The Wall Street Journal, Israel Defense and Security Forum’s chairman, Brig. Gen. (res) Amir Avivi, reflects on what he calls the “folly” of the Oslo Accords, 30 years later. “The sad truth is that Israel unwittingly allowed the creation of a global terrorist network that directs international efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy and fuels anti-Semitism. The Arab citizens of Israel are now subject to intense Palestinian propaganda, while international funds provided to the Palestinian Authority support terror activities and the gradual takeover of Judea and Samaria. Palestinian curriculum is rife with Israel hatred, creating generations of future terrorists and diminishing the prospects of future peace. The idea behind the Oslo Accords might have been noble, but the implementation was deeply flawed. I hope that after Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s 87-year-old successor, passes from the scene, conditions will allow a new and positive path forward, for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians alike.” [WSJ]
🇮🇷 Tehran Trade: The Washington Post’s editorial board weighs in on the Biden administration’s prisoner exchange with Iran. “The harsh truth is that rewarding hostage-taking breeds more of the same. Rogue states clang the jail door shut and wait for the next payoff, and they almost never suffer consequences for stealing people off the street. The best deterrent would be for the United States and other nations to refuse to negotiate for the release of such hostages. But that has proved unattractive for U.S. officials, who have struck unbalanced deals to free innocent Americans from foreign cells. Such decisions can only inspire a mix of understanding and regret.” [WashPost]
🗳️ South Carolina Standoff: The Daily Beast’s Jake Lahut looks at the tensions between the presidential campaigns of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) as they attempt to woo the same groups of voters ahead of the GOP primaries. “For months, GOP campaign operatives have been wondering when the two South Carolinians were going to begin attacking each other. Both are fighting over a small and similar piece of the voter pie left over from Trump’s majority, and the South Carolina primary is a key part of both of their plans, so it always seemed inevitable that they would have to square off at some point. While sources close to both campaigns say any open fighting between the candidates likely won’t happen until after Iowa — should they both make it that far, with President Donald Trump’s polling lead growing increasingly insurmountable — the Scott campaign has been keeping score. It’s also important to note the significant overlap between the two staffs, with several aides and advisers to the campaigns previously working for the other South Carolinian at some point. That’s made for some strained relationships, even in a state known for its below the belt tactics.” [DailyBeast]
📺 Plot Points: The Wall Street Journal’s Chavie Lieber spotlights the heightened interest in music and television focused on religious Jews, citing the recent hits “Jewish Matchmaking,” “Shtisel” and “Rough Diamonds,” among others. “Jews and Jewish identity have long been embedded in American culture. This latest wave of artists and work brings a new layer of religious flavor to the mainstream. There are more Orthodox characters now because streaming services are globalized, with audiences eager to learn about new cultures across the world through Netflix, TikTok and Spotify. Additionally, 66% of adults in Israel’s ultraorthodox community are now internet users, according to a 2022 survey from the Israel Democracy Institute, up from 41% in a 2016 survey. ‘Suddenly you can no longer just talk about us — you have to talk with us,’ said Mordechai Lightstone, a Brooklyn-based rabbi who runs social media for Chabad.org, the Judaism website run by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement…. In seeking TV fresh plots, ‘everyone is looking for meaning,’ said Shayna Weiss, a professor of Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, who noted that the ultraorthodox world ‘is full of meaning, from the way they wake up in the morning to how they eat and pray.’” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🗳️ Destination Detroit: Former President Donald Trump will skip the second Republican presidential debate next week in California, and will instead give a speech to current and former union members in Detroit at the same time.
😕 Numbers Game: Democrats are concerned about President Joe Biden’s age and health ahead of the 2024 presidential election, as a slew of recent polls show the president struggling against Trump.
💰 Griffin’s Gauge: GOP donor Ken Griffin, who has previously backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, told CNBC he is still “on the sidelines” as to whom to support in the 2024 presidential race.
👋 Wexton Bowing Out: Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) will not seek reelection, following a diagnosis of a rapidly moving neurological condition, setting the stage for a competitive race in a purple district.
🇮🇱 Survey Says: A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 30% of Americans see Israel as sharing values with the U.S., with roughly 40% of those surveyed saying Israel is a U.S. ally with whom Washington should cooperate.
🧑⚖️ Reprieve in Touro Case: A superior court judge in Rhode Island granted a stay to a local Jewish congregation that had been evicted from the state’s historic Touro Synagogue, but upheld the eviction.
💬 Chast Remarks: The New York Times interviewed cartoonist Roz Chast ahead of the release of her new book, I Must Be Dreaming.
⚖️ Suiting Up: FTX filed a lawsuit against the parents of founder Sam Bankman-Fried, alleging that Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried used “access and influence within the FTX enterprise to enrich themselves.”
⚾ Diamond Discussion: The Wall Street Journallooks at the moves by the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox, respectively, to hire David Stearns and to fire Chaim Bloom.
📽️ Film Fodder: Jonathan Glazer’s upcoming film, “The Zone of Interest,” about the lives of Auschwitz Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss and his family during the Holocaust, is picking up awards and accolades — and is rumored to be a contender for the Best Picture Academy Award — ahead of its official release in December.
🌊 Casting Off: The Washington Postspotlights the Jewish tradition of tashlich.
🍲 Mountain Memories: Smithsonian Magazine explores the rise and fall of the Borscht Belt, a popular vacation destination for Jewish New Yorkers in the early and mid-20th century.
🏫 Campus Beat: Jewish students at the University of Pennsylvania are organizing a massive Shabbat dinner in response to a festival being held on campus at the same time whose speakers include individuals with a documented history of trafficking in antisemitic tropes.
🌌 Space Race: The Daily Beast spotlights Emirati Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology Sarah Al Amiri as the Gulf nation’s space agency, which she chairs, partners with the University of Colorado Boulder on a joint effort to launch a mission into the asteroid belt.
🔄 Prisoner Swap: The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian interviewed National Security Council official Brett McGurk about the Biden administration’s recent prisoner exchange with Iran.
🚫 New Sanctions: The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for providing support to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
🇩🇪 Backing Envoy: Germany is backing its ambassador in Israel after the Israeli Embassy in Berlin lodged a complaint against him for attending a Supreme Court session on judicial reform last week.
✈️ Friendly Skies: Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev approved plans for a new airline that will be based out of Haifa and will service destinations including Eilat, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.
🪧 One Year On: New York magazine interviewed six Iranian anti-regime activists about the evolution of the country’s protest movement.
🇸🇦 Tesla Talks: Officials in Saudi Arabia are in talks with Tesla about the possibility of setting up a manufacturing facility in the Gulf state.
➡️ Transition: Elan Carr, who served as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism during the Trump administration, was named the next CEO of the Israeli American Council.
Pic of the Day
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and his wife, Lori (at right), make challah with Israeli-American chef Mike Solomonov and Israeli-American cookbook author Adeena Sussman.
Max Webb emeritus rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, David J. Wolpe turns 65…
Professor of Jewish history and literature at Yeshiva University, he is the only son of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Haym Soloveitchik turns 86… Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives until 2022, Jeffrey Colman Salloway turns 82… Professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law and director of the Innocence Project, Barry Scheck turns 74… Distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, after a 28-year Pentagon career as a Middle East expert, Harold Rhode turns 74… Freelance reporter, he was a writing instructor at Montana State University Billings, Bruce Alpert… Stockton, Calif.-based physician at The Pacific Sleep Disorders Center, Ronald Kass, M.D…. Producer of over 40 films in his career and executive producer of the television series “Monk,” David Elliot Hoberman turns 71… Boston-based attorney focused upon Section 529 college savings plans, Mark A. Chapleau… Chairman and CEO of NYC’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, John Nathan “Janno” Lieber turns 62… Bow tie-clad field reporter for Fox Major League Baseball since 2005, he is also a senior baseball writer for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal turns 61…
Inspector general of the U.S. Department of Justice since 2012, Michael Evan Horowitz turns 61… U.S. senator (R-SC) and 2024 presidential candidate, Tim Scott turns 58… Executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Ronald Halber… Author of eight popular business books, former small business columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Mike Michalowicz… Founder and managing director at Two Lanterns Venture Partners, he is also the founder of MassChallenge, John Harthorne… Pole vaulter, she competed for the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics and for Israel in the 2012 Olympics, now an associate brand manager at the Kraft Heinz Company, Jillian Schwartz turns 44… VP at Antenna Group, Neal Urwitz… Former MLB player for nine seasons, he was on Team Israel for the 2020 Summer Olympics and the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Danny Valencia turns 39… Public affairs director at Elliott Investment Management, Joe Kristol… Singer-songwriter and producer, he frequently wears a Magen David pendant when performing, Charlie Burg turns 27… Former NFL placekicker, now kicking in the XFL, Sam Sloman turns 26…