👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on yesterday’s meeting in New York between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and spotlight Mexican presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum’s connection — or lack thereof — to the country’s Jewish community. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Izabella Tabarovsky, Jeff Yass and Rahm Emanuel.
Today in Pittsburgh, Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund executive and Army veteran, will launch his Senate campaign against Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) at the John Heinz History Center, according to sources familiar with his plans, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar reports.
McCormick’s candidacy will be a pivotal test of whether Republicans can successfully reconcile the traditional wing of their party with the ascendant MAGA movement. McCormick’s business background is at odds with the growing populism of the GOP, but he has successfully won over some of his bigger skeptics within the party.
McCormick narrowly lost the 2022 Senate primary to Dr. Mehmet Oz, largely because former President Donald Trump endorsed Oz and criticized McCormick during a pre-primary rally. This cycle, Trump isn’t expected to engage in the primary and views McCormick’s campaign as essential to his odds of winning the Keystone State if he’s the nominee in the 2024 election.
One notable sign that McCormick has won over the MAGA elements of his party: He garnered an endorsement from right-wing 2022 gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. “Rebbie and I met with him and his wife a month or two ago. I’m seeing him again this week. He’s a veteran of Desert Storm. I’m pretty much satisfied with the answers he gave me. It’s time to unify,” Mastriano said in an interview with conservative talk show host John Fredericks.
A source close to the McCormick campaign told JI that even though McCormick and Mastriano have different views, their shared history as combat veterans helped seal the political rapprochement.
McCormick has also won endorsements from several notable conservatives in the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, such as Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Dan Meuser (R-PA).
With McCormick as the nominee, Pennsylvania will be one of the biggest and most expensive swing states in the country, thanks to its role as both a presidential and Senate battleground. Republicans are focused on flipping three red states in their pursuit of a Senate majority, but view purple states like Pennsylvania and Nevada as top battlegrounds as well.
Biden, Netanyahu play nice in New York, ‘even with our differences’
President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered an upbeat outlook of U.S.-Israel relations in their meeting in New York on Wednesday, even as tensions over the Israeli government’s judicial reform plan simmered. The meeting was the first between the leaders since Netanyahu returned to office in December, with Biden making clear that he was holding out because of his disapproval of both the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul plans and extremists in Netanyahu’s coalition, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Location, location, location: The fact that they met in a hotel in New York and not in the White House was a disappointment to the Israeli prime minister and his allies. Yet Biden dangled a long-coveted White House visit before Netanyahu, saying: “I hope we will see each other in Washington by the end of the year.”
Saudi sights: The leaders met one-on-one for close to an hour. The Israeli prime minister said he was confident that Biden can “forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” and mentioned a demand that Washington and Riyadh have been making in relation to normalization talks — tangible steps to help the Palestinians. “I think such a peace [between Israel and Saudi Arabia] would go a long way for us to advance the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said.
Keeping the faith — at arm’s length
Next June’s Mexican presidential election promises to be a historic contest, with two women vying to become the country’s first female head of state in what political observers have called a watershed moment for Mexican politics. That Claudia Sheinbaum would also be Mexico’s first Jewish president, meanwhile, has been heralded with less fanfare in the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country — not least by the candidate herself, a member of Mexico’s governing party, Morena, and a protégé of the populist sitting president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is term-limited, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Identity politics: Unlike Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has embraced his position as the world’s most prominent Jewish leader outside of Israel since Russia’s invasion last year, Sheinbaum fits into a parallel category of secular politicians on the left and center-left who, amid a global rise in antisemitism, have more cautiously downplayed or elided their Jewish backgrounds in favor of universalist language or overtly nationalist rhetoric. During her fledgling campaign for president, Sheinbaum, who was picked as Morena’s nominee two weeks ago, has eschewed specific references to her family biography, as an emerging strain of identity politics has fueled nativist rhetoric that has cast suspicion on her European Jewish roots and, consequently, her claims to Mexican heritage.
Birther conspiracy theory: In recent months, Sheinbaum, the first Jewish and female mayor of Mexico City, has been forced to confront an online misinformation campaign falsely alleging that she was born in Bulgaria — where her Sephardic maternal grandparents fled the Holocaust in 1942 — and therefore ineligible to run for president. To fend off such insinuations, Sheinbaum has described herself as “100% Mexican” and “more Mexican than mole,” a traditional sauce viewed as Mexico’s national dish. “Enough with the speculation, already,” she wrote on X in June, posting a copy of her birth certificate showing she was born in Mexico City.
deal or no deal
Mideast leaders talk Abraham Accords on sidelines of UNGA
King Abdullah II of Jordan said on Wednesday that he hopes an Israeli-Saudi normalization deal could bring the region “to a new horizon” but warned against creating a deal that ignores the Palestinians, chastising those in the Arab world who believe “that you can parachute over Palestine and deal with the Arabs.” His remarks came at a glitzy confab, hosted at Manhattan’s Academy Mansion on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly by the publications Semafor and Al-Monitor, that saw some other Middle Eastern leaders express more skepticism toward greater Israeli integration into the region, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Key point: “I think the key challenge for a sustainable peace and security in the region,” said Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al-Busaidi, is “the unresolved question of Palestine,” adding that “there is no other way” for Israel to reach peace in the region if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues. Al-Busaidi also praised the state of the country’s relationship with Iran and urged Western nations to make progress in nuclear negotiations, calling the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “the best thing we had.” Tunisian Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar said the country is not considering any agreement with Israel so long as Israel and the Palestinians have not reached any kind of resolution.
MBS statement: Their comments diverged from a major new statement offered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who on Wednesday said, in an interview with Fox News, that “every day we get closer” to a Saudi-Israel normalization deal. The “Palestinian issue is very important,” bin Salman added.
UAE POV: Anwar Gargash, a top foreign policy advisor in the United Arab Emirates, offered a telling statement at Wednesday event as to how the Gulf nation, which normalized ties with Israel in the 2020 Abraham Accords, views the Palestinian cause: “Were the Abraham Accords envisioned to solve the Palestinian issue? It wasn’t,” said Gargash. “We had all our leverage with the Palestinians, gave them cheque blanc, and they haven’t done anything.” Gargash acknowledged that “far-right policies of the Israeli government” are putting normalization “through a difficult time right now.” But, he added, “the government of the day will change,” and “the Abrahamic Accords are something that we will continue regardless of what is the government of the day.”
Bonus: The Wall Street Journalreports that Israeli and American officials are quietly working on a deal that would allow Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium under U.S. auspices, a proposal that is being decried by some in Israel’s security establishment and Mideast-focused think tanks. Jerusalem’s support for Saudi enrichment, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz told the WSJ, “would represent a radical policy shift for a country that has opposed nuclear proliferation in the Middle East since inception, and for a prime minister who has devoted his career to opposing Iranian enrichment.”
Erdogan meets with Jewish leaders, amid warming relations with Israel
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that he intends to visit Israel as soon as possible in a private discussion with American Jewish leaders in New York City on Wednesday afternoon, according to participants who were present for the conversation. His comments came a day after his first in-person meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Erdogan, who made a similar pledge last year, offered no clear timeframe for a potential trip to Israel, which restored full diplomatic ties with Turkey in 2022 after years of strained relations. Instead, he confirmed that he would first host Netanyahu in Ankara before his own trip to the Jewish state, two attendees told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Wednesday.
Topics of conversation: During Erdogan’s meeting with approximately 30 Jewish leaders in Manhattan, which went on for more than an hour at the Turkish House across the street from U.N. headquarters, the Turkish president fielded questions on a range of topics, participants said, including renewed ties between Turkey and Israel, rising antisemitism, Holocaust education, Russia’s war in Ukraine and Iranian nuclear capabilities.
Cordial chat: “I’ve been attending these meetings for about 20 years since he’s been president, and I would say this is the most cordial meeting that I remember,” Abe Foxman, the former longtime director of the Anti-Defamation League who was among the participants who met with Erdogan, said in an interview with JI. “The rhetoric on both sides was respectful.”
Combating antisemitism: William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, described the meeting as “warm and engaging” in a statement to JI. The Turkish president “reaffirmed his commitment to a stable and fruitful relationship with” Israel as well as “his resolve to combat antisemitism, which he referred to as a ‘crime against humanity,’” Daroff said.
heard this week
Qatari emir slams ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem in U.N. speech
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani railed against what he called Israel’s “Judaization of Jerusalem” in his address to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, as Jordanian King Abdullah II called the Israeli capital “a flash point for global concern,” Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports.
Qatari allegations: Israel “responds to Arab peace and normalization initiatives with more nationalist and ultra-Orthodox intransigence and extremism,” Al Thani said, which is “reflected in government coalitions and further settlement expansion, in addition to the Judaization of Jerusalem, attacks on the holy sites and heavy-handed and draconian measures against the people in Gaza.” Doha, Al Thani said, “provides extensive political, humanitarian and development support to our brotherly people in Palestine and we also contribute towards rebuilding the Gaza Strip.” Earlier this week, it was reported that three months ago Qatar halted some $7 million in payments to Hamas in the Gaza Strip that were intended to pay the salaries of civil servants.
Jordanian concerns: While Al Thani’s 19-minute speech largely focused on regional issues, as well as Doha’s recent hosting of the World Cup, King Abdullah II, who also spoke on Tuesday, dedicated one-third of his speaking time to the Palestinian issue. Abdullah also touted U.N.-funded education programs for Palestinians — which have come under fire for curricula that include incitement and the glorification of terrorism against Jews and Israelis — suggesting that the alternative to the U.N. schools “will be the black flags of terror, hate, and extremism.”
😕 Resurfacing: In Tablet magazine, Izabella Tabarovsky delves into the reintroduction, on the left, of anti-Zionist practices once found in Soviet academic propaganda. “American progressives have scored numerous successes in recent years by using the power of tenured academic positions, in-class bullying, and threats of physical intimidation to enforce anti-Zionist culture at American universities and within the elite cultural spaces that employ American liberal arts graduates. Now, they have taken opposition to Zionism a step further, by transforming their hatred of ‘Zionists’ and rejection of the historical dynamics of Jewish self-identification and national self-determination into its own free-standing ideology, which is politically aligned with, but not dependent on, the wider progressive movement. Anti-Zionists, as part of the broader far left, are eerily reproducing elements of the cultural deformations that once defined the lives of the citizens of the communist bloc: They have introduced Americans to the practices of collective demonization, blacklists, and denouncing friends and colleagues.” [Tablet]
📲 Keeping it TikTok-ing: The Wall Street Journal’s John McKinnon spotlights conservative donor Jeff Yass, who was an earlier backer of controversial social media platform TikTok. “Other Republicans in Congress, including at least five others besides [Rand] Paul and [Thomas] Massie who received financial support from Club for Growth, have also objected to legislation targeting TikTok. With many Democrats already skeptical of a ban, the whittling away of Republican support killed momentum for several bills, including the bipartisan Restrict Act backed by the Biden administration. The lobbying effort by Yass is notable in part because of the extent of his political spending — he and his wife were the third-largest conservative donors nationally in the 2022 election cycle, chipping in about $49 million to support conservative candidates and causes, according to OpenSecrets. The investment Yass has been seeking to protect in Washington is both valuable and vulnerable. While much of the potential legislation could affect multiple companies, and many businesses including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and Australian financial services firm Macquarie Group have been lobbying Congress to protect these interests, the laws would have an outsize effect on TikTok.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🇺🇦 Zelensky’s Address: While addressing a special U.N. Security Council session on Wednesday about the war in Ukraine, President Volodymr Zelensky said the U.N. has failed to protect Ukraine, noting that “humankind no longer pins its hopes on the U.N. when it comes to the defense of the sovereign border of nations.”
🇨🇳 Rogue Rahm: National Security Council officials have reportedly cautioned U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel against making further comments taunting top Chinese officials, concerned that his comments may undermine efforts at diplomacy with Beijing.
🇷🇺 Prisoner Parlay: Efforts by the Biden administration to secure the release of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich from Russia are “potentially tough,” the National Security Council’s John Kirby said, even as officials remain in “very active” discussions over his detainment.
👪 Family Ties: Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is Jewish, became visibly emotional while addressing accusations against the Justice Department of discrimination against Catholic people at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, telling Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), “The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous, so absurd.”
🪖 On the Hill: The Senate confirmed Gen. Charles Q. Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, circumventing a hold placed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). The Senate is also moving to vote on other top military officials in the coming days, but more than 300 lower-level promotions will remain in limbo.
🏃♀️ Going Local: Former Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) plans to run for San Mateo County supervisor, a year after leaving Congress.
📖 Serious Allegations: Cassidy Hutchinson, who during the Trump administration was an aide to former President Donald Trump, alleged that she had been groped by Rudy Guiliani, whom she described as “like a wolf closing in on its prey.”
🏫 Campus Beat: Boston University plans to conduct an inquiry into Ibram X. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research, days after the center laid off more than half its staff.
🖼️ Rightful Heirs: A Jewish family who owned a Van Gogh masterpiece before World War II is suing the Metropolitan Museum of Art for allegedly selling the looted artwork and covering up the sale.
🎷 Bad Beats: NPR looks at how Adolf Hitler used jazz music as a propaganda tool during WWII.
🎧 Podcast Playback: Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden suggested on a recently recorded podcast that Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, didn’t mean it when he made a series of widely condemned antisemitic remarks that resulted in Adidas’ split with the artist.
🪦 Righting a Wrong: A charity based in Belarus and the United Kingdom is rescuing desecrated headstones from a former Jewish cemetery in Belarus, and creating a memorial on the site out of broken pieces of the headstones.
🇮🇷🇷🇺 Commander’s Concerns: The highest-ranking U.S. Air Force commander in the Middle East raised concerns about the “growing relationship” between Tehran and Moscow.
🔥 Talking Terror: The Washington Post looks at rising tensions in Gaza, amid concerns over a potential new military escalation between Israel and terror factions in the enclave.
🛢️ Exponential Growth: Iran’s oil exports have significantly grown in light of negotiations between Tehran and Washington that brought the release of five U.S. hostages.
💍 Mazal Tov!: The New York Times spotlights the engagement of Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman and former New York socialite Julia Allison.
➡️ Transition: Longtime Second Stage Theater President and Artistic Director Carole Rothman is stepping down after 45 years with the New York theater.
Pic of the Day
The American Jewish Committee presents its Human Dignity Award to Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, president of the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace and the United Arab Emirates’ top religious jurist, at an award ceremony held yesterday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
One of the highest-grossing Hollywood box office producers of all time, plus the producer of many commercially successful TV shows, Jerry Bruckheimer turns 80…
President of JDC, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Mark B. Sisisky turns 73… Chair of the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Cheryl Fishbein… Professor at Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein turns 69… and his wife, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power turns 53… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, he serves as minister of national infrastructure, energy and water, Israel Katz turns 68… Immediate past international president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, now chair of the board of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Debbi Kaner Goldich… Owner of Total Wine & More, the largest alcohol retailer in the U.S., he is now a member of the House of Representatives (D-MD) and a 2024 candidate for U.S. Senate, David Trone turns 68… Professor of political science at Tel Aviv University and professor emeritus at Georgetown, Yossi Shain turns 67… One-half the renowned film-making team of the Coen Brothers, Ethan Jesse Coen turns 66… Attorney, author of seven books and conservative talk show host, Mark R. Levin turns 66… Retired managing director of equity trading at Goldman Sachs, Andrew Berman… Co-founder of the private investment firm Centerbridge Partners, Jeffrey Aronson turns 65…
Russian businessman who fell out of favor with President Putin, now living in Israel, Leonid Nevzlin turns 64… 2015 Covenant Award recipient, author of a series of courses for the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, Sandra Lilienthal… Director of the Board of Jewish Education Chicago-JTeach, Alissa C. Zuchman, Ph.D…. Janet Bunting… Senior partner at polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Anna Greenberg, Ph.D…. Emmy Award-winning talk show host, actress and producer, Ricki Lake turns 55… Guitarist and music producer in Israel, Nachman Fahrner turns 51… Managing editor of the New York Jewish Week, Lisa Keys… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates, from District 16 in Montgomery County, Marc Alan Korman turns 42… Associate professor of radiology at Duke, he is an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Dr. Benjamin M. Wildman-Tobriner turns 39… Former program director for strategic engagement at B’nai B’rith International, now at Meridian International Center, Sienna Girgenti… COO of TAMID Group, Nathan Gilson… Teaching fellow at Harvard College and the Harvard Kennedy School, Mia Appelbaum… Member of the Michigan House of Representatives, Noah Jeremy Arbit turns 28… Rap musician, known professionally as Token, Benjamin David Goldberg turns 25… Senior director at FTI Consulting, Scott Frankel…