Good Thursday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on how Jewish students are faring on college campuses in the wake of last weekend’s terror attack in Israel, and interview Rep. Shri Thanedar about his condemnation of his Democratic colleague, Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Marc Rowan, Salman Rushdie and Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
As Israel prepares for a possible ground invasion against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the country now has a national emergency government after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz met on Wednesday, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
The sides agreed to establish a war cabinet with three members — Netanyahu, Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant — with Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, a Knesset member from Gantz’s party, as observers.
The war cabinet will be authorized to present the goals of the war in the Gaza Strip, give operative instructions to the defense establishment and beyond to achieve those goals, make recommendations for domestic security, including for mixed Jewish-Arab cities, make decisions related to captives and hostages and more. It will meet every 48 hours.
Gantz’s National Unity Party will have four ministers without portfolio in the broader Security Cabinet: Gantz, Eisenkot, ex-Likud party member Gideon Sa’ar, and Gantz confidante Chili Tropper, plus Yifat Shasha-Biton as an observer.
They are leaving an option for Opposition Leader Yair Lapid to join the emergency government, with a seat in the war cabinet. Lapid has said he will not join the coalition as long as the Religious Zionist faction, led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, remains.
Ben-Gvir, for his part, released a statement saying that he “praise[s] the unity government; now it’s time to win.”
Secretary of State Tony Blinken met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv upon his arrival to Israel today. In addition to meeting with top officials, Blinken is slated to meet with the families of American citizens believed to be held hostage by Hamas. Blinken will then travel on to Amman, Jordan, for meetings with King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“I come before you not only as the United States secretary of state, but also as a Jew,” Blinken said at a press conference following the meeting, before discussing the persecution his grandfather and stepfather experienced in Europe. “I understand on a personal level the harrowing echoes that Hamas’ massacres carry for Israeli Jews and indeed for Jews everywhere.” Hamas’ attack, Blinken said, “brings to mind the worst of ISIS” before listing Saturday’s atrocities. “How are we even to understand this, to digest this?”
Blinken welcomed the creation of the unity government. “We will reaffirm the crystal clear warning that President Biden issued yesterday to any adversary, state or non-state thinking of taking advantage of the current crisis to attack Israel: don’t. The United States has Israel’s back.”
“Hamas has only one agenda: to destroy Israel and to murder Jews,” Blinken continued. “No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens or simply return to the conditions that allowed it to take place. Israel has the right — indeed the obligation — to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.” Blinken confirmed that at least 25 Americans were killed in Saturday’s attacks.
Netanyahu also spoke again with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, and thanked him for “his powerful words of support…and for his unequivocal support for the State of Israel.”
The support for Biden following his speech goes beyond the prime minister, and extends to the pro-Netanyahu media, which has often harshly criticized the U.S. president. Shai Golden, who hosts the morning show on Israel’s Fox News equivalent, Channel 14, gave a five-minute monologue apologizing to Biden for doubting his support for Israel.
“In the last year, your cold shoulder to us hurt me, worried me and angered me very much. But yesterday, in the moment of truth – and this was the biggest moment of truth in 50 years – you stood up before the whole world, before your nation and the nation that resides in Zion and reminded us how much our sister in the U.S. is a big sister who is strong and faithful to us,” Golden said.
“You saw the photos and you were shocked like we were…you understood that in the face of this demonic evil, we must stand strong…You said to Hezbollah, ‘Don’t test us, we are sending an aircraft carrier’…You showed them what will happen if they enter this arena,” Golden said, then added in English: “I want to say in my name, and I think in many other people’s: Thank you, Mr. President. You came through. You rose to the occasion.”
Senior members of Likud also praised Biden. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said that he is “emotional from the total enlistment in actions and words of our closest friend the United States. President Biden proved that he is a friend in a time of need, a leader of stature…I salute the president, the United States of America, and its military.”
Meanwhile at the White House yesterday, a long-planned meeting meant to provide Jewish leaders an update on the Biden administration’s antisemitism policy turned into a two-hour communal grieving session, attended by some of the most important figures in American policymaking, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
While delivering a 10-minute speech at the start of the gathering, Biden paused and turned to Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, who was crying. “You OK, kiddo?” Biden asked her. It set the tone for a gathering described by attendees as equal parts informative, somber and healing.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, kicked off the event with his first public comments since Hamas terrorists began their attack on Israel on Saturday, in which at least 1,200 people were killed. “As a Jew, like all Jews, I feel a deep visceral connection to Israel,” Emhoff said, growing visibly angry. “We witnessed a mass murder of innocent civilians. It was a terrorist assault. There is never any justification for terrorism. There are no two sides to this issue.”
Nathan Diament, executive director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, told Biden, “Eighty years ago this week, a group of 400 rabbis came to Washington hoping to meet with Franklin D. Roosevelt and appeal to him to act to rescue the Jews being persecuted in Europe. They were refused a meeting with President Roosevelt. They were refused entry into the White House.”
“The fact we are here today and you have spoken as the president of the United States so clearly in support of the Jewish people and Israel … shows what a dramatic distance we have traveled in the U.S,” Diament said, thanking Biden for his “leadership and moral clarity.” Read the full story here.
Gaza war: day 6
Military preparing for next stage of war, says IDF spokesman
Israel’s military is “preparing for the next stages” of its war in Gaza, even as it continues to defend its southern border and detect terrorist operatives who infiltrated its territory over the weekend, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said on Thursday. “We have told all our units to prepare for an operative contingency plan from the air and from the sea and the army is now waiting to see what the political leadership decides about a ground operation – it has not been decided yet, but we are preparing for a ground maneuver if it is decided,” Hecht told journalists in a briefing, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Overnight: IDF military jets continued to strike the Palestinian enclave, specifically targeting the infrastructure and individuals of Hamas’ elite Nukhba force, which Hecht explained was behind Saturday’s mass terrorist attack that killed more than 1,200 people – civilians and Israeli soldiers – as well as kidnapping an estimated 80 hostages, though the numbers are continuing to rise.
Hamas targets: Among those targeted and killed in airstrikes on Wednesday night was Hamas’ senior naval operative, Muhammad Abu Shamla. His residence, said the army, was used to store naval weapons. Hecht also said that another senior Hamas operative, who had been part of the attack and had shared atrocious visuals from Saturday’s attack on his social media platforms, was also targeted and killed.
‘Angry,’ ‘hurt,’ ‘betrayed’: Jewish students grapple with lack of support on campuses
Within hours of Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel last Saturday, Jewish students at American universities began to look to fellow students and university administrators for words of comfort and support. But in the days since, many have expressed frustration at official university statements viewed as weak or halting — and anger and sadness at pro-Palestine student groups and faculty who have outright celebrated Hamas’ attacks, report Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch and eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.
Widespread events: On Thursday, “Day of Resistance” events to celebrate the attack on Israel are planned by local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at more than a dozen universities including the University of Virginia, the University of Arizona and the University of California Los Angeles. Some of the groups, at schools including Georgetown University and University of California San Diego, are describing their events as vigils for the Palestinian “martyrs” killed during the raid on Israel.
Not isolated: “It is very widespread. It is not isolated incidents. And I would say, in my opinion, that this is the time for moral leadership from university presidents,” said Mark Yudof, the former president of the University of California and a law professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. “They need to understand that Jewish students and faculty — that it tears at their feelings of belonging on campus.”
Major betrayal: Jewish students involved with progressive activism are particularly alarmed by the rhetoric from some whom they believed to be allies. For students connected to J Street U, the student arm of the organization that advocates for a two-state solution, the onslaught of statements and online posts praising Hamas has been jarring. “A lot of Jews are feeling very betrayed,” said J Street U director Erin Beiner. “The shock of it is also really magnified because it’s people that they are sitting in classes with and doing group projects with.”
Spotted at Stanford: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended and spoke at a vigil supporting Israel at Stanford University.
Thanedar denounces Tlaib and renounces DSA membership
Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI) lambasted his Michigan Democratic colleague, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, for characterizing Hamas’ attack on Israel as “resistance,” in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod on Wednesday — minutes after publicly renouncing his lifetime membership in the Democratic Socialists of America over the group’s stance on the Hamas attack.
Quotable: “At a time like this, for a member of Congress to call them militants, and resistance, as a result of whatever Israel may have done in the past is totally insensitive,” he continued — without specifically mentioning Tlaib by name, “and we don’t need such hate and bigotry and antisemitism in the halls of Congress.”
Why he left: Thanedar told JI that he still considers himself a progressive — emphasizing that his policies on other issues from health care to racial justice haven’t changed — but said he “can no longer associate” with the DSA after it promoted a rally in Times Square at which speakers expressed support for Hamas. “This organization has lost it now,” he said. “I considered staying in DSA and helping them understand this, but this is beyond something that I can help them understand. I think this is a deep-rooted hatred, is a deep-rooted antisemitism. And I do not want to associate with them.”
Bipartisan momentum grows for re-freezing $6 billion in Iranian funds
A growing bipartisan consensus in Congress is uniting behind an effort to freeze the $6 billion in Iranian funds released to Qatar under the administration’s recent hostage deal, in response to Iran’s longtime backing of Hamas and recent reports indicating that it had a direct hand in last weekend’s massive terrorist attack, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Swing seats: Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Reps. Colin Allred (D-TX), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) said yesterday that they support freezing the funds. Republicans are broadly in favor of the freeze, and Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) announced their support on Tuesday.
Quotable: Casey, in a statement to JI, blasted Republicans for “intentionally misleading the American people about this matter,” highlighting that the funds have not been transferred and arguing that the rhetoric “only bolsters our enemies.” But, he said, “these funds should remain frozen until we can determine whether Iran played a role in the attack and what the appropriate U.S. response should be.”
What’s next: Brown, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, pressed the White House to freeze the funds and said he plans to examine the role that cryptocurrency reportedly played in financing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Republicans are moving ahead with legislation relating to the $6 billion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) are seeking to fast-track legislation freezing the funds, while Banking Committee Ranking Member Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is working on his own bill and called for a committee hearing.
Elsewhere: Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), under pressure to release holds on a bevy of military promotions, said in a local TV interview last night, that “the problem is when you start picking sides in the Middle East, it can get really messy very quickly.” Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY) and 10 Democratic colleagues introduced a resolution yesterday demanding that Tuberville release the holds.
on the hill
Lawmakers weigh in on Qatar and Iran’s ties with Hamas
Emerging from a classified briefing on Capitol Hill about the Hamas attack on Israel on Wednesday morning, House lawmakers sounded off on a range of topics including the role of Qatar in hosting some of the terror group’s leadership, reports on Egyptian warnings to Israel about planned Hamas atrocities, American hostages held in Gaza, Iran’s role in the attack and the Israeli counteroffensive, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Despite the near-unanimous support for Israel in the House, lawmakers’ comments on Monday highlighted that there are still a number of subjects related to the conflict on which they remain divided, both between and within each party.
Qatar concerns: Rep. Max Miller (R-OH), one of two Jewish House Republicans, offered a strong condemnation of Qatar, and said the U.S. should apply strong pressure to extradite Hamas leaders based in Qatar, seemingly a reference to Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas figure, and other higher-ups in the terror group. “I want to see President Biden go after our allies that we have, like the Qataris, and military relationships that we have, and extradite these Hamas terrorists. We know that they are there,” Miller told reporters. “And I would like to see that happen in a very forceful way.” Other lawmakers didn’t take the same hardline stance.
Confirming reports: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters after the briefing that “we know that Egypt had warned the Israelis three days prior that an event like this could happen.” Asked subsequently whether this conclusion was based on the information from the briefing, McCaul said that he didn’t “want to get too much into the classified [details], but a warning was given. I think the question was at what level.” Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY) also indicated that lawmakers had received “confirmation” that Hamas terrorists had killed children, toddlers and infants, adding that it was “now confirmed babies were beheaded.”
Targets in Doha: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Mark Wallace and Frances Townsend, a top foreign policy advisor to then-President George W. Bush, called for military action in Qatar “to bring to justice Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas leadership.”
Cultural Shift: In eJewishPhilanthropy, Apollo Global Management CEO Marc Rowan, an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania who sits on the board of the Wharton School, writes that his alma mater, and other top universities that have fallen short in their responses to anti-Israel activity on campus, must change the culture that has allowed such sentiment to propagate. “Words and ideas matter. They mattered in the motivation of Hamas terrorists senselessly slaughtering and kidnapping of nearly 1,000 innocent civilians in Israel this week to eliminate the ‘European settlers,’ just as words and ideas have mattered throughout history. In our viral online world it is especially dangerous when once-fringe ideologies receive a stamp of legitimacy and a cultural justification that allows hate-filled ideas to spread as acceptable alternatives. The misguided embrace of these ideologies by elite academic institutions normalizes and mainstreams what would otherwise be considered morally reprehensible.” [eJP]
Planning Problem: The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood considers how Hamas’ lack of planning beyond the initial incursion and assault against Israeli targets is now shaping the landscape of the war. “Step One was to infiltrate Israel and commit crimes against humanity. Step Two — well, it’s not clear what Step Two is, and even Step One is looking half-baked. Terrorists gonna terrorize. On one hand, this would be, oddly, good news for Israel in the short term. An enemy incapable of discipline and coordinated strategic thought is a weaker enemy. On the other hand, an enemy without moral boundaries, who will kill unarmed old people, but not before commandeering their cellphones to stream their murder for their grandchildren, is not a promising partner in any kind of peace process. And an absence of strategic logic is little comfort when the undisciplined psychos are still at large, holding guns to the heads of children, and hiding out among 2 million vulnerable civilians just across the border.” [TheAtlantic]
Ruinous Rhetoric: New York magazine’s Eric Levitz examines how those supporting Hamas’ massacre in Israel have betrayed the left’s most fundamental values. “What we actually witnessed was not ‘the Palestinians’ mounting a violent struggle for justice but a far-right theocratic organization committing mass murder in the name of blood-and-soil nationalism. Hamas’s project is antithetical to the left’s foundational values of secularism, universalism, and egalitarianism. And it is also completely at odds with the progressive vision for Palestinian liberation. Western radicals’ predominant prescription for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict is a ‘one-state solution,’ in which Israelis and Palestinians all enjoy democratic equality in a single binational state. Hamas’s atrocities have not advanced this ideal but set it back, lending credence to those who insist a one-state solution is a recipe for ceaseless civil war. This weekend was not a triumph for the left’s project in Palestine but a disaster.” [NYMag]
Fracture on the Left:The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg looks at how the activist left is responding to the weekend’s terror attacks in Israel. “It’s too early to know how the left’s widespread failure of solidarity will change our politics, but I suspect some sort of fracture is coming. Part of me thinks this could be a moment like after the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, which, coupled with revelations about the evils of Stalinism, led many left intellectuals to break with communism. Though perhaps that’s too grandiose an analogy for an amorphous campus-bred left-wing tendency that communicates in hashtags and sound bites. On social media, some scholars and activists are repeating the line ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor,’ suggesting that the homicidal spree we just saw in Israel is not a departure from their ideology but the embodiment of it. I suspect they will come to regret it if people take them at their word.” [NYTimes]
The Case for Eliminating Hamas: In The Wall Street Journal, Walter Block and Alan Futerman express support for Israel to fully eliminate the threat posed by Hamas. “Hence, the West needs to understand that to defend human life and dignity, it isn’t enough to claim to side with Israel. It needs to understand what this means: total, unrestrictive support. That is nothing less than allowing this beleaguered country to defend itself fully. To recognize that Hamas needs to be destroyed for the same reason and by the same method that the Nazis were. Israel is entitled to do whatever it takes to uproot this evil residing next to it. And, more important, that once it begins to proceed in that direction, it won’t be demonized for defending that which is the core of Western civilization and which its enemies hate the most: the love of everyone’s right to human life, dignity and happiness. In other words, it needs to support a complete, total and decisive Israeli victory. If this implies an overwhelming, unprecedented use of military force, so be it. Hamas is and will be responsible for any civilian casualties. Cause and effect. They created their own destruction, and its consequences.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
Missing Americans: National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. is still working to confirm details of Americans believed to be held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
Trump on Israel: In a speech on Wednesday, former President Donald Trump said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “let us down” after backing out of participating in the 2020 killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and called Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “a jerk.”
Taking on Trump: Speaking to donors in Park City, Utah, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) urged his backers to coalesce behind a single GOP candidate who can take on Trump in the Republican presidential primary.
Speaker Saga: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) narrowly edged out Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) for the party’s backing to succeed Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as House speaker; House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) called for a bipartisan governing coalition in House. Delegation Determination: Six GOP freshmen from New York announced plans to introduce a resolution expelling Rep. George Santos (R-NY) from Congress, following a bevy of new federal fraud charges against the Long Island congressman.
Israel Support: A new poll from Fox News found increased support — including among Democrats — for Israel following the weekend’s terror attacks.
Family Ties: Hollywood, Fla., Mayor Josh Levy said that five members of his family, including three children, had been killed by Hamas when their home in Israel’s south was set on fire.
Pointing the Finger: Yuval Noah Harari writes in the Washington Post that the Israeli government bears the brunt of responsibility for the dysfunction that led to its much-criticized response to the weekend’s attacks.
Planning the Attack: The Wall Street Journal spotlights a weekend interview with senior Hamas official Ali Baraka on Russia Today explaining how the terrorist organization plotted the attack while avoiding military confrontations with Israel that would have derailed plans for a widescale incursion.
Emigres in War Zone: The Financial Times interviewed recent Russian immigrants to Israel, who have been mocked in the Russian press for having fled the country for another country currently at war.
Airline Suspensions: American Airlines suspended its service to Tel Aviv through Dec. 4.
Shabbat Flights: El Al will operate flights on Shabbat for the first time since 1982.
Pilot Sacked: Air Canada fired a pilot who had been grounded earlier this week for anti-Israel social media posts.
Iran Reset: The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal called on President Joe Biden to reassess his approach to Iran in light of Iran’s support for Hamas.
First Responder: The New York Times spotlights IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Israel Ziv, who was one of the first to respond to Saturday’s attacks and is leading the effort to empower reservists and former generals to shore up community safety along the Gaza border.
Resignation Call: Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down following the terror attacks.
Dropping Sanctions: The U.S. is weighing dropping sanctions against Israeli businessman Dan Gertler over its interest in procuring mined materials in business deals with Saudi Arabia.
Drone Scare: The IDF walked back a series of alerts indicating a widescale drone attack in Israel’s north on Wednesday night, saying the alerts were sent in error.
Iran-Saudi Talk: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke by phone for the first time since the countries reestablished ties earlier this year; a readout from Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the two discussed the ”need to end war crimes against Palestine,” while MBS, according to Saudi news outlets, “affirmed that the Kingdom is making all possible efforts in communicating with all international and regional parties to stop the ongoing escalation.” A senior U.S. official called the conversation between the two leaders “helpful.”
Playboy’s Position: Playboy magazine cut ties with Lebanese-American former porn star Mia Khalifa over social media posts supporting last weekend’s Hamas terror attack.
Rushdie Memoir: Writer Salman Rushdie will release a memoir about the 2022 assassination attempt that left him blind in one eye.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Tony Blinken meet today in Tel Aviv shortly after Blinken’s arrival in Israel.
Longtime baseball reporter for The New York Times, he is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Murray Chass turns 85…
Former U.S. ambassador to Italy, he is a co-founder of private equity firm Granite Capital International, Lewis Eisenberg turns 81… Longtime Fox News anchor now at CNN, Chris Wallace turns 76… President of Los Angeles-based Community Advocates, David A. Lehrer… Retired CEO of Wakefield, Mass.-based CAST, a nonprofit whose mission is to transform education for students with disabilities, Linda Gerstle… Pediatrician and medical ethicist, John D. Lantos, MD turns 69… Dermatologist in Los Angeles, Lamar Albert Nelson, MD… First female rabbi ordained in Conservative Judaism, Amy Eilberg turns 69… Co-founder of Ares Management, he is also the owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Tony Ressler turns 63… Deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council until 2022, now a professor at Northeastern University, Seth D. Harris turns 61… Former executive director of Start-Up Nation Central, Wendy Singer… Editor of The Wall Street Journal‘s Weekend Review section, Gary Rosen… Managing director at Goldman Sachs, Raanan Agus… Los Angeles-based trial attorney for many high-profile clients, Babak “Bobby” Samini turns 53… Producer, actress and screenwriter, Alexandra Brandy Smothers… Former member of the Knesset, she now serves as the co-chair of the Green Movement of Israel, Yael Cohen Paran turns 50… Computer programmer, creator of the BitTorrent protocol and founder of Chia cryptocurrency, Bram Cohen turns 48… Only son of the current Rebbe of the Belz Hasidic dynasty, Rabbi Aharon Mordechai Rokeach turns 48… Israeli actress, model and television anchor, Miri Bohadana turns 46… Reporter and host of “The Daily,” a podcast at The New York Times, Michael Barbaro… Minority leader of the Florida Senate, Lauren Book turns 39… Journalist Rosie Gray turns 34… Argentine fashion model and artist, Naomi Preizler turns 32… Pitcher for the Staten Island FerryHawks of the Atlantic League, he had two relief appearances for Team Israel in the 2020 Olympics, Alex Katz turns 29…