👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the latest in the Mondaire Jones tweet saga and take a look at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin’s record of criticism of Cairo following his move to freeze military aid to Egypt. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Shlomo Karhi, Levi Shemtov and Shelley Greenspan.
The traditional wing of the Republican Party is being dominated by the MAGA wing in the presidential nomination fight and now in the speaker-less House of Representatives, but in the battle for the Senate, Republican leaders are quietly boosting the prospects of more pragmatic candidates, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar writes.
Dave McCormick, a hedge fund executive and military veteran, announced his Senate campaign against Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in Pittsburgh last month, and in a striking sign of party unity, was endorsed by the state Republican Party and all the GOP members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation.
McCormick’s expected candidacy follows the Michigan Senate campaign of former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the respected former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Rogers is the favorite of national GOP leaders, but he now faces a primary challenge from former Detroit police chief James Craig, who’s looking to win the support of MAGA Republicans in the race.
Rogers, as the GOP nominee, would likely make Michigan a major Senate battleground. A more right-wing candidate would almost certainly keep the seat under Democratic control. The GOP nominee would likely face Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the battle-tested Democratic front-runner.
If Republican bigwigs skeptical of former President Donald Trump don’t know where to spend their money — and are holding their donations as a result — the emerging lineup of traditionally conservative Senate candidates is looking like a safer bet. While top GOP donors are growing resigned to the likelihood of a Trump nomination, the prospect of maintaining a check on Democratic power with a GOP-controlled Senate will look increasingly enticing — and give them some bang for their buck. They also have the ability to boost party-backed candidates facing primary threats from less-electable challengers.
The Senate is also a much more hospitable venue for Republican hawks and those who believe in an assertive American foreign policy. Several leading GOP presidential candidates are increasingly sounding more isolationist, and even former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was pressured from his right-wing flank to reduce funding for Ukraine.
That’s making these Senate races quite consequential in charting the future direction of the Republican Party. If the traditional wing of the party can maintain its beachhead in the Senate, it would bode well for its ability to still have a say in the party’s MAGA-fueled future.
On Capitol Hill, however, the emerging House speaker race is showcasing the growing influence of GOP isolationists and heightening concerns about the future of U.S. aid to Ukraine. Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), a leading candidate for the gavel, said yesterday he’d oppose putting forward another aid package — although he subsequently softened that position. Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-OK), another potential candidate, has also been a consistent opponent of additional U.S. aid.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), who has been comparatively more supportive of Ukraine, has also jumped into the race and is an early front-runner alongside Jordan.
But given the growing anti-Ukraine wing of the House GOP, it’s unclear whether a candidate willing to advance another aid package for Ukraine would be able to secure the gavel. In further signs of gridlock, mainstream Republicans are also digging in, demanding changes to the House rules to make it more difficult to remove the next speaker — a condition that might be unacceptable to the hard right.
Under fire from several Democrats, former Rep. Mondaire Jones deletes ‘regrettable’ tweet
Former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) found himself on the defensive on Wednesday as he removed a controversial social media comment that had drawn unusually hostile backlash from two prominent House Democrats who accused him of insulting Jewish people and invoking antisemitic rhetoric, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Word of contrition: “Yesterday, I posted a tweet that was too open to misinterpretation,” Jones, who is mounting a comeback campaign to reclaim his old House seat in the Lower Hudson Valley, wrote in a contrite statement on Wednesday afternoon. He was referring to a comment he had shared a day earlier on X, formerly Twitter, knocking recently ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for meeting with Orthodox Jewish leaders in Rockland County during his brief speakership.
Friendly fire: In the original tweet, Jones had called McCarthy’s efforts “a waste of everyone’s time,” posting a photo of the former speaker courting support from an influential Hasidic leader last March with Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), whom Jones hopes to challenge. The comment drew immediate backlash, but Jones initially refused to remove the tweet and said his message had been misunderstood. As it continued to stir controversy, he capitulated amid criticism from Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) — who rebuked his tweet in statements they deleted after Jones apologized.
Missed opportunity: The intra-party uproar over Jones’ comment underscored how he had bungled a chance to take advantage of the chaos surrounding House Republican leadership. “My point was to communicate that Kevin McCarthy, and by extension Mike Lawler, cannot possibly deliver for communities in Rockland because he’s no longer Speaker,” Jones clarified in his follow-up tweet. “Regrettably, I did not make this point clear enough, and so I have deleted the tweet.”
Cardin’s Egypt aid freeze follows his long record of criticism of human rights issues
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) move this week to block the provision of $235 million in military aid to Egypt caught the attention of Washington, given that his predecessor, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has been accused of a corrupt relationship with the Egyptian government and its surrogates, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. But Cardin’s move to freeze aid to Cairo was not particularly surprising given his record of criticism of the U.S. partner’s human rights record — both in recent months and dating back years.
Quotable: “I am disappointed by Secretary [of State Tony] Blinken’s decision yesterday to release $235 million in Fiscal Year 2022 military aid to Egypt that the law requires be withheld because of egregious and continuing human rights violations by that government,” Cardin said last month when the State Department announced it would allow most U.S. aid to Egypt to proceed. “This decision further emboldens the regime to continue business as usual – without any improvement on human rights or attempts at systemic change.”
Consequences: As a result of the aid hold, “the anti-America[n] camp will be empowered domestically” in Egypt, predicted Haisam Hassanein, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and will publicly push for Egypt to increase its relations with Russia and China — already a sensitive subject in the bilateral relationship in the current era of great-power competition. “This could force President [Abdel Fattah El-]Sisi in his current election campaign to release some [inflammatory] statements to save face in front of his constituents,” Hassanein said.
Lew update: Cardin told JI that he did not think the Foreign Relations Committee had yet completed the technical steps necessary before it can schedule a confirmation hearing for Jack Lew, the nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel. But he emphasized that he is not aware of any delays in the committee process, and said that “this is a priority for me.”
Twenty Senate Democrats lay down their conditions for a Saudi-Israel normalization deal
Twenty Senate Democrats laid out their expectations for a deal with Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, expressing skepticism of a proposed defense treaty with Riyadh, demanding significant protections for Palestinians in the West Bank and insisting on strict conditions on any potential nuclear cooperation with the Saudis, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Numbers game: The lawmakers’ letter, organized by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and sent to President Joe Biden, highlights the difficulties that lie ahead even if the administration is able to secure a trilateral deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and broaden the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Depending on the contours of the deal, Biden may not automatically be able to count on the support of a sizable number of Senate Democrats, among whom distrust of Saudi Arabia is widespread. The fate of a deal, some facets of which could require a two-thirds majority for ratification in the Senate, could rely heavily on Senate Republicans.
Treaty talk: The Democrats said they’re “concerned” about the prospect of a U.S. security guarantee to Saudi Arabia, noting that the U.S. has historically only offered such agreements to fellow democracies and has not pursued them in the “volatile Middle East.” They also called for “careful deliberation” before providing more advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia.
Palestinian conditions: The letter also argues that any deal “should include meaningful, clearly defined and enforceable provisions” to benefit Palestinians in the West Bank and “preserv[e] the option of a two-state solution.” The senators said that such conditions should include a commitment by Israel not to annex any part of the West Bank, and end to settlement construction and expansion, the dismantling of illegal outposts, including those that Israel legalized following their construction, and provisions to “allow the natural growth of Palestinian… population centers” and free travel between contiguous Palestinian areas.
BDS resolutions on college campuses have almost disappeared. What comes next?
Over the last decade, supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel have focused their campaign in the U.S. primarily on college campuses. But the once-thriving effort to push BDS-related legislation through student governments has significantly lost momentum over the last academic year, a sharp contrast from its peak in the 2014-2015 school year when U.S. campuses saw 44 BDS votes. But Jewish groups who monitor college campuses caution that the falloff does not signal that all is well for Jewish students on campus, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports.
Rising antisemitism: The drop in BDS resolutions on college campuses comes amid rising antisemitism and anti-Zionism in other forms, including anti-Israel activity on college campuses, which has nearly doubled over the previous year, according to a September report by the Anti-Defamation League.
Different tactics: Mark Rotenberg, vice president of Hillel International, emphasized in an interview with eJP that antisemitism on campuses is still just as concerning, despite taking forms other than BDS. “Bullying, intimidation and exclusion of Jewish students has morphed,” Rotenberg told eJP in August while attending the Israel Campus Coalition (ICC) conference in Washington, D.C. “The tactics have changed. The reason classic BDS is no longer the preferred tool is because Jewish students and organizations attacked that challenge in a very direct way, and we now have administrators who understand the unlawfulness of this kind of boycott activity, who appreciate that a fundamental value, academic freedom, is at stake. Boycotts are fundamentally inconsistent with basic principles that govern universities.”
🇺🇦 Turn of the Tide: In the Financial Times, Edward Luce explores the rise of isolationism in the GOP and what it could mean for Ukraine. “The Republican party has been moving in Russia’s direction for a while. More than eight in 10 Republican voters now support candidates — Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy — who would sever aid to Ukraine. Roughly half of Americans likewise want to pull the plug. For the first time since the 1920s, Americans are likely to be given the option next year of putting an isolationist in the White House. That would be a fateful choice. The ‘isolationist’ label is often misused. It does not automatically mean neutrality in fights between foreigners, though that sentiment was a feature of the US republic at its birth. It can also mean bias towards one side. Charles Lindbergh, who headed the America First Committee in the early stages of the second world war, made his sympathies for Nazi Germany plain. All kinds of supporters — pacifists, big business and anti-Semites — flocked to his banner.” [FT]
🏫 Birth of a Provocateur: For NBC News, Alex Seitz-Wald, Allan Smith and Henry J. Gomez interviewed 29 former classmates and others who have known Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy as early as his days as a mild-mannered prep tennis player. The interviews reveal a portrait of someone who transformed into a provocateur. “He was known in the class as the devil’s advocate,” one former law school classmate said. “And at a certain point, if someone is always playing the devil’s advocate, you have to kind of wonder whether he’s actually the devil.” [NBCNews]
🍺 Drinking Problem: In The New York Times, Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman investigate longtime concerns over former New York City Mayor (and former Trump attorney) Rudy Giuliani’s alleged drinking problem, which has been a subplot in the former president’s federal election interference case. “No one close to Mr. Giuliani, 79, has suggested that drinking could excuse or explain away his present legal and personal disrepair. He arrived for a mug shot in Georgia in August not over rowdy nightlife behavior or reckless cable interviews but for allegedly abusing the laws he defended aggressively as a federal prosecutor, subverting the democracy of a nation that once lionized him. Yet to almost anyone in proximity, friends say, Mr. Giuliani’s drinking has been the pulsing drumbeat punctuating his descent — not the cause of his reputational collapse but the ubiquitous evidence, well before Election Day in 2020, that something was not right with the former president’s most incautious lieutenant. Now, prosecutors in the federal election case against Mr. Trump have shown an interest in the drinking habits of Mr. Giuliani — and whether the former president ignored what his aides described as the plain inebriation of the former mayor referred to in court documents as ‘Co-Conspirator 1.’” [The New York Times]
🕊️ Peace Prospects:Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas considers the issue of the Palestinian cause as an aspect of a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. “At the end of the day, Saudi Arabia — just like any other country — cannot negotiate or decide on behalf of either the Palestinians or the Israelis. Peace and the terms of peace have to be agreed by them alone. What Saudi Arabia can do — and, from what I understand, has been doing for the past two years — is work on an initiative to make peace a more attractive proposition than war for both parties. In fact, there is a whole team at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs that has been working with serious and concerned parties such as the EU and the Arab League on imagining a 2.0 version of the Arab Peace Initiative. How would the region look if peace were achievable and how could we pool resources to ensure both parties understood its value?” [Arab News]
🎤 Folk Scene:New Lines Magazine Editor-in-Chief Hassan Hassan discusses how historical marginalization of rural music in the Middle East has been steadily dismantled by innovation and socioeconomic dynamics. “The rise of Middle Eastern rural and folk music in the late 1990s is a fascinating story of a subculture reclaiming its prominence after being marginalized and policed by cultural gatekeepers for decades. This ‘creeping ruralism’ also tracks with significant socioeconomic shifts in rural and suburban areas, reshaping the cultural landscape in unexpected ways.” [New Lines Magazine]
Around the Web
🇺🇦 Tipping Point: President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he was worried that the chaos in the House of Representatives could disrupt the flow of U.S. aid to Ukraine, and said he would be delivering a major speech soon arguing for continued support for Kyiv.
💸 Money Matters: Former President Donald Trump’s campaign said it raised a whopping $45.5 million in the past three months — over three times the amount of leading rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
🗳️ Field of Dreams: DeSantis’ campaign said that it will move a significant number of its staff from Florida to Iowa as he focuses on the state’s caucuses. The campaign said it raised $15 million over the third quarter — but much of the money can only be used if he makes it to the general election.
🔥 Chaos Agent: Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was one of the key outside figures fueling the chaos in the House Republican caucus, egging on the GOP rebels — including Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).
✋ Voting Decisions:The New Jersey Globeinterviewed Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) about why he voted in favor of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster.
🚪 Pelosi Pushed Out: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was ordered to leave her “hideaway” office by Interim Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC), reportedly a decision made by McCarthy.
🟥 Red Flag Alert: The Wall Street Journal‘s Greg Ip reports that the “scale and upward trajectory of U.S. borrowing and absence of any political corrective now threaten markets and the economy in ways they haven’t for at least a generation.”
🤔 Considering Congress: Yevgeny Vindman, a National Security Council official whose twin brother was a witness in former President Trump’s first impeachment, is mulling a run for Congress as a Democrat to succeed retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).
🇸🇦 Saudi Deal Talk: Senior Biden administration advisers discreetly visited Saudi Arabia last week to continue discussions on a potential far-reaching accord that may include a peace treaty between the Saudi kingdom and Israel.
🏃♀️ Pressure on Perry: Longtime news anchor Janelle Stelson officially announced her campaign against Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA). She resigned as an anchor from a Harrisburg-area TV station in September.
✖️ Returning to X: The Anti-Defamation League said yesterday that it plans to resume advertising on X after a feud with the social media company’s owner Elon Musk.
🎓 Commencement Controversy: CUNY Law School said it will not include student speakers at its 2024 graduation, a move that comes months after a student delivered a controversial commencement speech at the school, attacking Israel and the New York Police Department.
💣 Weapons Seizure: U.S. Central Command announced Wednesday it has transferred thousands of seized Iranian weapons and rounds of ammunition to Ukraine in an effort to help Kyiv’s forces push through Russia’s defensive lines ahead of winter.
🇨🇦 Nazis in Canada: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that senior bureaucrats are reviewing the Deschenes Commission report on alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada and is considering releasing more of it to the public. Meanwhile, Canadian Governor-General Mary Simon apologized for honoring a Waffen-SS Nazi division veteran with the Order of Canada.
🇦🇲 Attack in Armenia: The World Jewish Center in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, was vandalized on Tuesday night allegedly by supporters of the Armenian separatist government in Nagorno-Karabakh. The attack appeared to be connected to improved Israel-Azerbaijan relations, which includes Israeli weapon sales to Azerbaijan.
🪖 IDF Operation: Five Israeli soldiers were injured this morning by their own explosive device, when they were leaving a counterterrorism operation in the Palestinian city of Tulkarm in the West Bank during which security forces clashed with Palestinian gunmen. In a separate incident, Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian assailants who opened fire on an Israeli vehicle on a nearby highway.
🚑 Metro Incident: A 16-year-old Iranian girl is in coma after she was allegedly beaten by morality police for not wearing a hijab at a metro station in Tehran.
🎤 No Language Barrier: Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, who has Tunisian origins, wore a crocheted skullcap and spoke in English and then in Arabic at the Universal Postal Union’s 4th Extraordinary Congress in Riyadh on Wednesday.
🧑🎤 ‘I Think I Wanna Marry You’: Pop star Bruno Mars wooed Israeli fans in Tel Aviv last night, singing ‘I love you’ in Hebrew and with his pianist’s performance of an Israeli Sukkot-themed song.
Pic of the Day
Executive Vice President of Chabad Rabbi Levi Shemtov holds the Arba Minim (Four Species) at a Sukkot event held yesterday on the White House grounds, organized by White House Jewish Liaison Shelley Greenspan.
Actor, producer and playwright, he played Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” Jesse Adam Eisenberg turns 40…
Investor and board member of many companies, he was the owner of the Baltimore Orioles from 1989 to 1993, Eli S. Jacobs turns 86… Psychiatrist in Cameron, N.C., affiliated with WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Morton Meltzer, M.D…. Fairfax, Calif., resident, Theodore Steiner… Long Beach, Calif., resident, Robert Winer… U.S. senator (D-MD), he became chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last week, Benjamin L. Cardin turns 80… Author, lecturer and journalist, Jonathan Dobrer turns 79… Talk show host on New York City’s public radio station WNYC, Brian Lehrer turns 71… Founder of several pharmaceutical companies, he was the owner of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, Alan Phillip Cohen turns 69… EVP at The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, in six months he will begin his new role as president and CEO of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Andrew Cushnir turns 60… Former editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, now a consultant, Michael Jacobs… Past president of the Congressional Jewish Staff Association and an advisor to the Senate Committee on Finance, Charlotte Kaye Rock turns 29… Actress known for her role as Agent Olive on the series Odd Squad, Dalila Bela turns 22… Gladys Bendahan… Israeli tour guide and educator, Daniel Paul Rubenstein…