Good Thursday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we travel to Kibbutz Be’eri in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks, and talk to American Jewish leaders about their meeting last month with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of his anti-Israel comments. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Richard Fishman, Sen. Josh Hawley and Maya Wertheimer.
In a prime-time address to Israelis last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged, for the first time since Oct. 7, some culpability in the Hamas terror attacks in which more than 1,400 Israelis were killed, Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss reports.
“I bow my head before all of the families that have been devastated,” the prime minister said. “I know that their lives will never be the same. I send them a heartfelt, loving and consoling embrace from the entire nation.”
“Everyone will need to provide answers, myself included,” Netanyahu said. “But all of this will happen only after the war.”
Netanyahu said that the army was “preparing for a ground invasion,” amid reports that such a military incursion has been delayed at the request of President Joe Biden. Overnight, the IDF launched a ground raid into the northern part of the Palestinian enclave, which it said in a message on Telegram was done “as part of preparations for the next stages of combat.”
Former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who now sits in Netanyahu’s war cabinet, rejected reports that a ground operation was delayed at Washington’s request, saying earlier today that Israel is “making decisions only based on our own interests.”
In Washington, Biden addressed the mounting casualty count in the war, noting that he had “no confidence” that Palestinian officials were presenting accurate statistics. “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden said. “I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war.”
The president’s comments are in line with what NSC Coordinator John Kirby has been relaying this week in briefings with Washington’s press corps. That Gaza’s Ministry of Health is run by Hamas, Kirby said at a White House press briefing on Tuesday, “needs to be factored into anything that they put out publicly.”
Meanwhile, Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi made waves on Wednesday with a post on X praising Qatar, saying that the Gulf nation “is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions.”
Hanegbi said the diplomatic efforts of Doha, which provides sanctuary to top Hamas brass — including Ismail Haniyeh, who has lived in Qatar since 2016 — were “crucial at this time.”
The tweet was met with swift backlash, including from former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who in a Hebrew-language post called Qatar “the enemy itself,” citing its support for Hamas.
“He who does not distinguish between an enemy and a lover will not be able to destroy the enemy,” Bennett wrote. “Confusion does not lead to victory.”
Yaakov Katz, the former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post,said Hanegbi’s comments were “the price Israel needs to pay so Qatar continues to work for the release of hostages.”
And in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived last night for meetings related to the Israel-Hamas war. The visit comes as The Wall Street Journal reports that hundreds of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists received specialized training in Iran from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force last month, ahead of the Oct. 7 attacks.
Yesterday afternoon, JI Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar sat down with Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to discuss Israel’s looming ground war against Hamas and the geopolitical situation in the Middle East. Watch the entire interview from JI’s new “Inside the Newsroom” series here.
DeSantis crackdown on pro-Hamas rallies could be model for elected officials
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order banning the group Students for Justice in Palestine at state universities has touched off a debate over whether such a move will pass legal scrutiny. But several legal scholars who spoke to JI said the DeSantis action was designed to pass constitutional muster, while a leader of a pro-Israel campus group said it could become a model for elected officials to use against terrorist-sympathizing groups on campus across the country, Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
Upping the pressure: Dozens of national Jewish groups and campus organizations have called on universities to withdraw their recognition and funding for groups affiliated with National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP). Most of the group’s chapters, which commonly go by the name Students for Justice in Palestine but have other names on some campuses, have celebrated or defended Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel.
Florida move: “Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated,” the state university system’s chancellor, Ray Rodrigues, wrote in a memo on Tuesday to university leaders. The move marks the first time a state has outlawed SJP.
Dershowitz’s take: Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard University Law School professor emeritus who has represented high-profile clients such as O.J. Simpson, told JI the measure would likely survive a First Amendment challenge as long as the university does not “apply a double standard.” “A single standard must prevail on university campuses,” Dershowitz continued. “Student groups that support Hamas should be treated the way a student group that supported the Ku Klux Klan or supported the rape of women, or the killing of gays should be treated.”
Elsewhere: A bipartisan group of seven House members who are all alumni of The George Washington University wrote to the school’s president on Wednesday condemning a display on campus on Tuesday night, in which student protesters projected anti-Israel slogans on the side of a university library, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
American Jewish leaders denounce Erdogan for defending Hamas
American Jewish leaders are forcefully denouncing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a speech on Wednesday in which he canceled a previously planned visit to Israel and claimed that Hamas is not a terrorist organization but a liberation group waging a battle to protect its land and people, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
‘The real Recep Erdogan’: “When Erdogan embraces Hamas and criticizes Israel for defending itself, what we are seeing is the real Recep Erdogan,” William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — and one of several Jewish leaders who met with Edogan last month in New York — told JI. “We now know that he is a charlatan who is much more interested in promoting the murder of Jews than he is in being a man of peace who’s interested in engaging in a positive way in the Middle East.”
Fair-weather friend: Abe Foxman, the former longtime director of the Anti-Defamation League, echoed that assessment. “I have personally experienced the cynical up-and-down relations with Erdogan over the years — when he needed you he was your best friend, and in a moment would turn on you,” he said. “Several weeks ago we talked about Netanyahu’s trip to Turkey and Erdogan’s to Israel in a tone of deep friendship and celebration. It seems he was never a real friend — but used his relationship cynically when it fit his personal political needs.”
‘Not believable’: Harley Lippman, a longtime AIPAC lay leader who was among the group of American Jewish leaders that met with Erdogan last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, said it was “not believable that” the Turkish president “could say Hamas is not a terrorist organization.” “What does he call their own actions that they boasted about online?” Lippman told JI. “What would he call it? I’d like to ask him.”
Heard in Riyadh: Former White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, speaking at the Saudi Future Investment Initiative 2023 in Riyadh this week, said that he thought those who are “protesting for the Palestinian people” are “missing the point, which is that Israel is not the reason why these people are held back and not living the life they have the ability to become. I think a lot of the Israeli people, a lot of fair-minded people, agree with the aim that the Palestinian people should live a better life but these [protestors], what they should be doing is protesting the Palestinian leadership, they should be protesting Hamas, they should be saying, give these people the ability to live a better life.”
Inside the kibbutz where Hamas massacred more than 100 Israelis
Almost three weeks after Hamas carried out its brutal terror attack on multiple army bases, more than 20 civilian communities and a music festival in Israel’s south, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reflects on her visit to one of the hardest hit communities by the Oct. 7 massacre. “Since that day, I have been reporting extensively on the horrific events and their fallout as the Israeli military prepares for a broader invasion into Gaza with the aim of wiping out all terrorist threats in the enclave. Yet nothing prepared me for a visit on Monday to the scene of one of the worst Hamas atrocities on that awful Saturday: Kibbutz Be’eri.”
The color red: “Known for the blooming red flowers that cover the landscape each spring, this fall, the fields and communities surrounding the Palestinian enclave were covered in red blood. I am no stranger to the Gaza periphery. My father was raised on one of the kibbutzim there and, as a child, we would often visit. That was before the intifadas or the disengagement from Gaza that enabled terrorists to take over the coastal strip. It was also long before their rocket fire, mortars and shells rained down every time there was tension with Israel.”
The smell of death: “The Be’eri that greeted me – and around 100 other journalists from all over the world – this past week was anything but idyllic. The destruction and the smell of death, even two weeks later, were everywhere. Around the kibbutz’s wire perimeter fence, which Hamas terrorists easily tore down, the army had erected mounds of dirt to stop any future infiltrations. On the day I was there, army tanks raced back and forth preparing for a likely ground invasion into Gaza. Soldiers, weapons ready, were everywhere.”
The shells of homes: “In the homes, and on the once carefully manicured pathways in between, the bodies of dead kibbutz residents – and terrorists – had been removed and most of the blood stains washed away. Yet it was still traumatic wandering past the short row of houses that once contained happy families and wondering about their fate. At the entrance to the last home in the row, the one closest to the perimeter fence and with a view of the kibbutz’s orchards beyond, I found a clue; a nameplate belonging to a family I recognized as being among the hostages.”
House passes pro-Israel resolution with 412 votes in favor as Senate advances Lew nomination
After nearly three weeks of paralysis, the House approved — by a 412-10 vote, with six lawmakers voting present — a resolution in support of Israel and condemning Hamas as its first order of business after electing Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as the new House speaker, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Who’s opposed: Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), Al Green (D-TX), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Andre Carson (D-IN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Summer Lee (D-PA), Delia Ramirez (D-IL) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) voted against the bill. Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Greg Casar (D-TX), Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) voted present.
Looking deeper: With the exception of Pressley, all of the present votes came from lawmakers who had co-sponsored the resolution in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but have since called for a cease-fire. With the exception of Green, the lawmakers opposing the bill are generally frequent critics of Israel and reliable “no” votes on pro-Israel legislation.
Condemned: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) told JI she was “appalled by the Democratic members who opposed this resolution and failed to condemn Hamas,” calling their votes “shameful.” Rosen noted that a similar resolution had passed unanimously in the Senate.
Moving ahead: Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced by a nearly party-line vote Jack Lew’s nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a sometimes-unpredictable voice on foreign policy who also previously blocked Iron Dome aid for months, was the only Republican to vote in favor of Lew. “After meeting personally with Jack Lew, I found him to be a thoughtful individual who will strive to do his best to represent the United States in Israel,” Paul told JI in a statement. “I also believe it to be important to have an ambassador during the current crisis in Israel.”
Read the full story here.
In other Washington news: As part of his supplemental funding request to Congress, President Joe Biden requested an additional $200 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, following lobbying from Jewish organizations and members of Congress. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), a prominent NSGP supporter, said in a statement, “It is unfortunately a precarious time for our Jewish and Muslim communities. I welcome President Biden’s call to provide $200 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to safeguard our sacred places of worship right now.” Karen Barall, the associate vice president of public affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America, told JI, “Unfortunately, we know from experience that when terrorists attack Israel, antisemites are emboldened to target Jews here at home. Jewish Federations are grateful that Congress is working to protect our community and other faith communities.”
Richard Fishman, architect of AIPAC’s shift to political fundraising, dies at 62
Richard Fishman, AIPAC’s co-CEO and the architect of its major recent policy shift toward political fundraising and away from grassroots advocacy, died on Tuesday following a yearslong battle with cancer. He was 62, writes Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Life story: Born in 1961 in New Jersey, Fishman grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He spent most of his life in the Washington, D.C., area, where he moved after joining AIPAC in 1985 as its student coordinator. Over the years, he held numerous roles at the pro-Israel lobby.
Jewish identity: “He was someone who early on recognized the importance of Israel to what it means to be a Jew in America today, and he never shied away from that and never shied away from Jewish identity,” said William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Political shift: Most recently, Fishman oversaw the creation of AIPAC’s political action committee and an affiliated Super PAC. Until the 2022 midterm election cycle, AIPAC had cultivated networks of political donors who had strong relationships with lawmakers but it had never directly fundraised for candidates. Fishman realized that should change.
Quotable: In remarks at a 2013 AIPAC summit for college student leaders, Fishman shared his biggest piece of advice: “The most important thing that I can tell anybody is to choose a career that you love,” he said. “It’s a privilege to work at AIPAC.”
Breaking Bread with Beijing: In The Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead considers the role China and Sino-American relations can play in the Biden administration’s foreign policy as Beijing’s foreign minister meets with top administration officials in Washington this week. “Turning to China for help in the Middle East would be a shift from the Biden administration’s initial foreign policy. Its early goal was to park Russia and pacify Iran to concentrate America’s economic, diplomatic and military assets on the greater threat of a rising China. Potentially, the new policy could be exactly the opposite: an attempt to park China to focus more effectively on Russia and Iran. From the standpoint of a rattled administration frantically trying to respond to a string of unanticipated events, there’s a lot to be said for working with Beijing. China, while a more formidable potential adversary than Russia or Iran, has common interests with the U.S. that the two more radical adversaries lack. Both China and America like global economic stability and quiet in the Middle East. Both countries benefit from a world that is open to commerce and investment.” [WSJ]
Campus Conundrum:Tablet magazine’s Armin Rosen reports on the responses from more than a dozen university Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) departments to queries about how the schools are reacting to the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack. “For the past two weeks, DEI offices have had a chance to show they can be responsive to the real-life needs of young people facing a scary and unfamiliar crisis. But these offices clearly do not exist to serve Jews, or wish to recognize Jews might be capable of feeling pain, even when their friends and co-religionists have been slaughtered en masse. That’s because DEI bureaucracies don’t exist to serve actually existing people of any background. The purpose they serve is a theological one, and dogma enforcement is a big part of what universities do these days…. An equity office’s job is to engineer the values of the rising elite so that DEI and the wider ideological edifice it serves will remain powerful, protected, and even feared. These bureaucracies are not burning through institutional capital in order to salve the anxieties of Jewish students, because helping students was never the point. Their ambitions are of a different order: DEI embodies the moral authority of a larger system for distributing status and power. It doesn’t care about actual human beings — and as we’ve learned since the massacre of October 7, it especially doesn’t care about Jews.” [Tablet]
Blame Game: In the Times of Israel, Yossi Klein Halevi examines why Israel is being blamed by broad segments of the international community for the Oct. 7 attack committed by Hamas terrorists. “A systematic and astonishingly successful campaign on the left has negated the Israeli historical and political narrative. As a result, one of the world’s most complicated moral and political dilemmas has been turned into a proverbial passion play, in which The Israeli plays the role of Judas (in place of The Jew), betraying his destiny as noble victim and becoming the victimizer. The Jewish state has been transformed into the sum of its sins, an irredeemably evil society that has lost its right to exist, let alone defend itself. To blame the occupation and its consequences wholly on Israel is to dismiss the history of Israeli peace offers and Palestinian rejection. To label Israel as one more colonialist creation is to distort the unique story of the homecoming of an uprooted people, a majority of whom were refugees from destroyed Jewish communities in the Middle East. To brand Israel an apartheid state is to confuse a national with a racial conflict, and to ignore the interaction of Arab and Jewish Israelis in significant parts of the society. To understand Israel and its security dilemmas only through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian power dynamic is to ignore its vulnerability in a hostile region, and the Iranian-allied terror enclaves pressing against its borders.” [TOI]
Around the Web
Subdued Tone: At last night’s White House state dinner honoring Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, organizers canceled a planned musical performance by the B-52s in lieu of a more somber military band, with First Lady Jill Biden citing being in “a time when so many are facing sorrow and pain.”
Veto Power: Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-led U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas; meanwhile, the U.S. vetoed a Russia-led resolution calling for a cease-fire.
West Bank Concerns: President Joe Biden addressed reports of settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, saying the violence was akin to “pouring gasoline” on a fire.
Pushing for a Pause: In a Fox News op-ed, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called for a halt to aid to Gaza until all of the hostages kidnapped by the terror group on Oct. 7 are released.
Banking Bill: Reps. French Hill (R-AR) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) introduced a bill seeking greater oversight of Iranian funds and aiming to close down bank accounts that hold Iranian funds.
Bowman’s Resolution: After being charged with a misdemeanor for pulling a fire alarm in a House office building, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) issued an apology and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.
Empire State Expulsion: New York’s GOP House delegation — with the exception of Rep. George Santos (R-NY) — is moving forward with efforts to expel Santos from Congress following the selection of a House speaker, which will allow the body to again conduct regular business.
California Crime: Police in Los Angeles’ Studio City are investigating as a hate crime the overnight break-in of a home owned by a Jewish family by a man who entered the house shouting, “We need to kill the Israeli people.” And in San Francisco, a local ice cream shop, the owner of which is Jewish, was vandalized with graffiti reading “Free Palestine.”
Brandeis’ Blunder: The student government at Brandeis University voted down a resolution condemning Hamas and calling for the release of hostages in the terror group’s captivity.
On Leave: The Cornell professor who said that the Hamas terror attacks were “exhilarating” and “energizing” has taken a leave of absence from the university following an uproar over his comments.
No Regrets: The NYU law student bar association president, Ryna Workman, whose job offer from an international law firm was rescinded after they publicly blamed Israel for the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack, doubled down on the comments in an interview with ABC News, the same day they were recorded defacing posters of Israeli hostages.
Front and Center:The New York Times’ Tom Friedman examines the different fronts on which Israel is fighting in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks.
Axis of Evil: Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah met with Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri and Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhleh in Beirut this week.
Training Day: The Wall Street Journal visits an Israeli military base where soldiers are training for a potential ground invasion inside a replica of a Palestinian town.
Gray Lady Gossip: Vanity Fairreports on the internal conversations among New York Times staff over how to cover an explosion at a Gaza hospital that the newspaper — and a number of other major media outlets that also only cited a Hamas-affiliated source — incorrectly reported was the result of an Israeli strike.
Maya the Matchmaker: Israeli actress Maya Wertheimer is using her social media platform to matchmake Israeli soldiers amid the war.
Proxy Problem: The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin spotlights the uptick in attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East by Iranian proxy groups.
Remembering: Martin Goetz, who in 1968 received the U.S.’ first software patent, died at 93.
Pic of the Day
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was honored with the Leadership Award at the Lamplighter Awards Dinner of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) on Tuesday night at Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Schumer, pictured with (from left) event chair Jeff DeBoer, Rabbi Levi Shemtov and event chair Norm Brownstein, was one of dozens of members of the House and Senate to attend the annual event. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, who was among nearly two dozen ambassadors present last night, delivered remarks to the crowd.
Staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, her 2019 novel Fleishman Is In Trouble hit the best-seller lists, Taffy Brodesser-Akner turns 48…
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