Good Thursday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at how pro-Israel progressives are rejecting the far left’s narrative on the Israel-Hamas war, and report on yesterday’s meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Beanie Feldstein, Seth Mandel and Ian Kinsler.
A wave of new polling in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel reveals a significant uptick in American support for the Jewish state — especially among many of the Democrats that had been growing less supportive of Israel in recent years, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar writes.
A CNN poll, conducted between Oct. 12-13, found that over two-thirds of respondents believe the Israeli military response in Gaza was either “fully justified” (50%) or “partially justified” (20%). Even among Democrats, the support for Israeli military countermeasures was nearly as high: Thirty-eight percent said they would be “fully justified,” while 30% said they would be partially justified.
The poll also found that while most Americans broadly sympathize with both the Israeli and Palestinian people, the depth of support with Israel is higher. Nearly three out of four respondents (71%) feel “a lot of sympathy” with the Israelis, while 41% say the same about the Palestinians.
A whopping 76% of respondents in a new Quinnipiac poll think supporting Israel is in the national interest of the United States — including 84% of Republicans, 76% of Democrats and 74% of independents. Only 20% of Americans said that America was “too supportive” of Israel — with the greatest degree of opposition (30%) centered among the youngest voters between 18-34.
Meanwhile, a recent FOX News survey found 68% of Americans side more with the Israelis, with just 18% favoring the Palestinians. Support for Israel spiked nine points since May 2021 when the pollster last asked the question. The uptick was mostly attributable to rising support for Israel among Democrats: 59% now say they side with the Israelis, and just 25% with the Palestinians.
The improved public opinion towards Israel among Democrats — at least for the moment — is attributable to incremental but notable shifts taking place in the political arena and on Capitol Hill.
Credible primary challengers are suddenly emerging against several vulnerable left-wing members of the Squad, as JI’s Matthew Kassel reported — and are citing the incumbents’ equivocation over the terrorist attacks as a reason for running. Squad-aligned lawmakers struggled to raise money in the latest fundraising quarter, a sign of their potential vulnerability.
As JI’s Marc Rod has reported, many typically progressive lawmakers who normally call for de-escalation and restraint from Israel have held back for now. J Street, the progressive Israel advocacy group, is telling supportive lawmakers that sponsorship of a bipartisan pro-Israel resolution is a prerequisite for their endorsement in 2024.
President Joe Biden’s own strong show of support for Israel, equating Hamas terrorism with ISIS, is also a key factor pushing Democratic voter support for Israel. Any mainstream Democrat looking to challenge an anti-Israel rival in a primary now has this powerful line of attack: Are you with President Biden, or with the terrorists?
Freshly returned from Israel, Biden is set to address the nation tonight at 8 p.m. The White House said the president intends to speak about the U.S. “response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine.”
The president’s primetime address comes a day after sanctions banning transfer of ballistic missiles, lethal drones and related technology to and from Iran expired, in accordance with one of the 2015 nuclear deal’s “sunset clauses.” World powers could have “snapped back” Iran sanctions due to its nuclear violations of the deal, but opted not to do so, with the European parties to the JCPOA saying that their individual sanctions will remain in place.
The Treasury Department announced new sanctions yesterday against 11 people and eight entities in Iran, Hong Kong, China and Venezuela over actions “that are enabling Iran’s destabilizing ballistic missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs,” as well as two Iranian officials tied to Tehran’s missile program.
In addition to backing Hamas and Hezbollah, Tehran has for more than a year worked closely with Russia in building up Moscow’s drone program and assisting in arms transfers for use against Ukraine.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Kornichuk told JI’s Lahav Harkov that “we have been attacked by [Iran’s] drones and our military and victims are dying as a result of those attacks. Our concern was and still is the fact that Russia is using all means to strengthen its cooperation with Iran, and we have been alerting our international partners to that fact so many times. I hope that both Iran and Russia will be sanctioned in the strongest way.”
gaza war: day 13
Tensions rise on Israel’s northern border as skirmishes with Hezbollah increase
Tensions continued to rise on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon on Wednesday, with the IDF reporting multiple rounds of artillery fire, anti-tank missiles and rocket attacks against troops and civilian communities believed to be perpetrated by the Shiite militia group Hezbollah, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Launches from Lebanon: Throughout the day Wednesday and overnight, the military said it had identified multiple rocket launches from within Lebanese territory – all of which were intercepted by the army’s “Aerial Defense Array,” including both the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile-defense systems – as well as rounds of anti-tank fire shot toward the northern communities of Metula, Malkia and Manara.
IDF response: Despite fears of sparking a full-scale war on Israel’s northern front as it gears up for an intense ground operation inside Gaza, the military said it has responded to the ongoing Hezbollah attacks by striking targets along the border. In addition, the army reported that it had thwarted an attempted infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory. Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, has said that 10 of its militants have been killed since Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack killing 1,400 people took place on Oct. 7, according to press reports.
Israel’s war cabinet tells Biden that ground invasion of Gaza is imminent
Israel’s war cabinet made it clear to President Joe Biden that a ground incursion into Gaza is looming, as he took part in a meeting with Israeli ministers at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov and Gabby Deutch report.
Existential war: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli ministers told Biden that a ground maneuver could not be avoided and that there will be a long war, a source in the meeting told JI, confirming reporting in the Hebrew media. Some of the ministers called this war “existential.”
War outcomes: If Israel’s victory over Hamas is not total, its strategic standing in the Middle East and deterrence against its enemies will be significantly damaged, the ministers argued, according to the Israeli source. Ministers also alluded to the possibility that normalization with Saudi Arabia may not happen if Israel appears weak. In Biden’s meeting with the war cabinet, he asked Israel to limit the war to Gaza and told the ministers to consider what will happen next in Gaza if Hamas is destroyed.
Standing by: Publicly, Biden’s message of support was steadfast. In a speech before he departed Tel Aviv, Biden said he came to Israel with “a single message: You’re not alone.” Biden will be addressing the American public about his administration’s response to Hamas’ terrorism against Israel — and Russia’s war in Ukraine — in a primetime address on Thursday evening.
Humanitarian update: The war cabinet meeting touched heavily on humanitarian aid for Palestinians. Up to 20 trucks of humanitarian assistance will now enter Gaza daily through the Rafah gate via Egypt, according to an agreement Biden reached with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. “He stepped up, as did Bibi,” Biden said of Sisi in a conversation with reporters on Wednesday night on Air Force One.
Pro-Israel progressives begin to crack down on growing far-left extremism toward Israel
Progressive pro-Israel lawmakers and activists are beginning to crack down on extreme voices from the hard left as a range of outspoken anti-Zionist groups have grown increasingly radical amid the war between Israel and Hamas, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. The most high-profile rebuke came Wednesday from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the informal dean of the House Jewish caucus, who drew scrutiny to a far-left group, Jewish Voice for Peace, that has held rallies this week in Washington calling for a ceasefire and accusing Israel of committing “genocide” in Gaza.
Vibe shift: Nadler, an old-school progressive who has continued to uphold his support for Israel even amid shifting attitudes on the left, is hardly a natural ally of Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. But his decision to highlight the group on social media represents a notable shift among progressive pro-Israel Democrats who are pushing back against organizations that have downplayed Hamas’ terrorism while decrying Israel’s response to the atrocities.
‘Firmly rejected’: The congressman explained in a statement to JI that he had “been asked” by several people about Jewish Voice for Peace, which co-organized a Capitol rally with IfNotNow on Wednesday where multiple protestors were arrested. “I wanted to be sure that people are aware of what JVP itself says about its own connection to the global BDS movement,” he said, emphasizing that “BDS is firmly rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community, left, right and center.”
Opening salvo: “I think that Rep. Nadler’s tweet was eye-opening and very clarifying,” said Sara Forman, the executive director of the New York Solidarity Network, a pro-Israel advocacy group. “Hopefully he’ll provide the moral clarity and cover that other activists need so they can join him in exposing these fringe groups for what they are.” Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), a Jewish Democrat, endorsed Nadler’s approach. The congressman “agrees with Mr. Nadler, the most senior Jewish member in the House, who has spent decades steeped in the nuance of America’s relationship with Israel, our closest democratic ally in the region,” a spokesperson told JI.
on the hill
Risch: Plan for post-Hamas Gaza a ‘work in progress’
Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that in conversations with U.S. and Israeli officials in recent days he has heard a plan for future governance of the Gaza Strip after Israel’s campaign against Hamas, but said it’s still a “work in progress,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Vague vision: “The answer is yes,” there is a plan, Risch told JI during a sit-down with reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m probably not the best person to articulate that, because it’s still a work in progress… I think you’ve got to take it a piece at a time… I don’t think there’s anyone who can sit here and say, ‘The vision is this and this is how it’s going to work.’”
Potential players: Risch said he expects that Israel aims to offer the Palestinian people the “opportunity” to “step up and move forward” without Hamas — comparing the situation to Germany’s success following the elimination of the Nazi regime. “Obviously, there would be pushing and shoving, as there always is, in a political determination as to who’s going to run it,” Risch continued. “But it certainly can’t be run any worse by any organization that steps up.” Risch said that he expects that Arab and Islamic countries in the region will help shape Gaza’s political future and “will be a lot better at it than we would.”
Bonus: Risch said yesterday that he’s firm in his position that Turkey cannot buy the F-16s it’s seeking until it approves Sweden’s NATO membership. But he also said that “Turkey needs to really weigh heavily what they’re doing here,” warning of “consequences” for the country’s own NATO membership.
Lew appears headed for party-line confirmation vote following Senate hearing
Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew appears headed toward a party-line confirmation vote as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, receiving a uniformly negative reception among Republican senators at his confirmation hearing yesterday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Republicans grilled the former Obama administration official about his involvement with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and other controversial elements of Obama’s Middle East policy.
Next steps: Lew’s confirmation is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which held the hearing, next week and — although any Republican senator opposed to him could unilaterally delay that vote — it’s not clear that any plan to do so. “We’re in discussions on that,” the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), told JI at a GOP press conference yesterday. “It’s one thing to be a ‘no,’ it’s another thing to block the inevitable. We’ll get through this. One way or another, we’re going to get through this very quickly.”
Key accusation: From the outset of the hearing, Republican lawmakers accused Lew of lying to Congress about the implementation of the JCPOA, citing a 2018 Senate investigative report that accused Lew of facilitating Iranian access to the U.S. financial system, in contradiction to pledges he had made to Congress. Republicans also accused Lew and the Obama administration of actively pressuring banks to do business with Iran. “We implemented a policy that was transparent that I testified before this committee on in terms of what was being done,” Lew responded. “We did not welcome them back into the U.S. financial system.”
New priority: Addressing the recent attack on Israel, Lew pledged in his opening statement to “do my best to end the horrific attacks by Hamas and ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself. And I will spare no effort and working to help American citizens now captive to return home safely.”
a game transformed
Maccabi Ra’anana gets lift from U.S. crowds
When the Maccabi Ra’anana basketball team landed in New York City two weeks ago to kick off its preseason exhibition tour across the U.S., all minds were on Israel: making their country proud, representing the skill of Israeli basketball, improving on their game and maybe even recruiting a few American players to join the league. Eight days later, as the team readied to play the Brooklyn Nets in their first of three NBA matchups, their minds were still on Israel: this time on the family, friends and neighbors who had been killed, taken hostage or otherwise terrorized since Hamas’ plunged the country into war on Oct. 7 with an attack deadlier than Israel had seen in its 75-year history, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports.
Playing through pain: “If I can just describe it in the best way, it’s [like] your body [is] in the States and your mind and your heart is in Israel,” head coach Yehu Orland told JI ahead of last Thursday’s game against the Nets. “The mood is really, really sad and tough. It’s hard to focus on basketball at [the] moment, but we are representatives of Israel also, not only our club, and we’re going to do the best out of it.”
More than a game: Maccabi Ra’anana lost in the end, 135-103, but the scoreboard seemed of little consequence. Much of the team waited around afterwards, waving to the crowd and thanking those closest to the court for their support. Outside, a large group of fans formed a circle at the entrance to Barclays Center. Together, arm in arm, they sang “Am Yisrael Chai” and “Hatikva” among others, wearing the Israeli flag and dancing, creating an impromptu vigil for Israel.
Coming together: “There were people with tzitzit and payes, then on the other side of the circle were young girls in crop tops and pants, just like clearly very different kinds of Jews and very different kinds of ideologies and halachic practice coming together to be unified by a shared tragedy,” Sara Heckelman told JI. “All of us were quenching this kind of thirst for community and comfort, and I think we were all just really happy to be there, supporting Israel.”
Parsing Biden’s Trip: In The New York Times, editorial board member David Firestone weighs how President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel is being viewed by both the Israeli and the American electorates. “But Israel won’t soon forget that Mr. Biden showed up in person. His re-election campaign may hope that voters remember the president’s physical steadiness and comforting words when he is accused over the next year of being too decrepit to lead. The more important audience, for the moment at least, may be that of other countries that wondered whether the United States could still be counted on, after Mr. Trump trampled on longstanding alliances and promises. As [a former Bush administration official] noted, China and Russia have taken advantage of that uncertainty and are trying to persuade nonaligned nations that the American model is worn out and rotting from the inside. In that effort, they are getting enormous encouragement from the Republican Party and its unwillingness to govern.” [NYTimes]
Hezbollah’s Hesitation: In The Atlantic, Kim Ghattas writes that Hezbollah, also an Iranian proxy, is biding time and observing the situation between Israel and Hamas before it decides if, how and when to act. “The unexpectedly high Israeli death toll may be one reason [Hezbollah head Hassan] Nasrallah has kept silent — he is hedging, watching to see when and how far the Israeli army will go into Gaza, and whether Hamas will face an existential threat that requires Hezbollah’s response. Even then, Iran would likely prefer to sacrifice Hamas rather than waste Hezbollah, unless Iran itself comes under threat. By keeping Israel on edge on its northern border, Hezbollah is in effect already helping Hamas, but doing so within the rules of engagement established after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Both sides understand that script, although the risk of a miscalculation is great. For now, Israeli officials are making clear that they don’t want a war with Lebanon — and simultaneously threatening to destroy the country if Hezbollah goes too far. Hezbollah has put out stern statements saying that it’s responding to enemy fire while, at the same time, having its spokesperson claim that the ‘skirmishes’ are only a ‘warning.’” [TheAtlantic]
Echoes of Kishinev: In Commentary, Seth Mandel considers the implications of President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel. “One reason the administration appears to feel little pressure to prevent a ground invasion of Gaza is that there has been a sea change in the way American media and elites talk about Hamas. Even Barack Obama, whose administration crafted its foreign-policy strategy around boosting Iran’s power in the region, encouraged Americans to ‘stand squarely alongside our ally, Israel, as it dismantles Hamas,’ in the wake of its monstrous Oct. 7 attacks. Hamas is a thorn in everyone’s side because it has a heckler’s veto over any attempts to make peace in the region. And not just Israeli-Palestinian peace: Biden is hoping to shepherd a legacy-defining agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and Hamas is willing to do anything to torpedo it, including acts of barbarism that recall the Kishinev pogrom of 1903.” [Commentary]
Keep Your Friends Close…: Foreign Policy’s Steven Cook opines on the reasons the U.S. maintains close relations with Qatar despite Doha’s support for terror organizations such as Hamas. “No one should be terribly surprised that the Qataris play both ends of the fence. The real issue is why successive U.S. administrations of both parties let them get away with it. Part of it has to do with the nature of foreign-policy making itself, which is a series of bad choices. U.S. officials tend to overlook bad behavior in one dimension because they know or hope that a partner is helpful in another one. The juice is not worth the squeeze to take [Qatari Emir] Tamim [bin Hamad Al Thani] to task publicly about his ahistoric speech at the United Nations (it’s the U.N., after all) when he can be helpful in other areas — for example, by working to secure the release of the Israeli women and children held hostage by Hamas. Then there is the more Qatar-specific problem: Because the United States is so invested in Al Udeid — an artifact of an overly ambitious effort to transform the Middle East and a facility for which there is no current substitute — U.S. policymakers are reluctant to address the least helpful aspects of Doha’s approach to regional problems.” [ForeignPolicy]
Abu Dhabi Dispatch: The Atlantic Council’s William Wechsler lays out his takeaways on Israel’s war against Hamas from discussions he has had with senior Emirati government officials in Abu Dhabi. “Privately, many here will be hoping that Israel successfully eliminates Hamas and does so especially rapidly, before Arab public sentiment becomes unmanageable. There is a palpable concern, however, that Hamas will prove to be a stronger adversary than expected, resulting in a prolonged Israeli war against an unending insurgency that is protected by an extensive network of secret tunnels. Some officials with whom I spoke suggested that Israel might be forced to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas sooner than it thinks. I find this scenario to be unrealistic, however, especially in the near term. The Israeli public is in no mood to compromise, just as the United States was in no mood to compromise with al-Qaeda after 9/11. Emiratis should be able to understand the emotions at play; after all, from Mohammed bin Zayed down they were profoundly impacted by the January 2022 Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi, an event they’ve repeatedly referred to as ‘our 9/11.’ Any potential future setbacks in Israel’s war against Hamas are more likely to be met with surges to double down on the fight rather than with negotiations to end it.” [AtlanticCouncil]
Around the Web
Clearance Cleared: Senior Defense Department official Ariane Tabatabai, who was named in a report last month as a member of an Iranian state-run propaganda network, will keep her security clearance following an internal Pentagon review.
Newsom’s Nod: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the immediate allocation of $10 million to bolster security at religious institutions in the state and an additional $20 million to the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
Call It Like It Is: Dozens of daily newspapers owned by Alden Capital Management ran an editorial calling on the media to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Meaningful Moment: Former Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is Jewish, donned a Team Israel jersey when he threw out the first pitch at the ALCS Game 3 between the Rangers and Houston Astros.
Canceled Conference: A Hilton hotel in Houston that was set to serve as the site of next week’s US Campaign for Palestinian Rights conference, whose speakers include Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour, withdrew as host, citing security concerns.
Deli Desecration: The Upper East Side outpost of New York’s 2nd Avenue Deli was vandalized with a swastika.
First Person: In Variety, actress Beanie Feldstein recounts her first experience with antisemitism, part of a broader effort — which included a daylong summit on Wednesday — by the publication to speak out against antisemitism.
Scholz’s Sorry: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned the Wednesday morning firebombing of a Berlin synagogue.
London Calling: U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in Israel today for meetings with top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
What Went Wrong: The Wall Street Journal’s Elliot Kaufman assesses why media outlets rushed to publish an incorrect story about an explosion at a Gaza hospital that was wrongly blamed on Israel.
Online Outreach: CNN looks at how Hamas utilized social media to rack up a lengthy follower base.
Closed Door: The Associated Press examines the refusal by Arab nations to take in Palestinians fleeing Gaza.
Axis of Evil: A Hamas representative in Lebanon said the terror group is coordinating with Hezbollah as it prepares for further warfare with Israel.
Terror in Tunisia: An historic synagogue — not currently functioning — in Al Hammah, Tunisia, was torched and destroyed by hundreds of rioters following an explosion at a Gaza hospital that was incorrectly attributed to an Israeli strike.
Downed Drones: U.S. forces in Iraq downed three drones targeting coalition bases in northern and western Iraq.
Transitions: Seth Mandel is rejoiningCommentary as a senior editor; Mandel first worked at the magazine a decade ago as an assistant editor. Former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Deborah Lyons was appointed Ottawa’s new special envoy on Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism.
Pic of the Day
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem this morning. Hochul’s father died suddenly yesterday, after she arrived on a two-day solidarity mission to Israel.
Writer, scholar and former Israeli ambassador, Yoram Ettinger turns 78…
Professor emeritus and first-ever Jewish president of the University of Minnesota, Kenneth Harrison Keller turns 89… CEO of Aramark Corporation for 34 years, he is a past chairman of the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees, Joseph Neubauer turns 82… Founder and former ringmaster of the Big Apple Circus, Paul Binder turns 81… Pulmonologist in Plano, Texas, he is also the author of six mystery novels, Dr. Kenneth L. Toppell turns 81… Obstetrician and gynecologist at the Center for Fetal Medicine in Los Angeles, Lawrence David Platt, MD… Retired hospitality executive, Michelle Fischler… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, she directs the journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Deborah Blum turns 69… Founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist turns 67… Retired supervisor for Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency, David Alan Cera… Israel’s minister of the economy and former mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat turns 64… Co-owner of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and English soccer club Manchester United, Avram A. “Avie” Glazer turns 63… Social psychologist and professor at New York University focused on the psychology of morality and moral emotions, Jonathan David Haidt turns 60…
Canadian business executive and board member of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, David Cynamon turns 60… Chief rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich turns 59… Founder of Global Policy Associates where he is now an advisory board member, he was the White House Jewish Liaison in the Clinton administration, Jay Footlik… Ritual coordinator at Congregation Emanu El in Houston, Shira Kosoy Moses… Actor, director, producer and screenwriter, his television production company is Golem Creations, Jon Favreau turns 57… Former mayor of Portland, Maine, now a nonprofit executive, Ethan King Strimling turns 56… Technology journalist and record producer, Joshua Ryan Topolsky turns 46… Film director, screenwriter and producer, Jason R. Reitman turns 46… Chief growth officer at itrek, Evan Majzner… Executive at Nefco, David Ochs… Pittsburgh-based founder and CEO of Mamalux, Lindsay Applebaum Stuart… Founder of iTrade[dot]TV, equities trader and financial marketer, Elie Litvin… Infielder in the Oakland Athletics organization, he played for Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Zack Gelof turns 24…