👋 Good Monday morning and moadim l’simcha to those celebrating Sukkot!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Jewish leaders in California following the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and report on the very public nature of normalization efforts between the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: David McCormick, Alice Shalvi and Moshe Koppel.
As the Biden administration ratchets up its quest to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, many longtime observers of Middle East politics — even those who support normalization — have wondered why President Joe Biden wants to get the deal done.
During a Friday address at The Atlantic Festival in Washington, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan offered the clearest insight yet into the White House’s thinking on normalization. He connected the normalization push to a broader Biden administration goal of reestablishing America’s presence in a region that has for years begun to view Washington as absent.
“The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades now. Challenges remain,” Sullivan said, “but the amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced.”
“So what are we trying to do with Saudi and Israel? Reinforce, deepen and sustain that out in the future, because we believe that regional integration and normalization between significant countries in the Middle East can create a greater and more stable foundation as we go forward,” Sullivan added. Read more below on efforts to broker a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who served more than 30 years in the Senate, was remembered over the weekend by Jewish activists in California as a shrewd politician who made meaningful strides in curbing gun violence and domestic assault, and a pioneering figure who “lifted the spirits and inspired” a generation of women to get involved in politics, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. Feinstein, who was the first Jewish woman to hold a seat in the upper chamber, died on Friday in Washington at age 90.
As mayor and as a senator, Feinstein pursued measures to curb gun violence. She authored the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which passed, but expired 10 years later. Last year, she helped lead the congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which she had initially voted for in 1994.
“She’s just a really old-school politician in a good way. She was really no-nonsense about getting a job done,” said California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat. “She did not need to be loved by everyone all the time.”
In the Senate, Feinstein was generally aligned with AIPAC and supportive of mainstream pro-Israel positions. But at times she diverged from other pro-Israel activists, most notably following Israel’s use of cluster bombs in its 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. She introduced legislation seeking to ban American sales or transfers of the weapons, blamed by human rights groups for the death of Lebanese civilians.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Laphonza Butler, the president of the pro-choice campaign organization EMILYs List and a former union leader, to fill Feinstein’s seat, Politico reported on Sunday. Newsom had been facing pressure to tap Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who had already announced her 2024 Senate bid, after committing to nominating a Black woman to the seat should there be a vacancy.
Congress averts government shutdown as Dems warn of consequences for Middle East and antisemitism
Congress voted on a bipartisan basis on Saturday to keep the government open through late November, capping off a week of uncertainty with last-minute bipartisan votes in the House and Senate, hours before funding was set to expire, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
What’s next: The House vote, which split Republicans and required Democratic support, will reverberate into this week. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) announced plans to attempt to unseat House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Republicans are also pursuing measures — potentially expulsion or censure — to punish Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) for pulling a fire alarm in a House office building leading up to the vote; Bowman claims he was trying to open a locked door to get to the Capitol building.
Looking back: At a Friday press conference, a group of 10 House Democrats, all but one of them Jewish, lambasted 198 of their Republican colleagues for voting for a previous stopgap bill that would have cut funding by around 30% to the State Department, Department of Justice and other federal agencies. “If you are deeply cutting the State Department, how are they going to have the personnel in place, coming to work every day to make sure that we can stand up for our agreements, make sure that we can be there with our allies?” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said, warning that the cuts supported by 198 Republicans would undermine work to expand the Abraham Accords, enforce Iran sanctions and combat antisemitism.
Also on Capitol Hill: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) announced plans to step down from Democratic leadership in the wake of his repeated public calls for a primary challenge to President Joe Biden. Phillips is reportedly considering challenging Biden. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) is considering a bid for Phillips’ spot, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
Pressure mounts on Canadian government to bring Nazis in the country to justice
The recent celebration of a Nazi collaborator in Canada’s House of Commons drew an international uproar that has forced the resignation of a top parliamentary official and elicited a public apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who last week called the incident “a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust.” But leading Jewish advocacy groups in Canada insist that such measures remain largely inadequate as the fallout from the controversy reopens a fraught national debate over Canada’s record of bringing Nazi perpetrators to justice, which has long been criticized as unusually lenient, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Actions speak louder: “More than an apology needs to happen,” Richard Robertson, the manager of research and advocacy at B’nai Brith Canada, said in an interview with JI last week. “We need action, and the action the government can take is long overdue.”
Redacted report: Among other efforts spurred by the incident last month, B’nai Brith is now stepping up a long-standing campaign urging the Canadian government to release the full contents of a multipart report examining Canada’s approach to Nazi war criminals who entered the country after World War II. The key findings of the so-called Deschênes Commission report, issued in 1986, have been redacted for decades, including the names of 20 alleged Nazi war criminals warranting “urgent attention” as well as 218 other suspected Nazi collaborators.
MBS’ open talk signals advance toward peace with Israel
The U.S., Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced the Abraham Accords in August 2020, after months of quiet diplomacy. Three years later, American and Israeli officials are again working toward a groundbreaking normalization agreement with an Arab country — Saudi Arabia — but this time, all parties have been more public about their efforts. While analysts say the shift in strategy is telling, some predict that a step-by-step approach is more likely than an impending grand announcement.
U.S. obstacles: IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi, founder and chairman of the largest Israeli NGO of national security veterans, the Israel Defense and Security Forum, and an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pointed out that the prime minister has been talking about the potential for normalization with Saudi Arabia for years, but was not able to make headway because of the Biden administration’s hesitation. “I think there was a challenge on the American side to get over the problems of the past with Saudi Arabia, as we saw in the beginning of Biden’s term following [the killing of U.S.-based Saudi columnist Jamal] Khashoggi. It took the Americans a long time to get past it and understand the key to change is in this agreement. The minute they understood, that was the minute that Netanyahu, MBS [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] and [President Joe] Biden tried to make this public,” Avivi told Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov.
Diplomatic style: Professor Bernard Haykel, director of Princeton University’s Institute for Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, posited that a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia will happen “phase by phase,” and not be implemented all at once like the Abraham Accords. “We’re far from an agreement. I’m not sure an agreement will actually materialize,” he told JI. Haykel also criticized Israel for its frequent open discussion of normalization talks with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. “Israelis have historically, with all Arabs, been incredibly embarrassing and deeply undiplomatic and insensitive to Arab sensibilities. They don’t care if they embarrass their negotiating partners,” he said.
Measured approach: Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, a leading Israeli historian and expert on the modern Middle East specializing in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, said that while there may soon be some encouraging signs of peace coming from the Saudis towards Israel – perhaps the issuing of special visas for Israeli businesspeople or direct flights from Israel for Muslim pilgrims to holy sites – there will probably be no Abraham Accords-type announcement or grand ceremony. Based on his historical expertise, the professor told JI’s Ruth Marks Eglash that while Saudi Arabia has long craved closer diplomatic and military ties with the U.S., it still “needs some kind of face-saving measure that it can use to signal to their population that they are helping out the Palestinians too.”
Senate Republicans urge Pentagon official’s security clearance be suspended for alleged Iran ties
More than 30 Senate Republicans called on the Defense Department on Friday to suspend the security clearance of Ariane Tabatabai, a Defense Department official linked to an alleged Iranian influence operation outlined in media reporting last week, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Called out: “The latest allegations reported in Semafor… indicate that Ms. Tabatabai may have been engaged in a relationship with the Iranian regime well beyond what even her strongest critics alleged,” the senators’ letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reads. The lawmakers also criticized the Defense Department for its defense of Tabatabai following the new reporting.
Signatories: The letter was signed by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rick Scott (R-FL), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Ted Budd (R-NC), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Katie Britt (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Kennedy (R-LA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), and John Thune (R-SD).
🇮🇷 Censure Iran: In The Hill, Ambassador Jackie Wolcott and Andrea Stricker, respectively a former U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, call on world powers to censure Iran at today’s IAEA Board of Governors meeting. “If Washington and its European partners were alarmed by the regime’s latest nuclear provocation, they didn’t show it. The U.S. and the E3 — France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — issued what amounted to a peep in an underwhelming joint statement. The U.S. proceeded to authorize the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets in a hostages-for-prisoners deal, on top of the $10 billion Washington already unfroze this summer. Europe, for its part, stuck to its position that it won’t reinstate UN missile, drone, and arms sanctions against Iran, despite their expiration on Oct. 18…. Washington and the E3 must change their current path, which risks upending international security and the nonproliferation regime led by the IAEA.” [TheHill]
🕊️ Coexistence Model: The New York Times’ Hila Yazbek visits the Arab-Jewish village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam in Israel, where Arab and Jewish residents live side-by-side. “Although the village’s population is a minuscule fraction of Israel’s total — and is composed only of people who have consciously sought out this level of coexistence — the residents here still hope it can model for a different kind of future. ‘When you live here, being racist is unnatural,’ said Amit Kitain, 40, whose family was among the village’s first Jewish residents. ‘The fact that you’re growing up together makes a huge difference.’ The village — known in Israel by its Hebrew-Arabic bilingual name, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam — was founded by Bruno Hussar, a monk, born in Egypt to a Jewish family, who later converted to Christianity. In 1972, he approached a monastery in a depopulated Palestinian village and pitched an idea he’d been mulling for years: building a place where Christians, Jews and Muslims could live together.” [NYTimes]
⚖️ Kohelet Conversation:The Wall Street Journal’s Elliot Kaufman interviews Kohelet Forum chairman Moshe Koppel about the think tank’s impact on Israel’s judicial reform efforts. “Mr. Koppel is persuasive, and this year his ideas have finally had their moment. But when this Israeli government championed them, they met broad and spirited opposition. A protest movement brought the country to its knees and caused Mr. Netanyahu, badly weakened, to step in and order a retreat. What went wrong? ‘If you want to do something major, you need to do it in a very thought-out and deliberate manner,’ Mr. Koppel says. ‘The government did not prepare properly. It was rushed.’ By the time leaders reached out to compromise, opposition had hardened. ‘Those who are now in the coalition,’ he sums up, ‘are going to need to learn how to govern responsibly — and they haven’t.’ It didn’t help that the attorney general, an independent civil servant granted quasi-judicial power by the court, had ordered Mr. Netanyahu to refrain from any involvement in the judicial-reform effort. This hobbled it, especially since ‘Bibi is probably the most moderate guy in his coalition.’ Mr. Koppel has moderated, too. ‘All I have done since Jan. 4, when this reform was announced, is speak to opponents of reform,’ he says. ‘If you can have this conversation the way it should be had, which is from behind the veil of ignorance,’ setting all interests and identities aside, ‘you can reach compromises.’” [WSJ]
📆 The SBF Whisperer: In the Washington Post, Michael Lewis chronicles the final year of Sam Bankman-Fried’s tenure at FTX, largely through the eyes of his personal assistant. “Being the head of public relations for a booming multinational corporation wasn’t all that difficult. ‘You just do and learn at the same time,’ Natalie [Tien] said brightly. The hard part of her job was Sam. The demand for his time soon reached the point that Natalie took on a second role, as Sam’s personal scheduler. It always had been Natalie the Financial Times reporter was meant to call if he wanted to set a time with Sam; now it was Natalie whom Sam’s father also needed to call if he hoped to get 15 minutes with his son. By the end of 2021, Natalie, and Natalie alone, knew where Sam was at any given moment, and where he might next go, and how to get him to do what he needed to do. She didn’t actually have all that much in common with her boss, but to do her job she had to be inside his head. ‘You need to learn how to get along with him,’ she said. ‘And it’s kind of mysterious how to get along with him.’” [WashPost]
☁️ What Tomorrow Brings: In The New Yorker, Laura Lane spotlights Tomorrow, a new weather-intelligence company founded by Rei Goffer that seeks to shift weather tracking away from government. “Tomorrow already offers boutique weather services to clients including JetBlue, Delta, Uber, the N.F.L., Porsche, Ford, Tesla, Live Nation, Denny’s, and the city of Hoboken. The company consults on questions like whether to promote ice cream or hot chocolate on a drive-through menu, when to expect employees to call in sick because the weather is too bad (or too good), and whether a singer can go onstage without getting struck by lightning. The U.S. Open uses Tomorrow to decide whether to keep its stadium roofs open. The company charges business customers as much as seven figures. (It also offers a free consumer app that tells you when it’s a good time to take your dog for a walk.) Goffer, who is thirty-eight and has a scruffy beard, was on Zoom from Tel Aviv, where he lives. He was checking the news while fielding texts from friends in Boston seeking the storm scoop. ‘I tell them, “Use our app,”‘ he said. He declined to make his own predictions. ‘As far as safety and lifesaving weather alerts, the source is the government,’ he said.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🎙️ On Air: In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Attorney General Merrick Garland attributed his commitment “to trying to ensure that the rule of law governs this country and continues to govern this country” to the deaths of his relatives in the Holocaust.
✖️ Fitting the Bill: Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square is considering investing in the social media platform X with the possibility of taking it public.
⏸️ On Pause: Open Society Foundations, newly under the leadership of Alex Soros, plans to pause its giving for at least five months and cut 40% or more of its staff as it undergoes a restructuring.
🙏 Take This Sabbath Day: The New Yorker reviews Martin Doblmeier’s new documentary “Sabbath,” which looks at the origins and practices of Sabbath observance across faiths.
🇺🇦 Zelensky at Babyn Yar: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Babyn Yar to mark the 82nd anniversary of the massacre in which roughly 34,000 Jews were killed during a two-day period.
📽️ Film Review: “Never Alone,” a new film from Finnish director Klaus Härö, spotlights the deportation of Austrian-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, and the efforts of the country’s Jewish community to save them.
📜 Rare Book, Rarer Location: A well-preserved Torah scroll is on display at the Riyadh International Book Fair, happening this week in Saudi Arabia.
🌎 Faith Pavilion: U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is slated to attend COP28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Dubai next month, where he will speak inside the faith pavilion.
👮 Abu Dhabi Meetup: The commander-in-chief of the Abu Dhabi Police, Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, met with Gen. Yaakov Shabtai, the commissioner of the Israeli National Police, in the Emirati capital on Friday.
🛬 Gallant’s Travels: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will travel to the U.S. later this month for meetings with officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in Washington.
😠 Raisi’s Rage: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia “reactionary and regressive.”
🇱🇧 Iran’s Role: Iran’s envoy in Beirut admitted Tehran’s involvement in dual attacks in Lebanon in the 1980s that killed more than 200 Americans, the majority of whom were Marines.
🕯️ Remembering: Israel Prize laureate Alice Shalvi, who was at the forefront of women’s equality efforts in Israel following her aliyah in 1949, died at 96. Physicist and biologist Evelyn Fox Keller died at 87.
Wine of the Week
JI wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the 2020 Settlers Secret Cabernet:
“It’s rare that I get a morning off to run around the Shomron [northern West Bank] and even rarer that I taste a new Israeli wine that deeply excites me. A.Y., my host for the morning, took me to a series of ancient biblical cities whose names have changed over time, but whose histories are firmly embedded in our souls, and whose grapes are firmly planted in the ground. The Settlers Secret 2020 Cabernet is 100% estate-grown. The grapes are handpicked in the early morning from vineyards in the enchanting town of Aish Hakodesh, which is buried in the hills of the Shiloh Valley. The wine is extremely meaty. It opens with dark chocolate and cherry flavors, the mid-palate is creamy and subtle, and the finish wallops you with earthy tones of mushrooms and green vegetables. This wine will last for at least 10 more years. Enjoy the bottle with barbecued steak of any variety. Open a few bottles now and save some to put down for the next decade.”
Pic of the Day
The U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted an event on Friday to open its first-ever sukkah at its headquarters on the National Mall, with remarks from speakers including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt (pictured) and Melissa Rogers, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Former MLB left-handed pitcher with more MLB appearances than any other Jewish pitcher, Scott David Schoeneweis turns 50…
Social worker, researcher and author specializing in child survivors of the Holocaust, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2003, Judith Hemmendinger turns 100… Partner in Baltimore’s Workshop Development and leading commercial real estate broker, Richard Manekin… Co-chair of external relations at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, MD, Diana Ely Epstein… Professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford, and an inventor of public key cryptography, Martin Edward Hellman turns 78… Bethesda, Md., resident, Samuel G. Kaplan… Fashion designer and the creator of the Donna Karan New York and DKNY clothing labels, Donna Karan (born Donna Ivy Faske) turns 75… Portrait photographer whose work has been used on numerous album covers and magazines, Annie Leibovitz turns 74… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and composer, Douglas Norman Cotler turns 74… Former longtime member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen turns 72… Israel’s former minister of Public Security, Omer Bar-Lev turns 70… Former member of the Texas House of Representatives, Scott Hochberg turns 70…
Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist, Idan Ofer turns 68… County executive since 2022 of Nassau County, N.Y., Bruce Blakeman turns 68… Venture capitalist and former chairman of the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Bruce Sholk… Staff correspondent for CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” program, Gary Tuchman turns 63… Former chief program officer of the Union for Reform Judaism, Mark J. Pelavin… Managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale-based Weinstein Law Firm and past U.S. public delegate to the United Nations, Andrew Weinstein… Insurance agent at Herman E. Wealcatch Inc., Michael (Mordechai) Gottlieb… U.S. government official at the International Trade Administration, she serves on the American Jewish Committee’s regional board, Michelle Sara King… Head coach of women’s basketball at USC, she was an assistant coach in the NBA, Lindsay Gottlieb turns 46… Filmmaker and actor, Marek Ariel Schulman turns 42… Secretary of state of Colorado, elected in 2018 and re-elected in 2022, Jena Griswold turns 39… Zionist educator at Hadassah, Diana Diner… Associate attorney at Cooley LLP, Alexander B. Fullman… Rapper and record producer, he has over 230 million views on YouTube, known by his stage name Quadeca, Benjamin Fernando Barajas Lasky turns 23…