Good Monday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the turmoil facing the U.K.’s Labour over party leader Keir Starmer‘s support for Israel, and report on an upcoming screening for senators of footage from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Enes Kanter Freedom, Rep. Jake Auchincloss and French President Emmanuel Macron.
“We Israelis have a secret weapon. We have nowhere else to go.”
It was a remark made by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to a young senator from Delaware 50 years ago on the eve of the Yom Kippur War.
It’s been invoked repeatedly by President Joe Biden in his public comments since the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks and is fast becoming the go-to response for Israelis, from Defense Ministry officials to the civilians and IDF troops interviewed by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius (more on that below), Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss writes.
A similar refrain was heard again on Sunday, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, making the rounds on the Sunday shows, told NBC’s Kristen Welker on “Meet The Press” that Israel has “no other choice” but to win the Israel-Hamas war.
“There’s no life for us,” Netanyahu said. “There’s no future for us and our neighbors if we allow the axis of terror led by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and their minions to dominate. We have an alliance for peace on the other side. It includes Israel, United States, the moderate Arab states and the rest of the civilized world. Now it’s a question of who wins. We have to win.”
Netanyahu also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to address Israeli ground efforts in Gaza and ongoing hostage negotiations — the latter of which he was reticent to discuss, saying, “I think the less I say about it, the more I increase the chances that it materializes.” Both CNN’s Dana Bash and Welker pressed Netanyahu on growing concerns about the situation around Gaza City’s Al Shifa hospital, which is widely believed to sit atop a Hamas command center. The prime minister said that the IDF had been assisting in civilian evacuation efforts and that attempts to send fuel to the besieged hospital — 300 liters of fuel had been brought in jerrycans and placed at the entrance of the hospital — had been rejected.
Netanyahu’s account was seemingly confirmed by a New York Times report that cited an official from the Hamas-backed Gaza Health Ministry, who said that the hospital director refused to accept the fuel because “taking this fuel would give Israel credit for allowing fuel into Gaza.”
The prime minister shrugged off questions from both Bash and Welker about whether he will accept responsibility for the Oct. 7 attacks. “Did people ask Franklin Roosevelt, after Pearl Harbor, that question? Did people ask George Bush after the surprise attack on September 11? Look, it’s a question that needs to be asked… And I’ve said we’re going to answer all these questions, including me, I’m going to be asked tough questions.”
“There’ll be enough time for that after the war,” Netanyahu said. “Let’s focus on victory. That’s my responsibility.”
Brett McGurk, one of the Biden administration’s top Mideast officials,will head to Israel for meetings tomorrow with Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as part of a multi-country trip focused on the Israel-Hamas war. McGurk will stop first in Brussels for meetings with EU officials regarding the war.
Among the issues likely to come up in this week’s meetings is the question of governance in a post-Hamas Gaza. Last week, we reported that the U.S. and Israel differed in their visions for who would control the Palestinian enclave once Hamas was removed from power, with an Israeli official cautioning that the Palestinian Authority “wants to destroy the Jewish state in stages and politically.” Secretary of State Tony Blinken has said it is critical for the PA, which controls the West Bank, to “play a leading role” in shaping the future of Gaza.
Speaking Sunday to CNN, Netanyahu again rejected PA control in Gaza, voicing skepticism that the government, led by Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, could serve as a partner to deradicalize and demilitarize the Gaza Strip: “They teach their children the hatred of Israel, they do ‘pay for slay’” — a reference to the “martyr payments” that terrorists and their families receive for carrying out attacks — “They pay for terrorists, murderers and their families, the more Jews they kill, the more they pay. They refuse, to this day, 36 days after this savagery, to condemn what Hamas did.”
When asked what authority could fill the role, Netanyahu pointed out that the PA already had a chance to rule Gaza and was pushed out, “There has to be a reconstructed civilian authority,” Netanyahu told CNN’s Bash. “There has to be something else. Otherwise we’re just falling into that same rabbit hole and we’re going to have the same result.”
A delegation of legislators was in Israel over the weekend for a visit that included meetings with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, meetings with hostage families and a screening of video of Hamas’ attack. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and John Hoeven (R-ND) and Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Greg Meeks (D-NY), Max Miller (R-OH), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), John James (R-MI) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) traveled with the delegation.
mind the gap
Labour pains for Keir Starmer over Gaza war
As Britain’s Labour party has surged in public opinion polls, deep divisions are reemerging over the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Sir Keir Starmer, elected leader of the official opposition party in 2020, has fought hard to recover the confidence of Britain’s Jewish community after inheriting the post from Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader who faced a landslide election defeat after leading a party awash in antisemitism. But now, just three years later, Starmer finds himself at the center of a political storm over the war in Gaza, with some left-wing opponents in the party criticizing him for “siding with the Jews,” Lianne Kolirin reports from London for Jewish Insider.
Turning of the tide: In staking out a position on the war similar to that of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other political leaders, Starmer was unequivocal in his support for Israel following the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7. He received a standing ovation at the Labour party conference, which kicked off in Liverpool that same weekend, when he forcefully condemned the attacks. But in the weeks since then, Starmer has faced dissent in his party due to his refusal to call for a cease-fire, instead calling for humanitarian “pauses” to allow aid in and civilians out of Gaza.
Fallout: Starmer’s attempts to walk a tightrope between the two positions have caused friction within his party. In a letter published on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday night, Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, became the first Labour frontbencher to quit over the issue when he announced his resignation as shadow minister for the New Deal for Working People. Meanwhile, dissent within the shadow cabinet deepened last week when Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said Israel’s military action will only end in “death and destruction.” Elsewhere, the leader of Burnley Council, in northwest England, together with 10 local councillors, quit the Labour party over the issue and called for Starmer to resign.
Bonus: Sunak this morning fired Home Secretary Suella Braverman on the heels of her criticism of the police over its handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London, accusing them of “double standards” and bias in favor of the protesters. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, who distanced himself from Braverman’s comments, also backed Israel’s war against Hamas in an interview with Sky News.
Don Samuels announces rematch against Ilhan Omar
Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis councilman who nearly unseated Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) last cycle, announced on Sunday that he is seeking a rematch in next year’s August primary election, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. The new challenge from Samuels, who came within just 2,500 votes of defeating Omar, sets up a hotly contested race for the nomination in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, where two lesser-known rivals have also launched campaigns in recent months.
Projecting confidence: In an interview with JI, Samuels, 74, voiced confidence that he is now better poised to take on one of the most prominent members of the left-wing Squad, citing new commitments from unnamed backers who sat on the sidelines during his first race. “I’ve got the momentum,” he said, noting that he has allowed himself a longer runway on which to build a viable campaign this cycle. “The conditions persist and the opponent is even more vulnerable.”
Uphill climb: Political observers who spoke with JI agreed with Samuels’ assessment, but emphasized that even if he is able to clear the field, he will still have a tough race ahead of him. “I think it’s exciting he’s jumping in the race,” said Manny Houle, a pro-Israel activist and former Democratic organizer in Minneapolis. “But he’s got a big hill to climb even given his last turnout.”
‘Tepid response’: Samuels drew a sharp contrast on Middle East policy, accusing Omar, 41, of equivocating over Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack and otherwise using divisive rhetoric to create mounting tensions with Jewish constituents who are offended by her views. “In the recent crisis, her early inability to have an empathetic response to the terroristic, brutal invasion of Hamas really alienated her further from the Jewish community,” he said of Omar. “For the worst violence since the Nazis, she had a tepid response.”
After criticizing civilian deaths in Gaza, Macron asserts ‘unequivocal support’ for Israel
French President Emmanuel Macron moved over the weekend to correct the impression that he was accusing Israel of targeting civilians, declaring his support for Israel in its war on Hamas, while 105,000 Parisians rallied against antisemitism on Sunday. A BBC interview on Saturday with Macron, who had hosted a humanitarian aid conference for Gaza the day prior, was published with the headline, “Macron calls on Israel to stop killing Gaza’s women and babies.” Paris quickly went into damage control mode, with a French diplomatic source telling Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov on Saturday night that Macron’s views were misrepresented.
Clarification: “President Macron never implied, and does not think, that Israeli forces are deliberately targeting civilians,” the source clarified to JI. “He has been consistently qualifying Hamas’ use of hostages or civilian population as ‘unacceptable blackmail.’” The incident illustrates how delicate the issue of civilian deaths has become in the Israel-Hamas war, even for staunch allies of the Jewish state, where every word is parsed and freighted with meaning.
Habib’s response: Meyer Habib, the French lawmaker representing expats in the Mediterranean region, including Israel, and a personal friend of Netanyahu who accompanied Macron on his visit to Israel last month, told JI he was “very surprised” to hear the president’s remarks to the BBC. “He said the opposite [in Israel]…He offered to fight together, like the coalition against ISIS,” Habib said. “You can’t say Israel has the right to self-defense and then, when Israel defends itself, after 1,400 Israelis were killed, you say, ‘That’s enough.’”
Sens. Rosen, Rubio to screen Hamas attack video
Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are hosting a screening on Thursday of footage of Hamas’ attack on Israel for fellow senators, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The 47-minute video compiled by the Israeli government has been shown to select groups of journalists, diplomats, lawmakers and others in recent weeks. It includes graphic footage of a series of Hamas atrocities from Oct. 7, some of it compiled from body camera footage taken by the Hamas attackers themselves.
Why it matters: “At a time when individuals and organizations are attempting to deny and distort the brutality of Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel, we must remind the world of the atrocities committed on October 7th,” Rosen said in a statement. “In making this footage available to my colleagues, it’s my hope they’ll see the full scope of what happened that day and understand exactly why Israel needs our strong support to defeat Hamas. We cannot allow an attack like this to happen ever again.”
Closed doors: The private screening will be open to senators only. House lawmakers are holding a similar screening earlier in the week, on Tuesday. Rosen saw footage from the Hamas attack during a recent delegation to Israel with fellow senators, according to an individual familiar with the situation. The footage is extremely graphic and disturbing, including footage of multiple murders, and has left its viewers deeply shaken.
Bonus: Twenty-six Democratic senators from across the political spectrum sent a letter urging the passage of the administration’s humanitarian aid supplemental request, which includes funding for Palestinian, Ukrainian and other civilians globally. Eight progressive senators urged the Department of Agriculture and U.S. Agency for International Development to provide immediate emergency food aid to Gaza.
Ignatius in Gaza: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius travels to Gaza to observe the humanitarian corridor set up by the IDF to assist Palestinian civilians evacuating northern Gaza. “We were kept behind an Israeli bunker, manned by soldiers with automatic weapons, so we could not interview any of the Gazan civilians. Lt. Col. Gilad Pasternak, deputy commander of the brigade deployed here, said the troops were there to protect against a possible attack by Hamas fighters who wanted to stop civilians from leaving. About 15 minutes after we left the site, Gilad said, there was a ‘purple fire’ alert on his radio, warning that Hamas had shot mortar rounds at that sector. It was impossible to verify the report. One can only imagine what the people in the silent line of escapees have experienced during the past five weeks of war. Hamas is everywhere in northern Gaza, and Israel ravaged civilian neighborhoods while it attacked. Almost every building in the area of Gaza City we saw seemed to have been damaged by bombing or shellfire. … I told Pasternak that watching this line of frightened people, I was reminded of the most painful images of war. ‘It’s heartbreaking for us, too,’ he said. ‘But it’s fighting for our existence. It’s being or not being.’ Every Israeli soldier I talked to inside Gaza, and nearly every soldier and civilian I’ve met in Tel Aviv, has said a version of the same thing.” [WashPost]
Bearing Witness: In The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Qanta Ahmed reflects on what she saw in Israeli morgues as a human rights observer in the days after the Oct. 7 attacks. “One word continually came to mind: genocide. No matter how it emerges, the monster is easy to recognize. As a doctor, I had a rare and panoramic view of the aftermath: the targeted people’s long, agonizing journey to death. This isn’t the first time I have seen Islamist jihadism or even Islamist genocide. I’ve been to northwestern Pakistan and met child Taliban operatives groomed for suicide missions. I still attend to 9/11 first-responders in New York. I’ve been to post-ISIS Iraq to meet with Kurdish and Yazidi survivors of genocide. I’ve spoken with former ISIS child soldiers and the Peshmerga veterans of that brutal and bloody three-year war. The Oct. 7 genocide was different, more barbaric than anything before it. The attacks were cloaked in the language and metaphors of Islam, yet corrupted with cosmic enmity for the Jewish people, Judaism, global Jewry and the Jewish state. They revealed again that Islamism is a virulent impostor of Islam with intentions anathema to the faith.” [WSJ]
Torres vs. AOC: The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos spotlights Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), two progressives who are both seen as rising stars in the Democratic Party and have taken opposing positions on the Israel-Hamas war. “The debate between two millennial New Yorkers has fueled conflicts playing out in social media feeds and raucous street protests. It is a struggle not so much over traditional levers of power in Washington, but over who will shape the minds of a younger, diverse generation of voters that will soon steer the relationship to one of America’s closest allies. And it could have a profound impact on the two politicians’ trajectories. As wartime passions splinter the left, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, whose boosters envision her eventually running for the presidency, is laboring to hold together a consequential but delicate coalition that has pushed the Democratic Party leftward on climate, policing and economics. Mr. Torres, talked about as a future senator or governor, appears intent on using the moment to smash some of that left-wing movement apart. ‘They are two sides of the same coin: young, well-spoken, incredibly smart,’ said David Greenfield, an influential Jewish Democrat in New York. ‘What you are seeing here is really a question of vision for the future of the Democratic Party. Is it going to be the Ritchie Torres version or the A.O.C. version?’” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
Defense Discussion: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raised concerns about Israeli activities along the Lebanese border with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a day before intensifying clashes between the IDF and Hezbollah wounded 10 Israeli troops and seven others.
Auchincloss Opinion: Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), expressing opposition to a cease-fire, suggested to CNN that “if Israel had allowed the Arab streets’ opinion to determine its strategy, it would have been destroyed in 1947, in 1967, in 1973.”
Scott’s Surprise: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) suspended his presidential campaign, surprising a number of donors and aides who were caught off-guard by the Sunday evening announcement on Fox News.
Bernie’s Backing: Home Depot co-founder and philanthropist Bernie Marcus announced his endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
Malley Probe: The State Department’s Iran envoy, Rob Malley, who is on leave amid an investigation into his security clearance, “was picked up on an intercept revealing something he was not supposed to reveal in a private conversation with a foreign official,” Eli Lake writes in Commentary.
Antisemitic Attacks: A yeshiva in Montreal was targeted by gunfire on Sunday for the second time in less than a week, as New York Jewish sites, including the Central Synagogue and a Holocaust memorial, received threats.
Suspect Freed: Police in Detroit released a suspect in the killing of a local synagogue president last month.
Crimson Letter: More than 1,600 Harvard alumni signed on to an open letter warning they will withhold donations until the university takes a stronger stance against antisemitism.
Campus Threat: After being banned by Columbia University for the remainder of the fall semester, the campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace issued a joint statement vowing that “our actions will be louder than our words” and suggesting that people “keep an eye on Columbia.”
College Conundrum: Basketball player Enes Kanter Freedom said on Fox News on Saturday that college students are “brainwashed,” adding that “when you say ‘from the river to the sea,’ and obviously many people are chanting [that] right now on the streets, and pretty much in every city in America, that means that you want to get rid of Israel.”
Housed in Hungary: A former resort in western Hungary is housing some 250 Jewish refugees displaced by the Israel-Hamas war.
Right Turn: Pucklooks at the relationship between Jared Kushner and Mexican media executive Bernardo Gómez Martínez, following what Puck described as a “softball interview” between former President Donald Trump on Univision, as well as more right-leaning coverage on the Latin American network.
Hamas’ Hopes: The Washington Postreports on the discovery of evidence indicating that Hamas intended to use the Oct. 7 attacks “to spark a conflagration that would sweep the region and lead to a wider conflict.”
Crypto Connection: The Wall Street Journal looks at how Hamas increasingly looked to cryptocurrency to bolster its coffers and receive tens of millions of dollars from Iran.
U.S. Strikes: U.S. forces conducted airstrikes on two Iran-backed facilities — a weapons depot and a training location — in eastern Syria.
Riyadh Resolution: A group of Arab and Muslim leaders gathered at a summit in Riyadh adopted a resolution condemning Israel’s actions in the Israel-Hamas war; the convening served as the first public meeting between Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Pic of the Day
Former N.J. Gov. Chris Christie visits Kfar Aza, one of the kibbutzim attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7, with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana over the weekend. Christie is the first 2024 GOP presidential candidate to travel to Israel since the mass terror attack.
“It’s one thing to talk about these atrocities from the comfort of thousands of miles away,” he posted on X. “It’s another to see them firsthand. To listen to people on the ground, and to see the destruction and despair.”
Israeli rapper and record producer, generally known by his stage name “Subliminal,” Yaakov (Kobi) Shimoni turns 44…
Israeli industrialist, Gad Zeevi turns 84… Chief rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Shmuel Riccardo Di Segni turns 74… Publisher of the “Political Junkie” blog and podcast, Kenneth Rudin… U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland turns 71… Israeli businessman, Nochi Dankner turns 69… Managing director of the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge, Sharon Freundel… Former member of the D.C. Board of Education for eight years, Ruth Wattenberg… Former editor-in-chief of British Vogue for 25 years, she is a strategic advisor to Atterley, Alexandra Shulman turns 66… U.S. senator (R-AK), Dan Sullivan turns 59… Producer and writer, Matt Weitzman turns 56… San Jose, Calif., resident, Katherine Palkin… Somali-born activist who has served in the Dutch parliament, she is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Ayaan Hirsi Ali turns 54… Former Israeli government minister for the Shas party, he has served as minister of communications and then minister of housing, Ariel Atias turns 53… Founder of Pailet Financial Services, a predecessor agency of what is now the Dallas office of Marsh & McLennan, Kevin Pailet… Conservative rabbi, Andrea Dobrick Haney… President and CEO at the U.S. Travel Association, Geoffrey Freeman… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Meirav Ben-Ari turns 48… Television journalist employed by Hearst Television, Jeff Rossen turns 47… President of baseball operations for MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew Friedman turns 47… Judoka who won three national titles, she competed for the U.S. at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Charlee Minkin turns 42… Senior director of policy and communications at Christians United For Israel, Ari Morgenstern… Political communications consultant, Jared Goldberg-Leopold… PR and communications consultant, Mark Botnick… Michael Schwab… Member of the House of Representatives (R-OH), one of two Jewish Republican congressmen, Max Leonard Miller turns 35… Staff attorney for the ACLU’s voting rights project, Jonathan Topaz… Former relief pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, now an EMT in Los Angeles, Troy Neiman turns 33… Vice president of Israel and global philanthropy and director of Christian friends of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Danielle Mor… J.D. candidate at the University of Houston Law Center, Cole Deutch…