Good Thursday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Middle East experts about the political leadership of a post-Hamas Gaza, and report on Vice President Kamala Harris’ comments in New York about private discussions between the U.S. and Israel. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Henry Kissinger, Jonathan Medved and Liz Whitmer Gereghty.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY)landmark Senate speech on antisemitism on Wednesday was its lack of partisanship, from a politician known for delivering red-meat political rhetoric. In fact, the speech featured a healthy dose of introspection — ruminating on what’s happening within the hard left of his own party, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar writes.
In the speech, Schumer emphasized that the current wave of antisemitism is coming from within his own side — hailing from left-wing sources, and not from the typical extreme-right voices frequently invoked as emblems of hate.
“Many of the people who expressed these sentiments in America aren’t neo-Nazis or card-carrying Klan members or Islamist extremists. There are in many cases, people that most liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers,” Schumer said.
Schumer was reflecting on a dynamic widely seen — and has been backed by public opinion polling — in the last month: The barbaric Hamas attack against Israel on Oct. 7 led many liberal Jews to reassess their worldview — about the indulgence of extremism within the progressive movement, the widespread antisemitism on college campuses and the lack of willpower among elite leaders to speak out against growing hate.
As Schumer put it: “I have noticed a significant disparity between how Jewish people regard the rise of antisemitism, and how many of my non-Jewish friends regard it. To us, the Jewish people, the rise of antisemitism is a crisis — a five-alarm fire that must be extinguished. For so many other people of good will, it is merely a problem, a matter of concern.”
But many non-Jewish liberals remained largely unaffected. Democratic Party support for Israel is still broad, but not as deep as it once was. Well-meaning progressives calling for a permanent cease-fire don’t understand that the Jewish community views those calls as functionally equivalent to an Israeli surrender to Hamas and to terrorism. Some lawmakers don’t sense how calls for conditioning aid to Israel in the country’s most vulnerable moment in at least five decades comes across as tone-deaf to an American Jewish community still reeling from the trauma of the Oct. 7 attacks.
Blue America, in other words, has become a place with fewer allies to the Jewish community. Those in blue states are not hearing college presidents crack down on pro-Hamas marches on campuses. They’re not hearing local school principals setting red lines against antisemitism. They’re reading press coverage that too often portrays Israel’s defense and Hamas’ terrorism on the same moral plane. They’re watching city councils in progressive bastions becoming platforms for denial of the Oct. 7 attacks.
One of the big tests for Democrats, then, is whether Schumer’s alarm about ascendant antisemitism is followed by actions isolating the extremes within. President Joe Biden’s stalwart support for Israel’s defense against Hamas, despite persistent pressure from the far left, has been a promising development for many.
But will Schumer speak out against some of his colleagues’ efforts to limit Israel’s ability to defend itself against Hamas? Will Democrats challenge their backers in the education sector — from university administrators to teachers’ unions — for the antisemitism that’s been allowed to fester? Will the small but outspoken far-left lawmakers facing more-moderate Democratic competition receive party backing, or face marginalization as primary season approaches?
Democrats, facing a challenging 2024 election, are in something of a no-win situation. They need to keep their party united, and can’t afford to blow off the youngest and most progressive elements more hostile towards Israel. But Democratic leaders’ desire to promote their party as the mainstream alternative to the MAGA movement could be greatly diminished if they ended up indulging the extremes of their own base.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken arrived in Israel today for meetings with top officials to discuss ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas and other terror groups. His trip comes amid an announcement from Qatar that the pause agreed to by Israel and Hamas in order to facilitate the release of individuals in Gaza would be extended an additional day.
In Jerusalem, three people were killed in a terror attack this morning at a bus stop on the outskirts of the city. The assailants, two brothers from the West Bank believed to be affiliated with Hamas, were killed by an off-duty Israeli police officer at the scene.
In a separate ramming attack in the Jordan Valley area today, two Israeli soldiers were lightly injured at an IDF checkpoint.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies at 100
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, simultaneously one of the most venerated and controversial diplomats in modern U.S. history, died yesterday at 100. The German-born Kissinger fled Nazi Europe as a teenager with his family, which resettled in New York three months before Kristallnacht, JI’s Melissa Weiss reports.
Diplomatic resume: Kissinger served at the highest levels of government through the U.S.’ top diplomatic crises of the 20th century, including the Cold War and the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the latter of which he shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end. His efforts to build diplomatic relations with China were central to his work and legacy — he made more than 100 trips to the country in his lifetime, most recently earlier this year.
A ‘towering intellect’: The World Jewish Congress’ Ronald Lauder called Kissinger “a dear friend” whose “narratives, always full of clarity and understanding of the Jewish plight, have left an indelible mark on our hearts and minds.” The Anti-Defamation League said the diplomat was “a towering intellect, diplomat and practitioner who — not without controversy — helped shape American foreign policy with a lasting impact worldwide.”
A foreign policy giant: Former President George W. Bush said of Kissinger: “America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put out a statement on Kissinger’s legacy: “His ideas, his diplomatic skill, and his sheer force of will in service to our country changed the course of history.”
View from Jerusalem: In a long statement posted to X, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Kissinger’s “understanding of the complexities of international relations and his unique insights into the challenges facing our world were unparalleled,” describing their meetings as “not just a lesson in diplomacy but also a masterclass in statesmanship.” Netanyahu added that Kissinger’s “contributions to the field of international relations and his efforts in navigating some of the most challenging diplomatic terrains are a testament to his extraordinary capabilities.” Opposition Leader Yair Lapid described Kissinger as “an intellectual titan and a giant of international diplomacy” whose “voice and experience will be sorely missed” at a time “when moral clarity and strategic thinking are needed more than ever.”
Kissinger’s century: Niall Ferguson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Kissinger “combined grand strategy with indefatigable ‘shuttle diplomacy’ and an ability to read his foreign counterparts.”
Schumer delivers landmark Senate speech on rising antisemitism
In a Senate floor speech that lasted for nearly an hour on Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called out the wave of antisemitism that has followed the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel, denouncing anti-Israel protesters, young people, the media, erstwhile allies and others whom he said had were helping to propagate antisemitism, and who have abandoned or failed to grasp the scope and severity of the crisis Jewish Americans are experiencing, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Through the lens of history: “Vitriol against Israel in the wake of Oct. 7 is all too often crossing into brazen and widespread antisemitism, the likes of which we haven’t seen for generations in this country, if ever,” Schumer, who is the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history, said. “I want to explain through the lens of history, why this is so dangerous: The normalization and exacerbation of this rise in hate is the danger many Jewish people fear most.”
Blame game: In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks, Schumer lamented, “the solidarity that Jewish Americans initially received from any of our fellow citizens was quickly drowned out by other voices.” He lambasted anti-Israel demonstrators who have supported, justified, excused or denied the atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7. Some, he added, “skipped over expressing sympathy” for the victims of the attack, “in their haste to blame the attack on the past actions of the Israeli government.”
McConnell’s reaction: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) praised Schumer for the “extraordinary” speech. “I want to compliment him for providing a history lesson for Americans about the history of the Jewish people, putting it in context with the conflict that’s underway,” McConnell said in his own remarks.
VP Harris highlights U.S. efforts to pressure Israel behind the scenes
As Israel has ramped up its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, Biden administration officials have offered carefully calibrated messages to Israel — supporting Israel’s fight to defeat Hamas while cautioning that civilians in Gaza must not be targeted. When asked if Israel is obeying or violating the laws of war, White House officials have generally said they will not weigh in on Israeli military actions. On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris took a different approach: When asked during an interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit whether Israel is following the laws of war, she left the question open, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. “Well, that’s a very broad question. There are many rules,” she told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Many conversations: Harris highlighted the closed-door meetings between American and Israeli leaders, and suggested that Washington is putting pressure on Israel behind the scenes to constrain its military campaign that, she said, has killed too many civilians. “There have been many conversations both in public and private about the fact that far too many Palestinians have been killed, and it is important that Israel do all it can to protect innocent civilians,” said Harris.
Democratic divisions: Harris also acknowledged internal Democratic Party politics on the Israel-Hamas war, telling Sorkin “there’s no question” that the party is divided on the issue. “The reality of it all is not about politics for us. In fact, maybe we would make different decisions if it were about political popularity,” Harris said. “We are making decisions based on what we absolutely believe is the right thing to do.”
Also at the conference: Owner of social media platform X, Elon Musk, addressed a comment he made on his site supporting a post about an antisemitic conspiracy theory: “Essentially, I handed a loaded gun to those who hate me, and arguably, to those who are antisemitic… I’m quite sorry. That was not my intention.” He also said that anyone pulling their advertisements from his site can “go f—yourself.”
the day after?
After Hamas, what might come next for Gaza?
Despite anxieties in Israel that there will be international pressure to constrain its military operation against Hamas, Israeli political and military leaders appear determined to continue the fight until Hamas, which carried out the worst terror attack on Israel in its 75-year history, is completely removed from the Palestinian enclave. Though no one is willing to publicly estimate how long such a task might take – the terror group is deeply embedded inside the civilian population, making the mission complex – there has already been growing speculation as to what might come next for Gaza, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
PA possibility: President Joe Biden has hinted at bringing in a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority, the body headed by Mahmoud Abbas that governs the West Bank from Ramallah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly dismissed such an idea, accusing Abbas of inciting terror and being every bit as bad as Hamas, yet has offered no alternative end goal.
Dahlan’s Moment?: One person touted as a future Palestinian leader is Mohammed Dahlan. The Gaza-born former Palestinian national security advisor to the PA fled to the UAE after Hamas seized control of the enclave in 2007. He has since maintained powerful support inside Palestinian society. Despite having some bitter enemies — particularly Abbas — Dahlan, a fluent Hebrew speaker who spent years in an Israeli prison for security offenses, has deep connections with Israel and is said to have close ties with UAE leader Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In an interview last month with The Economist, he dismissed the suggestion that he or any single individual could run Gaza post-war and called for a transitional period with an administration run by technocrats in Gaza and the West Bank. “Hamas will not disappear,” Dahlan said in the interview, adding that even after the war it would be impossible to govern Gaza without Hamas’ consent.
Same page? In every scenario, aid to rebuild what is now being described as an uninhabitable territory would need to come from either regional or international sources – or both. “I think there is a greater understanding than it appears between Washington and Jerusalem that it is unrealistic to assume the Palestinian Authority will take control of Gaza if Israel achieves its goal of toppling Hamas from power,” David Makovsky, director of the Koret Project on Arab-Israel Relations at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told JI.
‘Time is running out,’ families of hostages warn lawmakers
The parents of hostages believed to still be held captive in Gaza urged House Foreign Affairs Committee members at a roundtable yesterday to exert pressure on the Red Cross and the international community to secure their loved ones’ releases, warning that time is running out to secure the release of the remaining hostages, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Urgent matter: “There has been some progress this week, but Omer is still not with us. And the clock continues to tick, and not in our favor,” Orna Neutra, the mother of hostage Omer Neutra, an American-Israeli citizen serving in the IDF, said. “We appreciate your support. But we urge you to press… the international community, to demand proof of life and other basic humanitarian requirements, and to bring them home as soon as possible. We must do everything to bring them back.”
Crossed out: Ruby Chen, the father of hostage Itay Chen, another IDF serviceman and dual citizen, highlighted frustrations with what critics have seen as a hands-off approach by the Red Cross to the hostage crisis. “We just came today from the International Red Cross explaining to them that the way that they operate, in a discreet manner, is not the way that we expect them to operate in this case,” Chen said. “They need to be vocal. They are the witnesses. They are the ones that see the hostages going out. They are the ones that need to be vocal and get the international community behind them.”
Message to Israel: Chen said lawmakers should also “convey the message to the government of Israel that they believe — U.S. people believe — that this is the No. 1 topic on the agenda for them as well, and to keep the Israeli government focused on this topic, the release of hostages, before anything else.”
Read the full story here.
Down Under: Families of hostages who traveled to Australia this week to meet with members of Parliament and other legislators sought refuge in a Melbourne police station after anti-Israel protesters demonstrated in their hotel lobby.
a case for optimism
Israeli VC Medved in Abu Dhabi: Gaza conflict will be ‘subsumed in a movement of reconciliation and cooperation’
The situation in Gaza will be “subsumed in an overall movement of reconciliation and of cooperation,” Jonathan Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd, a Jerusalem-based venture investing platform, told a gathering of top business leaders in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday during the final leg of the 2023 Fortune Global Forum. The only way to get through disaster, he said, is to make sure communities have a culture of resilience in place to move forward, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports.
Asking the right questions: “You can’t escape geopolitics today,” Medved explained during a panel discussion. “We are all going to experience crises and tragedies and disruption in the world. It might be in regions in Gaza, it might be in the Ukraine, it might be in China and Taiwan, it might be a pandemic, it might be the global climate crisis. The one thing you can be sure of, is we’re going to be in trouble in one way or another at some point in this journey, repeatedly. The question is, ‘What are you doing about it? How do you navigate it? How are you building in your ecosystem a culture of resilience where you can handle this and you can get through it?’”
Thai Anxiety: The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw report on Thailand’s efforts to identify and free its citizens held hostage in Gaza since Oct. 7. “Four days after Hamas militants tore through southern Israel, a mournful procession of local officials here in Thailand’s bucolic east came to tell the family of Wichai Kalapat that the 28-year-old fruit farmer was among those killed. His girlfriend, Kittiya Thuengsaeng, hung a picture of him outside her front door. On Saturday, Wichai appeared, Lazarus-like, in footage from a prisoner exchange. …Wichai’s resurrection is one of the strangest aspects of a hostage crisis that has forced some 30 governments from Argentina to Nepal to navigate the chaos of wartime Gaza as they scramble to retrieve kidnapped citizens. Among them are dual-Israeli nationals who were visiting relatives when they were captured, Southeast Asians staffing Kibbutz orchards and Philippine nursing-home workers. Wichai is one of four Thai farmers presumed to have died, only to emerge smiling from captivity in the past week. The experience has been a tumultuous crash course in hostage recovery and Middle East conflict politics for Thailand, which has somehow, through all the confusion, managed to extract 19 of its citizens from Hamas custody, more than any other foreign nation.” [WSJ]
Worst-Case Scenarios: In Fathom Journal, Sarah Hirschhorn considers the paradigm shift already underway following the Oct. 7 terror attacks, and how it may play out for future generations. “Where will support for Israel be in a generation? While militarily superior today, Israel remains reliant on its so-called allies for military aid and diplomatic backing, as well as for economic investment. If this support dwindles or disappears in a few decades, how can Israel defend itself? Some of the worst case scenarios have to be confronted. Will an increasingly impoverished population be crammed into a ghetto in the centre of the country (only 8 miles from West Bank cities at the narrow waist) as the Southern Coast and North are attacked by rocket fire and periodic invasions? Lacking diplomatic support, will the IDF be forced to evacuate the West Bank without security guarantees or a final status agreement, in order to secure Israel’s ‘Auschwitz borders.’? Israel will never surrender — she will fight against Iranian (and world?) backed proxies to the end. Could there even come a day when a beleaguered and besieged Israel, reviled not only by its neighbours but by much of the West, is wiped off the map from the river to the sea?” [Fathom]
Around the Web
First in JI: House lawmakers are expected to introduce a bill on Thursday reauthorizing the Never Again Education Act, the law passed in 2020 to create a program providing Holocaust education resources to middle and high schools through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Cease-fire Call: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) called for a bilateral cease-fire in Gaza, in a statement that also called for the release of hostages and the removal of Hamas from “operational control of Gaza.” She said, “This violence from both sides must come to a permanent end.”
Funding Freeze: The left-wing League of Conservation Voters said it will not provide further funding to an organization linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, after coming under fire for distributing a $10,000 grant last year to the Alliance for Global Justice.
Bowman Bluster: In a speech at an anti-Israel rally outside the White House, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) described the Israeli military operation in Gaza as a “genocide” which the U.S. government is “condoning” and in which it is “complicit.”
Dropping Out: Democrat Liz Whitmer Gereghty suspended her campaign in New York’s 17th Congressional District and endorsed former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) in his challenge to Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY).
Iran Provocation: The U.S. military accused Iran of flying an unmanned drone near an American naval vessel, calling the move “unsafe and unprofessional.”
Dirty Water: The federal government is investigating a series of incidents in which the online systems of municipal water facilities were broken into by Iranian hackers.
Tree Lighting Arrests: The NYPD arrested several protesters who were part of a group of hundreds of anti-Israel activists at the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting in New York City.
Boston Legal: Police in Boston arrested a man accused of smashing windows at the city’s Holocaust memorial and defacing a statue of Paul Revere.
Shul Fire: A Texas man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for setting fire to an Austin synagogue in 2021.
Back on the Calendar: Hunter College walked back the cancellation of a screening of a film critical of Israel — which had originally been canceled by the university over security concerns — saying the documentary would be shown on campus next week.
Hamas Rising: Hamas’ popularity is rising in the West Bank amid the release of Palestinian prisoners and declining support for the ruling Fatah party.
Sexual Violence: U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged the “numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October” and called for them to be “vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” amid condemnation of UN Women for its refusal to acknowledge Israeli victims of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attacks.
In Captivity: The Wall Street Journal reports on the conditions that Israeli hostages in Gaza endured, based on the accounts of those who have been released in recent days, while the paper’s editorial board contrasts the Israeli hostages being released with the Palestinian prisoners who are freed in the agreement.
Suspicious Texts: Families of Israeli hostages are receiving suspicious digital communications from unknown senders offering details about their missing relatives.
Hitting Hamas: Israel and the U.S. are mulling options for degrading Hamas’ presence in Gaza, including expelling lower-level terrorists and their families from the enclave.
Pope’s Message: Pope Francis reportedly cautioned Israeli President Isaac Herzog against responding to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks “with terror,” in a previously unreported phone call.
Riyadh’s Proposal: Saudi Arabia offered to boost cooperation with Iran in exchange for it reining in its regional proxies and preventing an escalation of the Israel-Hamas war, Bloomberg reports.
Two Thumbs-Up: The Washington Post glowingly reviews Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” which he both directed and starred in as conductor Leonard Bernstein.
Curtain’s Up: The New York Times’ Jesse Green spotlights the role of Jewish Americans in the development of the country’s theater.
When Billy Met Celebrity: The Washington Post profiles actor Billy Crystal, who is receiving the Kennedy Center Honors this weekend.
Remembering: Photographer Larry Fink died at 82.
Pic of the Day
Siblings Itay and Mia Regev, both of whom were held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, were reunited at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva on Wednesday shortly after Itay’s release. Mia Regev was freed in a hostage release earlier this week and is receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to her leg.
Television personality, Jill Zarin turns 60…
D.C.-based real estate developer, Douglas Jemal turns 81… Film producer, Ellen Letty Konigsberg Aronson turns 80… Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, screenwriter and film director, David Mamet turns 76… Tony Award and Emmy Award-winning actor and singer, best known for his work on the Showtime series “Homeland,” Mandel Bruce “Mandy” Patinkin turns 71… Former U.S. Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration and then president of Harvard University, Larry Summers turns 69… Historian and author of eleven books, mostly focused on the U.S. presidency, Michael Beschloss turns 68… National security correspondent for Thomson Reuters, Jonathan S. Landay… U.S. senator (R-NC) until this past January, Richard Burr turns 68… Award-winning author, journalist, and co-founder of Berkeleyside, Frances Dinkelspiel turns 64… Film and television producer, Stacey Sher turns 61… Rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom of Teaneck, N.J., and chair of the department of Talmud and Rabbinics at SAR High School, Nathaniel Helfgot turns 60… Actor, comedian and filmmaker, Ben Stiller turns 58… CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, William C. Daroff turns 55… Founder of Accesso Partners and chair of the board of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Ariel Bentata… Editor-in-chief at The Forward, Jodi Rudoren… Member of the Knesset for the Labor Party, he is also the executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Gilad Kariv turns 50… Former actress and reality television star, then known as Kate Fischer, Tziporah Atarah Malkah turns 50… Screenwriter, director and producer, Jeremy Garelick turns 48… Legal reporter for Politico covering New York State and federal courts, Erica Orden… Documentary filmmaker, director and producer, Matthew Heineman turns 40… Retired basketball player, he won two NBA championships with the Lakers and played for two seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Jordan Farmar turns 37… Israeli tennis player, she won eight International Tennis Federation titles during her career, Evgenia Linetskaya turns 37… Student activist against gun violence, he is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Ryan Deitsch turns 24… Steve Albert…