Good Wednesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Israeli MK Avigdor Liberman about his unheeded warnings of a Hamas attack, and report on National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s meeting with Senate Democrats over aid to Israel. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Dr. Miriam Adelson and Jeff Shell.
For several hours on Tuesday night, a tweet from President Joe Biden’s campaign account set observers of the Israel-Hamas war on high alert. The three sentences came from a speech Biden gave on Saturday about the hostage releases.
“Hamas unleashed a terrorist attack because they fear nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace,” the tweet read. “To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing, and war is to give Hamas what they seek. We can’t do that.”
Read on their own, it was unclear to many whether Biden was outlining a policy shift — and whether he was, for the first time, embracing progressive activists’ calls for a cease-fire.
A senior journalist with the Middle East news publication Al-Monitor said Biden “essentially endorse[d] a cease-fire” with the tweet, arguing that he was “reject[ing] ‘path of war.’” One far-left activist called it a “major shift in tone.” More hawkish commentators who had previously cheered Biden’s approach to Israel wondered if they should reassess.
But a senior Biden administration official told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch that the White House’s support for Israel and its military campaign against Hamas remains unwavering, and that “this is not a change in policy,” noting that it came from a longer speech.
“The president continues to strongly believe that Israel has every right to defend itself from an active terrorist threat. We have seen Hamas officials say publicly that they want to try to commit the atrocities of October 7 again and again,” the official said.
The quote in the tweet came from remarks Biden delivered last week after Hamas had released its first round of hostages in the ongoing, several-day humanitarian pause in fighting. The passage came at the end of a section reiterating Biden’s support for a two-state solution. The lines that were quoted in the tweet were “a reference to how Hamas does not want peace,” said the official, who also added that “Israel has every right to defend itself” also after the pause ends.
The senior official’s expression of support for Israel’s war against Hamas comes amid emerging disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem over Israel’s conduct in Gaza. Other top officials in the Biden administration have increasingly begun to warn Israel to consider reining in its potential operations in southern Gaza, cautioning that large-scale Israeli military activity in the south could cause a humanitarian disaster. Read more here.
The Biden administration’s approach to Israel is markedly different from how then-President Barack Obama reacted to Israeli moves during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. NBC News highlighted Biden’s stronger support for Israel, noting that Obama took a harsh public line on Israeli actions in Gaza, while Biden has kept any disagreements behind the scenes in an effort to maintain some degree of influence in Jerusalem’s decision-making process.
The story also reports that “Biden’s confidence in his strategy has not wavered… If anything, it has hardened despite his administration’s recalibrated public message urging Israel to minimize civilian casualties.”
“If this was the Obama years, we would’ve been a lot more publicly critical than we have been by now,” a senior administration official told NBC News. “And that wouldn’t work. We wouldn’t have the influence.”
NBC News also reported that Obama’s recent comments on an episode of “Pod Save America” had ruffled feathers in the Biden administration, where staffers saw Obama’s remarks as undermining Biden’s position.
on the hill
Senate Democrats discuss Israel aid conditions with White House national security advisor
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Senate Democrats on Tuesday to discuss potential efforts, championed by progressives, to place conditions on U.S. emergency aid to Israel. Lawmakers indicated that the conversations had not reached a conclusion and would likely continue, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Back and forth: “Different people voiced different views on it,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), one of the leading champions of conditions, said. “I think what I’m happy about is we’re beginning to have some serious discussions, and obviously there are differences of opinion.” Sanders suggested yesterday he might try to force a vote on conditions.
More to come: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a press conference that the meeting on Tuesday was the latest in a series of discussions around conditioning aid to Israel. “There are different views on that and we’re going to have to have a discussion with the caucus and the administration,” Schumer said. “But above all, we’ve got to pass the [emergency aid bill]. That’s the North Star.” Schumer didn’t specifically answer a question about his personal views on the subject, saying, “I’m going to discuss it with the administration and my caucus.” He said he’ll bring the emergency aid bill, which will also include Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian funding, up for a vote next week.
In opposition: Other Senate Democrats have explicitly ruled out supporting conditions. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who attended a meeting with senior Israeli Defense Forces officials yesterday, said he thinks efforts to influence Israel to protect civilians have been successful. “One of the reasons why I have opposed detailed restrictions is I don’t think we should be putting into statute, in effect micromanaging, the use of arms by Israel when it’s fighting for its own existence against a terrorist organization committed to destroy and annihilate the Israeli people,” Blumenthal said.
Bonus: The House voted unanimously last night for a resolution condemning Hamas and calling for the immediate release of its hostages. It voted nearly unanimously for a resolution affirming Israel’s right to exist, with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) voting no, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who supports a one-state solution, voting present. The resolution also describes denying Israel’s right to exist as antisemitic and describes Jews as native to Israel. Staunch far-left critics of Israel voted in favor of both of the resolutions, which are nonbinding. The two votes represented strikingly bipartisan support for Israel. After the votes, Tlaib released a statement that drew equivalences between Hamas hostages and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Massie said that “expanding [antisemitism] to include criticism of Israel is not helpful.”
Avigdor Liberman warned of a Hamas attack. Now, he says Israel is under same delusions about Hezbollah
On Dec. 21, 2016, then-Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sent an eerily prescient report to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Israel must initiate a surprise attack on Gaza, and that not doing so “is a severe mistake with far-reaching consequences” that could be worse than the results of the Yom Kippur War. Nearly seven years ago, Liberman anticipated what would take place on Oct. 7 in the memo to Netanyahu: “Hamas plans to move the next conflict into Israel’s territory, with significant, well-trained forces (such as the Nukhba force) into Israeli territory while conquering an Israeli village (and perhaps several) in the Gaza envelope and taking hostages.” In an interview this week with Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov, Liberman said, “I gave this document to three people: the prime minister, [then-]IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and head of military intelligence Herzi Halevy.”
Dismissed: Eisenkot is now a member of Israel’s war cabinet and Halevy is chief of staff of the IDF. “They were very skeptical,” he recounted. “They said it’s not serious. I demanded a discussion of the report in security cabinet meetings and got the same reaction. I was one person; the whole IDF said that Hamas is deterred and had no interest in an escalation.” Even worse than not taking initiative, Liberman said, was that Israel allowed the constant transfer of aid money from Qatar to Gaza, which bolstered Hamas; that decision by Netanyahu and the cabinet was what spurred Liberman to resign from the Defense Ministry in November 2018.
New warning: Speaking to JI in English from his party’s office in Modi’in, Liberman warned that Israel is repeating the mistakes it made with Hamas in the south, only with Hezbollah across the northern border. Israel’s top security officials were “part of this misconception that it is possible to deal with Hamas, that they can contain everything and compromise, that [Hamas is] not a terrorist organization and they are responsible for over two million people,” Liberman said. “We’re making the same mistake regarding Hezbollah, claiming that it’s a Lebanese [political party] that has responsibility for the daily life in Lebanon,” he added. “Hezbollah is not a Lebanese [party] and they don’t have any responsibility. They’re a terrorist movement.”
Senators emerge shaken from screening of Hamas attack footage
Nearly 40 senators who viewed footage from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel on Tuesday morning emerged from the screening seeming shaken, some of them in tears, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Bearing witness: “We must bear witness to what they did, to honor the memories of the thousands of families who lost loved ones, friends, beloved family members,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who co-organized the screening with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), told reporters. “There are those who wish to deny what happened. We need to let the world know what happened here.”
Shell-shocked: Many of the senators who attended the screening told reporters they didn’t want to talk about what they’d seen. “It’s the face of evil,” the usually voluble Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, clearly struggling with what he’d seen. “There is a level of evil and hate and depravity that defies words. And it is astonishing that there are still some in America and across the globe who deny these atrocities occurred. This was not combat. This was the slaughter of innocent civilians. And the joy and celebration among those terrorists as they were murdering children — it simply defies words.”
And in Cambridge: Harvard will become the first American university to screen the IDF’s footage of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel. The footage will be shown at a Dec. 4 event hosted by Havard Chabad and presented by Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan.
Hillel-ADL poll: Nearly three-fourths of Jewish college students have faced antisemitism this school year
Nearly three out of four Jewish college students — 73% — have experienced or witnessed antisemitism since the start of the 2023-24 school year, a sharp increase from last year, according to a new study released today by Hillel International and the Anti-Defamation League, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen. The survey, which was first shared with eJP, also found that 44% of non-Jewish students have witnessed antisemitism since July.
Sharp increase: The results are a dramatic contrast from a similar study conducted in 2021, which found that 32% of Jewish students experienced antisemitism directed at them, and 31% of Jewish students witnessed antisemitic activity on campus that was not directed at them.
Methodology: The study, which was conducted with College Pulse and the ADL’s Center for Antisemitism Research, sampled 3,084 American college students, of which 527 were Jewish, from 689 campuses nationwide. The poll was conducted in two waves, the first from July 26 to Aug. 30, and the second coming one month after the Oct. 7 terror attacks, from Nov. 6-10. About 70% of respondents who participated in the first wave of the survey also responded in the second, including nearly half of Jewish respondents.
Before and after: It found that even prior to Oct. 7, a majority of students, both Jewish (77%) and non-Jewish (67%), expressed that their university was not doing enough to address anti-Jewish prejudice. Since Oct. 7, 52% of Jewish students also expressed dissatisfaction with their university’s response to the Israel-Hamas war, compared to 25% of non-Jewish students.
Schumer’s Stand: In The New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is slated to give an address to Congress today about antisemitism, reflects on the emergence of the world’s oldest hate in the weeks since the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “We see and hear things differently from others because we understand the horrors that can follow the targeting of Jewish people. We’ve learned the hard way to fear how such attacks can easily erupt into widespread antisemitism if they are not repudiated. …But when criticism against Israel is allowed to cross over into something different — into a denial of a Jewish state in any form, into open calls for the very destruction of Israel, while at the same time the self-determination of other peoples is exalted — that is an example of the discriminatory double standard Jewish people have always found so hurtful. And we worry about what could come next. Because for centuries, what is good for everybody else has been too often denied to the Jew. Jews could live here but not there; Jews could hold this job but not that. And to declare that only the Jewish people cannot have their own state, in any form, is a glaring example of that double standard Jewish Americans so fiercely object to.” [NYTimes]
AI Escalation: The Associated Press’ David Klepper looks at the widespread use of AI to create “deepfake” images of Gaza as part of an effort to disseminate disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war. “While most of the false claims circulating online about the war didn’t require AI to create and came from more conventional sources, technological advances are coming with increasing frequency and little oversight. That’s made the potential of AI to become another form of weapon starkly apparent, and offered a glimpse of what’s to come during future conflicts, elections and other big events. ‘It’s going to get worse — a lot worse — before it gets better,’ said Jean-Claude Goldenstein, CEO of CREOpoint, a tech company based in San Francisco and Paris that uses AI to assess the validity of online claims. The company has created a database of the most viral deepfakes to emerge from Gaza. ‘Pictures, video and audio: with generative AI it’s going to be an escalation you haven’t seen.’ In some cases, photos from other conflicts or disasters have been repurposed and passed off as new. In others, generative AI programs have been used to create images from scratch, such as one of a baby crying amidst bombing wreckage that went viral in the conflict’s earliest days.” [AP]
Now and Then: The Washington Post’s Steve Hendrix reports on how some of the recently released hostages are reengaging with society and learning the extent of the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “As dozens of former hostages emerge from nearly two months of total isolation, they return to lives both familiar and forever changed. Some, like [Ruti] Munder, learned that loved ones survived the Oct. 7 attack. Others had their worst fears confirmed — that they would never again see siblings, mothers, fathers and children. Amid the joy of family reunions, hostages discovered they would have new pets waiting for them at home, or that they have no homes to return to. Or even hometowns. They all know now that Israel is a nation at war, and they are the focus of a horrified world. …’The isolation is dramatic,’ said Asher Ben-Arieh, dean of Hebrew University’s School of Social Work, an expert who helped craft detailed protocols now being used to cushion returning children from the shocks of reintegration. ‘Isolation is a major part of the trauma of losing control of your life.’ The teams and family members meeting the hostages are careful not to flood them with information; they encourage them to ask questions and seek understanding at their own pace. ‘It’s important for them to regain control,’ he said.” [WashPost]
Looking Left: In the Liberal Patriot, Peter Juul considers how the rise of the “indecent left” is impacting debate about the Israel-Hamas war. “In other words, the indecent left thinks it already knows everything it needs to know about any given conflict — and especially any conflict that involves Israel. While ‘decolonization’ provides the indecent left with a marginally coherent ideological framework, it amounts to little more than a ‘historically nonsensical’ but nonetheless toxic stew of Soviet-era propaganda, half-baked academic theories, and contemporary identity politics. That includes the vogue to blame anything and everything on a mystical, all-pervasive white supremacy of which Israeli Jews somehow bizarrely partake. Why should the indecent left engage with the particularities of Palestinian politics or even give so much as a second glance to Israeli society when its ideology already gives it all the answers it needs?” [LiberalPatriot]
Around the Web
Backing Haley: The Koch network’s Americans for Prosperity Action endorsed former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the GOP presidential primary.
Funding Fracas: The Department of Defense has had to pull funding from existing operations to pay for its buildup of troops, weapons and transport in the Middle East, amid congressional infighting over passing an annual budget.
Political Image: A high-ranking CIA official posted a pro-Palestinian image on her Facebook page two weeks after the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Tackling Tehran: U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that a controversial provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has allowed the U.S. to intercept efforts to sell weapons parts to Iran.
Santos Saga: House members on both sides of the aisle introduced resolutions yesterday that will force a vote to expel Rep. George Santos (R-NY) from Congress by Thursday. In spite of pressure from fellow Republicans, Santos has rejected calls to resign ahead of the vote, which is expected to succeed.
Budding Interest: Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) joined a growing faction of Senate Republicans pushing Qatar to change its policy of harboring Hamas leadership and pressure Hamas to release all of its hostages immediately. “Our two nations are friends, but sometimes friends must be honest with one another,” Budd said in a floor speech. “Hamas leaders use Qatar’s hospitality to buy time, prolonging the war and the hostage crisis from the comfort of their luxury accommodations.”
History Lesson: The New York Times’ Bret Stephens looks at how a history of Palestinian rejectionism — and a reluctance to hold Palestinian officials accountable — has crippled efforts at Palestinian statehood.
Keeping Hate at Bay: Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced $1 million in additional funding for emergency grants tied to hate crime prevention efforts.
Bad Tune: Artists Ye and Chris Brown are facing criticism for a recent show in Dubai in which Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, rapped lyrics denying that he is antisemitic.
California Concerns: The Oakland, Calif., city council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a cease-fire and rejected a resolution condemning Hamas for the Oct. 7 attacks and taking of hostages, after hours of debate in which anti-Israel activists used the public comment period to promote Hamas as a resistance movement and deny the extent of the Oct. 7 atrocities.
Ivy League Investigation: The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation of Harvard following complaints over the university’s handling of antisemitism on campus.
Campus Watch: The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT will testify next week before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about antisemitic incidents on their campuses.
Generational Gaps: The Wall Street Journal looks at the generational divide when it comes to public opinion on the Israel-Hamas war that has prompted “a surge of campus unrest not seen since the Vietnam War.”
Lauding Liebowitz: The Board of Trustees at Brandeis University took out an ad in the Boston Globe praising the school’s president, Ronald Liebowitz, for being “an exceptional voice of moral courage and clarity following the Oct. 7 terror attacks; earlier this month, Liebowitz banned Students for Justice in Palestine as a campus group.
Dallas Deal: Mark Cuban is reportedly selling his majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks to Dr. Miriam Adelson.
Revived Notes: Pieces of music written at Auschwitz were played for the first time since the Holocaust at a London concert after being rediscovered by a composer looking through the camp’s archives.
Held in Moscow: A Russian court extended the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich until the end of January.
In a New Light: The New York Times talks to journalists Kevin Roose and Casey Newton, who interviewed OpenAI CEO Sam Altman two days before his brief ouster and reinstatement, about the tech company’s shake-up.
Fabricated: A German-Israeli singer who had accused hotel staff in Leipzig, Germany, of antisemitism admitted to making up the allegations after video evidence provided by the hotel disproved his claim.
Dubai Visit: Israeli President Isaac Herzog is slated to make a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates for COP28 this week, his first trip abroad since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Riyadh Win: Saudi Arabia was named the host of the 2030 World Expo, beating out Italy and South Korea.
Nixed: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called off a scheduled trip to Turkey this week to discuss the Israel-Hamas war with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Allies in Arms: Iran and Russia finalized an agreement for Tehran to purchase Russian-made attack helicopters and fighter jets.
Capital Chat: Former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell is in talks to join RedBird Capital.
Media Moves: Barak Ravid is joining CNN as a political and foreign policy analyst. Politico’s Sally Goldenberg, who had been covering the 2024 presidential campaign, is returning to New York as the publication’s senior New York editor.
Pic of the Day
UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba visited the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, where he toured all three houses of worship at the complex — the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue, Eminence Ahmed El-Tayeb Mosque and St. Francis Church — and said that the gathering place “provides a remarkable and timely note of hope for a more peaceful region and world.”
Former longtime women’s volleyball head coach at Penn State University, Russell David Rose turns 70…
Heiress of the U.K.’s Tesco supermarket empire and former lord mayor of Westminster, Lady Shirley Porter turns 93… Circuit judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit until he retired in 2021, Judge Michael Boudin turns 84… Management analyst for the City of Los Angeles, Lou Loomis… Co-founder of Knowledge Universe and founder of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, Lowell Milken turns 75… Senior half the renowned film-making team of the Coen Brothers, Joel David Coen turns 69… Chairman of Yad Vashem, he was previously the consul general of Israel in New York, Dani Dayan turns 68… Comedian, actor and, since 2010, a judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” Howie Mandel turns 68… Chief rabbi of Safed, he is a son of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu turns 67… President emeritus of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), Rabbi Irwin Kula turns 66… Mountain states regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Scott Levin… Co-owner and CEO of Covenant Wines in Napa, Jodie Morgan turns 65… U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel turns 64… CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Joseph Sternlieb… Brooklyn resident, Andrea Glick… Actress, singer and comedian, Jacqueline Laura “Jackie” Hoffman turns 63… Israeli author and journalist, Lilac Sigan turns 60… Foreign policy and public diplomacy advisor to seven consecutive Israeli prime ministers, now a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Shalom Lipner… Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steven Michael Dettelbach turns 58… Argentine author, his stories mostly feature Jewish characters, Marcelo Birmajer turns 57… MLB Hall of Fame relief pitcher, known for his outspoken support of Israel, Mariano Rivera turns 54… Former Olympic alpine skier, now a reporter for Sirius XM Radio, Carrie Sheinberg turns 51… Louise Rothschild… Scientist, focusing on mental health research regarding psychedelics, Gregory Ferenstein 41… Communications and fundraising consultant, Orit Sklar Kwasman… Chanoch Ben Yaacov… Abigail Langer…