Good Wednesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on calls to redesignate the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and profile IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Joel Greenberg, Bernie Moreno and Jerry Seinfeld.
The U.N. Security Council is set to vote today on a resolution calling for a pause in the Israel-Hamas war, now in its 11th week, after disagreement over the wording of the text delayed the vote in the body.
The issue at hand in the United Arab Emirates-drafted resolution is language that reportedly called for a “cessation of hostilities,” which was opposed by the U.S. Officials are now working to come to an agreement on new language calling for a “suspension of hostilities.” The resolution also calls for both Israel and Hamas to allow aid into the Gaza Strip, and for U.N. officials to monitor its delivery throughout the enclave.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, the National Security Council’s John Kirby said that the U.S. was “still working through the modalities” of the resolution, adding that it was “important” for the Biden administration “that the rest of the world understand what’s at stake here…what Hamas did on the 7th of October and how Israel has a right to defend itself against those threats.”
Kirby also said that the war “could end today” if Hamas surrendered those responsible for the Oct. 7 terror attacks, released the hostages and immediately laid down their weapons.
Kirby’s comments and the upcoming U.N. Security Council vote come on the heels of a letter written jointly by U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that called for a “sustainable ceasefire” — stating that London and Berlin “do not believe that calling right now for a general and immediate cease-fire…is the way forward.”
Pro-Israel advocates push the White House to redesignate the Houthis as terrorists, but say it’s also not enough
As Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and attempts to target Israel escalate — with growing implications for international shipping and the global economy — there’s growing agreement among pro-Israel advocates in Washington that the Biden administration should redesignate the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. But many say that the FTO designation is far from enough, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
The latest: Tuesday brought a flurry of new developments in counter-Houthi efforts, including the formal announcement of an expanded multinational maritime task force to protect Red Sea shipping lanes from Houthi attacks. Bahrain was the only Arab country that publicly joined that effort, but several of the U.S.’s Gulf Arab allies are reportedly privately participating. And the administration is also said to be considering military action in Yemen against the Houthis. But the Biden administration has yet to reverse one of its early foreign policy decisions, withdrawing the Iran-backed Houthis’ designation as a terrorist organization, a move that reversed a last-minute Trump administration edict.
Time for a change: William Wechsler, the senior director of the Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council, told JI that “to pull back a rushed, last-minute designation and to try to give a new diplomatic approach a chance was not an irrational decision for a new administration.” But he said the time for that course of action has passed. “Sometimes when people repeatedly tell you who and what they are, you actually have to listen to them,” Wechsler said.
Next steps: “The Houthi attacks are likely to keep coming because they enjoy a reliable supply of Iranian weapons,” Bradley Bowman, the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said. “And they’ve been able to conduct these attacks with no consequences…. It’s just a matter of time, I fear, until you’re going to have some Americans getting killed because the Houthis feel they can conduct cost-free attacks.” Bowman said the U.S. should hit back at sites inside Yemen from where attacks are being launched, or weapons are being produced, as well as make greater efforts to interdict Iranian weapons smuggling.
On Capitol Hill: Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Katie Britt (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced a resolution condemning Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and calling on the administration to “increase pressure” and do more to deter Iran and “declare that further provocations… will be met with a swift and decisive response.”
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari: From theater kid to Navy SEAL to the IDF’s iconic wartime spokesman
In the chaotic months since Hamas’ massacre and the ensuing war, there has been one mainstay for Israelis: IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, standing in front of two Israeli flags and speaking to the nation. Each evening, Hagari recounts the day’s events in plain language, bowing his head in memory of soldiers killed in battle and describing ground operations deep inside Gaza and airstrikes against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Then, he takes questions from reporters. Hagari’s nightly press briefings, which began on Oct. 7, have made him a wartime star in Israel in a way that no IDF spokesperson has been in many years, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Pop culture: Israel’s public broadcaster Kan shared a video by a comedian about how “everyone loves Daniel Hagari: Left, right, Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, secular, religious – and even men. No one is in the consensus as much as Daniel Hagari.” Israeli singer-songwriter Aya Korem rewrote her popular song “Yonatan Shapira” to be about the IDF spokesman, who, she sang, caused a “humanitarian crisis in my heart.” A popular meme being sent around on WhatsApp in recent weeks reads: “Why are women attracted to Daniel Hagari, you ask? Because he is the only man who bothers to update them every day, at the same hour, [with] what he did that day, what he plans to do tomorrow and at the end, he answers their questions.”
Former spokesman’s grade: Former Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai was perhaps the most iconic spokesperson in the IDF’s history, earning the nickname “the national soother” amid the threat of chemical attacks from Iraq during the Gulf War, and calming Israelis with his catchphrase: “Drink water.” Shai told JI he gives Hagari a top grade. “He broadcasts honesty, purposefulness and practicality,” Shai said. “He isn’t talking nonsense and isn’t trying to flatter anyone. He’s just presenting the true picture within the existing limitations.”
Background: Hagari, 47, known to his friends as Danny, is a married father of four, the youngest of whom is one year old. He grew up in Tel Aviv as the eldest of three siblings. His brother Ben is an acclaimed video artist based in New York. His other brother, Yoni, lives in the rehabilitation village ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran for people with physical and mental disabilities, which the IDF spokesman visited during the war. There has been much made in Israeli media of the fact that Hagari majored in theater (as well as biology) in high school and starred in school plays as a teen, leading commentators to speculate that his experience made him a natural at the spokesman job. He also spent many hours as a child behind the scenes at the famed Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, where his mother ran the subscription office. Hagari enlisted in the IDF in 1995 and climbed the ranks of Shayetet 13, the equivalent of the Navy SEALs, becoming its commander in 2019. Before leading the Shayetet, Hagari served as a top aide to IDF Chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, both currently members of the war cabinet.
west bank worries
U.S. visa ban on ‘extremist settlers’ causes confusion
During a quick visit to Israel on Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was armed with the same agenda as the rest of the senior American officials who have traveled to Israel in recent weeks: conveying American support for Israel as it confronts Hamas, cautioning Israel to avoid civilian casualties and pressing for more humanitarian assistance to Gaza. And like many of the other top Biden administration officials engaging with Israel, Austin was also tasked with discussing another sensitive issue, this one taking place not in Gaza but the West Bank: violence and harassment directed at Palestinians from Israelis in the contested territory. Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced that the U.S. would be taking the unusual step of punitive action against these settlers by restricting the ability of individuals involved in such violence to obtain a visa to travel to the United States. But many questions about its implementation — and whom it will actually impact — remain unanswered, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch and Lahav Harkov report.
Accountability: “The Israeli government must do more to act against the unprecedented rise in extremist settler violence, including by holding perpetrators accountable,” a State Department spokesperson told JI on Tuesday. The visa policy covers both Israeli and Palestinian “extremists,” but it is more likely to have an effect on the Israeli settlers, since Israelis gained the ability to travel to the U.S. visa-free earlier this year. They have also been a more frequent target of U.S. officials’ public remarks in recent weeks.
Not named: It’s still unclear who the policy will affect. Individuals who could end up having their visas revoked, or future visa applications denied, won’t have to be convicted of a crime. The State Department spokesperson said that “information is being gathered by U.S. government personnel at our embassy” and in Washington, and said the ban has targeted “dozens” of individuals, but declined to share any specifics. Several human rights groups that track settler violence told JI that while they track these incidents, they do not identify the perpetrators by name.
Already in the works: The timing of the announcement of the policy, coming weeks into the Israel-Hamas war, suggested a connection between Washington’s policy toward settlers and its broader posturing toward Israel, particularly as the White House urges Jerusalem to constrain its war efforts. Two U.S. sources with knowledge of the creation of the visa policy told JI that it was already underway months before the Hamas attack. Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom first reported on the matter in December 2022.
Meta grapples with regulating violent content in Israel-Hamas war
The social media giant Meta on Tuesday offered a window into its handling of content related to the Israeli-Hamas war, as the body tasked with overseeing its content moderation decisions called for Facebook and Instagram to allow more graphic posts about the war to be shared in real time, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Under review: The Oversight Board, an independent entity created by Meta to review its actions removing or hiding certain content, issued two decisions on Tuesday — its first since the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel. Each was a response to users’ appeals, after posts (one showcasing a video of Israelis being taken hostage, another depicting the bloody aftermath of an Israeli strike in Gaza) were removed for violating Meta policies limiting the sharing of videos depicting terrorism or violent content.
Wrongful removal: The decisions revealed that after Oct. 7, Meta lowered the bar for when it would automatically remove content that might violate the platforms’ standards on hate speech, violence, incitement and harassment, in response to what it described as “an exceptional surge in violent and graphic content.” But the Oversight Board determined that the change resulted in the preemptive removal of content that users should have been allowed to post.
Slow response: The two decisions were the first decided under a new expedited screening process from the Oversight Board, illuminating how the slow-moving body — created in 2020 — has struggled to respond during fast-paced conflicts like this one. Meta’s bureaucratic web of content-moderation policies, fine-tuned by the company as it has faced years of external pressure over its approach to trust and safety, was not entirely equipped to handle the nuanced reasons people post violent content. Prior decisions from the board related to antisemitism also reveal how Meta’s policies often mistakenly flag content that is calling out or highlighting violent speech, rather than supporting it.
Overinclusive: In Tablet magazine, Joel Greenberg, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, suggests that Jewish institutions that welcomed anti-Zionist voices have contributed to a lack of support for Israel among young adults. “Today, the chickens have come home to roost. Young people are aligning with Hamas, and even Jewish students are comparing Hamas’ murderous attacks to the Jewish freedom fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Holocaust survivors, whose tormentors I helped to track down, have tragically lived to see young people, including their own descendants, tweeting — from the safety of some coffee shop in Brooklyn — Hamas propaganda against Israel. These young people didn’t simply absorb these dangerous ideas from the ether. In addition to hearing it at their universities and in the general interest media, some heard it in their synagogues and in their Jewish community centers and from Jewish organizations — so eager to appear fashionable and progressive that they legitimized people calling for their own destruction.” [Tablet]
Dangerous Heights: In his final New York Times column of the year, Bret Stephens pens his reflections on antisemitism and the global response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks. “There’s a historical pattern. In the early 1920s, the most important scientist in Germany was Albert Einstein, the most important politician was Walther Rathenau and the most important philosopher was Edmund Husserl. All Jews. They wound up exiled, murdered or shunned. Today, the U.S. secretaries of state, Treasury and homeland security are Jewish, as is the majority leader in the Senate and the president’s chief of staff. Too often in Jewish history, our zenith turns out to be our precipice. Too often in world history, that precipice is also the end of free society itself. Antisemitism is a problem for democracy because hatred for Jews, whatever name or cause it travels under, is never a hatred for Jews only. It’s a hatred for distinctiveness: Jews as Jews in Christian lands; Israel as a Jewish state in Muslim lands. Authoritarians seek uniformity. Jews represent difference.” [NYTimes]
Presidential Pull: In The Atlantic, Peter Wehner highlights President Joe Biden’s role in reigning in a radicalizing left. “The reaction to the events of October 7 has made the growing radicalization of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — and, in particular, its indulgence of anti-Semitism — more clear than ever. And it has highlighted President Joe Biden’s role in resisting the leftward pull of those progressives, a stand of increasing importance not just for his party, but for the country as a whole… During the 2020 campaign, Donald Trump said Joe Biden was ‘a helpless puppet of the radical left.’ In fact he has mostly proved to be a bulwark against it. Many of the radical ideas being championed by the left prior to the 2020 election—the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, increasing the marginal tax rate to 70 percent, abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, packing the Supreme Court, putting an end to the Electoral College, reparations for Black Americans—have not been embraced by Biden. Neither has defunding the police. Biden has asked for and received increases in defense spending, which is at a record level. Under Biden, domestic oil production is at an all-time high. He’s been a fierce advocate for Ukraine in its war against Russia. He strengthened NATO and played an essential role in adding Finland and Sweden to it.” [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
Rocky Mountain Ruling: Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled that Trump is ineligible to appear on the ballot next year, citing the 14th Amendment, which prohibits officeholders who have engaged in insurrection. The ruling is expected to head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Across the Pond: The European Union struck a landmark deal Wednesday to overhaul migration policy, a political agreement that the Washington Postsuggested “signals a broader, rightward shift across Europe.”
Supplemental Update: The Senate, having officially given up on passing an Israel and Ukraine aid bill before the holidays, now faces a daunting series of pressing deadlines when it returns to finalize the emergency aid bill as well as full-year government funding.
Cease-fire Chat: In Qatar-facilitated talks in Warsaw this week, Israel proposed a one-week pause in fighting that would also include the release of Palestinian prisoners convicted of serious attacks against Israelis in exchange for some 40 hostages still in Gaza.
Cairo Conversation: Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss with Egyptian officials the possibility of a truce.
Tech Trouble: The Justice Department unsealed charges against two Iranians who illegally procured American technology for use in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ drone program.
Trump Backing: Former President Donald Trump endorsed businessman Bernie Moreno in the Republican Senate primary in Ohio.
TikTok Tendencies: Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) told CNN’s Jake Tapper that young people who use TikTok are getting a perspective on the Israel-Hamas war that is “kinda warped,” adding that “it’s been very clear that Israel would very much want there to be peace.”
On Air: Mo News’ Mosheh Oinounou interviewed U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken about the Israel-Hamas war.
Brain Drain: A Free Press feature reports that public schools in progressive jurisdictions are offering “pre-K lessons on ‘ethnic noses’ to lectures on Israel as an apartheid state” — among other antisemitic elements of the curriculum.
Peach State Priorities: More than a dozen evangelical leaders in Georgia signed on to a letter urging state senators to pass an antisemitism measure that uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, months after a previous effort failed.
Bridge Blocker Charges: Prosecutors in San Francisco have begun charging anti-Israel protestors who blocked the city’s Bay Bridge last month, snarling traffic for hours.
Hostage Diplomacy: The Wall Street Journal takes a deep dive into the complexities of hostage diplomacy as Middle East power brokers increasingly become central to the exchanges.
Leaving the Left: The New York Timeslooks at the dissipation of Israel’s left in the weeks following the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Lapid’s Line: Politico’s Alexander Burns analyzes the messages Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid is conveying in his conversations with Senate Democrats.
Community Concerns: The Financial Timesinterviews residents of Gaza border communities about their feelings since Oct. 7 and their position on Israel’s war against Hamas.
All Aboard: Birthright Israel will resume its trips in January, with approximately 350 participants slated to arrive in the coming weeks.
Polling Problems: Semafortakes a critical look at the methodology and findings of a recent Harvard/Harris poll that drew headlines for its responses from young adults about the Israel-Hamas war.
Rabbi Ambassador: Argentinian President Javier Milei is expected to appoint his rabbi, Shimon Axel Wahnish, as the country’s ambassador to Israel.
Pretoria’s Position: South Africa’s Foreign Ministry warned that citizens fighting for Israel in Gaza could face prosecution if they return to South Africa.
Drone Dilemma:Bloombergspotlights Hamas’ use of inexpensive modified commercial drones in its terror activities, which has challenged Israel’s advanced technology.
Houthi Headache: The U.S. and its allies are contemplating possible strikes against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen in response to ongoing attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and the launching of rockets and missiles at Israel, as the Pentagon expresses concerns about the costs associated with defending ships in the region.
Shipping Sanctions: Malaysia said today that it will bar the Israel-based ZIM Integrated Shipping Services from anchoring at its ports in response to Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
Scooter in Israel: Pop music manager and record executive Scooter Braun, visiting Israel this week, toured Gaza border towns as well as visiting the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum Headquarters.
Transition: Bob Cohn, who has led The Economist since 2020 and was previously president of The Atlantic, was named the new president of the Baltimore Banner.
Remembering: Humorist Dan Greenburg died at 87.
Pic of the Day
President of the University of Miami since 2015, he is a Mexican-born physician and former secretary of health of Mexico, Julio Frenk turns 70…
Founder of an on-line children’s bookstore featuring titles in a variety of languages, Yona Eckstein… Former chair of the executive committee of the Jewish Federations of North America, Michael Gelman turns 79… Illusionist, magician, television personality and self-proclaimed psychic, Uri Geller turns 77… Television producer, he is the creator of the “Law & Order,” “Chicago” and “FBI” franchises, Richard Anthony (Dick) Wolf turns 77… Southern California resident, Carol Gene Berk… Owner of the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, Binyamin “Beny” Alagem turns 71… Bob Lindenbaum… Educational advocate and strategist at the Melmed Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ricki Light… Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale since 2014, she is a professor of both philosophy and psychology, Tamar Szabó Gendler turns 58… Author of the 2019 book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, she writes the “Dear Therapist” column for The Atlantic, Lori Gottlieb turns 57… IDF general and commander of the Israeli Air Force until 2022, Amikam Norkin turns 57… CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, Jeremy Burton… Swiss-born British philosopher and author, Alain de Botton turns 54… Former tight end for the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, now a senior sales rep for Medtronic, Scott Lawrence Slutzker turns 51… Israeli-American television and film writer and producer, Ron Leshem turns 47… Actor, producer, screenwriter and comedian, known by his first and middle names, Jonah Hill Feldstein turns 40… Associate managing director of Hadassah Metro (N.Y., N.J., Conn.), Adam Wolfthal… Program and special initiatives director at Kirsh Philanthropies, Megan Nathan… Humor and fashion writer best known as Man Repeller, Leandra Medine Cohen turns 35… Israeli singer who performs Hebrew, English, Arabic and Spanish songs and covers, Ofir Ben Shitrit turns 28… Pitcher in the Houston Astros organization, he pitched for Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Colton Gordon turns 25…