Good Monday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we spotlight the race taking shape to succeed Rep. John Sarbanes in Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, and report on the mixed messaging coming out of Washington over the Biden administration’s recently announced policy on military aid. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: David Solomon, Larry Hogan and Miriam Adelson.
Israelis woke up on Monday morning to what has become a rare instance of good news, learning that two of the remaining 136 hostages — Fernando Marman, 61, and Norberto Har, 70 — were rescued in an overnight operation in Rafah in southern Gaza.
The two men, who both hold Argentinian and Israeli citizenship, were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak and were found in good condition last night, according to a spokesperson from Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, where they were taken following their rescue.
Marman’s sisters Clara, who is Har’s partner, and Gabriela Leimberg were also taken hostage, along with Leimberg’s daughter Gabriela and her dog Bella. Clara Marman, Gabriela and Mia Leimberg and Bella were released during the weeklong humanitarian pause during which 110 hostages were freed.
The operation came less than a day after a conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden. A readout from the White House said that the president “reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there.”
Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer pointed out “quite a few identical bad-takes” claiming that Netanyahu had bucked Biden’s concern about the IDF mounting “a large-scale operation,” noting that the overnight operation to free Marman and Har was a “limited special op” that “only highlights the dilemmas over a bigger operation there.”
The hostage rescue operation overshadowed what had until late Sunday night been the biggest news out of Israel over the weekend: that a Hamas data center was found underneath the Gaza headquarters of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. UNRWA has come under fire in recent weeks following the revelations that at least a dozen of its employees participated in the Oct. 7 attacks and that 1 in 10 of the organization’s 12,000 Gaza staffers were affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The U.N. agency’s ties with Hamas have long been an open secret in Gaza and Israel despite protestations from UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini that UNRWA “did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza.”
Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy responded that UNRWA leadership had “ignored” an invitation from Israeli officials to visit the underground network. On Monday morning, an Israeli defense official confirmed to Jewish Insider that “multiple U.N. officials were informed about the tunnel under UN HQ over the past several months.”
“Lazzarini claiming ignorance is ludicrous,” the defense official added.
Stateside,a new poll finds Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), the ethically embattled member of the far-left Squad, facing a significant risk of losing reelection to an upstart Democratic primary challenger.
The poll, conducted by the GOP firm Remington Research on behalf of a nonpartisan Missouri subscription political news service, found Bush losing by 22 points to St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, 50-28%.
Bell held a whopping 40-point edge over Bush among white Democratic voters in the district (60-20%), and also led Bush among Black primary voters by eight points (43-35%).
That’s a stunning deficit for a sitting lawmaker. It comes after the two-term congresswoman, one of the most vocal anti-Israel lawmakers in Congress, is now under criminal investigation over her alleged misspending of federal security money.
Bush, who led the charge to “defund the police” in the House, is now under scrutiny over allegations that she profited over her own extensive personal security arrangements.
The poll specifically asked Democratic voters in the St. Louis-area district where they stood on Israel: Significantly more said they backed Israel (35%) than the Palestinians (21%). A 44% plurality said they weren’t sure. White Democratic primary voters in the district backed Israel more by a 21-point margin (39-18%), while Black primary voters favored Israel by an 11-point margin (33-22%).
The numbers, from a respected firm in Missouri, demonstrates that Bush is in deep political trouble against a serious primary opponent. Bell raised about as much money as Bush did in the last fundraising quarter, and has more campaign cash-on-hand.
Growing indications of Bush’s vulnerability also raise questions about the political viability of Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), another ethically embattled anti-Israel Squad member facing a serious primary challenger in a similarly situated district covering both the city and surrounding suburbs — and which has a significantly larger Jewish constituency.
Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn emerges as wild card in crowded Maryland primary to succeed Sarbanes
Harry Dunn, the former Capitol Police officer running for Congress in Maryland, backs a bill to send billions in funding to Ukraine and Israel and supports more humanitarian aid for Gaza, he said in outlining his views on the Israel-Hamas war. Dunn defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack and appears to be an early favorite in the jam-packed Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD). But Dunn will have to translate his profile as a national hero to on-the-ground support to beat out more than a dozen Democrats running in the reliably blue district, Stephanie Murray reports for Jewish Insider.
Israeli position: As the race takes shape, it’s not clear how large of a role Israel’s war with Hamas could play as an issue in the primary. Dunn has aligned himself with President Joe Biden on the conflict. “Israel has a right to defend itself, and I support the goals of returning all the hostages home and eliminating Hamas. I am glad President Biden has advocated for an approach that reduces unnecessary civilian casualties, and I support that approach,” said Dunn, 40, who served as a Capitol Police officer for 15 years.
Aid assessment: The Maryland Democrat, who has never held elective office, supports a bill aimed at providing billions in funding to Ukraine and Israel that the Senate voted to advance on Thursday, he told JI. The legislation would provide $60.1 billion in funding to Ukraine and $14.1 billion to Israel along with billions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Gazans. “I believe we need to provide needed assistance to our allies in Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific,” Dunn said.
Game Changer: “Dunn’s entry into the multi-candidate race changed the dynamic in my view. He is a wild card,” said Susan Turnbull, the state’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018 and a former chair of the state Democratic Party. “With so many candidates in the race each with a base from prior elections, the question is what is his base?”
State Dept. official who quit over Gaza pivots to anti-Israel NGO
Josh Paul, a former director in the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs who resigned in protest over military aid to Israel amid a flurry of media attention and applause, has joined Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an advocacy organization headed by an anti-Israel activist that calls for a boycott of Israel, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Resignation letter: Paul presented his decision as a moral stance in a resignation letter he posted online 10 days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack killed over 1,200 Israelis and the terror group took 249 hostages. Playing a role in the Biden administration’s support for Israel was one “moral compromise” too many after 11 years of involvement in U.S. weapons transfers. U.S. support for the war against Hamas, he wrote, is “built on confirmation bias, political convenience, intellectual bankruptcy and bureaucratic inertia,” as well as “blind support for one side.”
Accusations against Israel: The letter and a subsequent New York Times op-ed railed against the idea of “security for peace — the notion that the more secure Israel feels, the more concessions it will be able to make to the Palestinians.” The letter accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid,” and draws an equivalence between “the kidnapping of children…whether taken at gunpoint from their kibbutz or taken at gunpoint from their village,” an apparent reference to Palestinian minors arrested for suspected involvement in terrorism.
on the hill
Senate votes to advance Israel aid bill, with final passage expected this week
The Senate voted 67-27 on Sunday afternoon to further advance the supplemental aid package for Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies, setting up final passage by Wednesday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has slowed the process to pass the bill, vowing to delay a final vote on the package for as long as possible. Paul’s tactics have so far also blocked potential votes on proposed amendments to the aid bill. But, with the support of 18 Republicans on Sunday’s vote, the bill is expected to pass the Senate comfortably.
Voting yes: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-N), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Todd Young (R-IN) voted for the bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against.
What’s next: The bill’s fate in the House remains unclear, but Tillis said he’s been in conversation with House colleagues about a possible bipartisan path to force a vote on the bill if House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) refuses to bring it to the floor.
Community support: The package continues to receive strong support from the Jewish community. On Friday, the Republican Jewish Coalition announced its support for the funding bill, calling it “not perfect” but nonetheless urging senators to support further procedural votes on the legislation. “As Republicans, we believe that America is obligated to stand by our allies when they are under attack,” the RJC’s statement read. Nathan Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union, urged the Senate to “move more expeditiously” to pass the bill in response to a report that its passage is likely still several days away.
Also on the Hill: Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), with 15 Democrats, introduced separate legislation calling on the administration to push for a “dramatic increase” in humanitarian aid moving into Gaza, including streamlining inspections, opening additional access points, providing food and fuel for hospitals and humanitarian organizations, ensuring safety for humanitarian groups and additional humanitarian funding. The resolution’s requests are similar to those laid out in a letter to the administration last week.
White House, Senate Dems deliver conflicting messages on new military aid conditions
The White House and progressive allies in the Senate are sending mixed messages about a new policy affecting U.S. military assistance to foreign nations, with the senators saying the new policy is meant to put leverage on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while Biden administration officials are downplaying its significance and arguing it has nothing to do with Israel specifically, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod and Gabby Deutch report.
Lawmakers react: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) described the memorandum as “truly historic” and “a very big deal.” While there are existing provisions in U.S. law that address the requirements in the new memorandum, Van Hollen said that “they are currently more sentiment than substance, they’re more rhetoric than reality,” without the new policy. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said that existing law lacked “teeth.”
From the White House: “We are not imposing new standards for military aid. That’s not what is in this memo. Instead, we are spelling out publicly the existing standards by the international law including the law of armed conflict,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. “We’re not issuing this because we think any country or countries are violating these standards. If we did, you’d have heard it about long ago — and seen the consequences,” a senior Biden administration official told JI.
From the Hill: While the restrictions apply to U.S. military aid globally, some of the lawmakers who worked on the policy were not shy about the fact that their push was driven by concerns about Israel’s military operations. “It is not a surprise to anyone in this room that the factor that has motivated this effort… are the conditions in Gaza, the way American weapons have been used in Gaza, the way Israel has restricted aid into Gaza,” Merkley said.
Elsewhere in Washington: The House will vote this week on legislationexpanding U.S. anti-boycott laws, condemning Hamas’ acts of sexual violence and banning normalization with Syria. The House is also making a second attempt at impeaching Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, after a narrow failure last week.
Colorado House speaker apologizes after revoking invitation to hostage families
When a delegation of Israeli hostage families came to the Colorado Statehouse last week, they were expecting to be welcomed by both sides of the legislature. But the families received a warm welcome only on the Senate side. Now, the House speaker is dealing with the fallout for revoking an invitation — at the last minute — for the hostage families to appear on the House floor, which has been a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment since Oct. 7. Speaker Julie McCluskie, in an exclusive statement to Ken Toltz, reporting for Jewish Insider, apologized for pulling back the invitation, which was first reported by Colorado Politics, though some members of the House did attend the Senate ceremony.
Acknowledging error: “While I believe we accomplished the goal of our joint ceremony (ensure a respectful and meaningful recognition that honors the message and experience these families came to share) I acknowledge I made mistakes in my communication about the visit, and I am sorry for the hurt that caused,” McCluskie said.
Last-minute call: Rep. Yaron Weinberg, a first-term Republican from Loveland whose family resides in Metula, Israel, told JI that McCluskie, a Democrat, had responded positively and agreed to a recognition ceremony on the House floor for the visiting Israelis when first approached two weeks prior to their visit. “Twenty minutes before they were due to arrive at the Capitol, the speaker called me and said she’s deeply sorry but things have happened to the point where she was concerned about the safety of the family members and didn’t want them embarrassed,” Weinberg said.
Paradise Lost: In The Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan talks to residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz about the possibilities for the future in a community devastated by Hamas. “There is beauty amid the destruction, a reminder of a paradise lost. Flowers, glossy in the rain, bloom alongside charred houses. A magnificent ficus tree, chock full of parrots, stands unharmed. Yet abandoned tricycles and strollers tell of a place that was full of children. A soccer ball sits punctured in a yard. A young boy’s saxophone lies blackened in the rubble. Ravenous cats emerge as if from thin air as you walk by. The household bins from which they once scavenged are now empty. The ‘Cat Man,’ a resident who put food out for them at stations around the kibbutz, is dead. Also dead is the two-state solution — the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which would give sovereignty to the people from whose midst came those who laid waste to this kibbutz on Oct. 7. For eight hours they hunted down the kibbutzniks, murdering 46 people and abducting 71, amounting to well over a quarter of those who lived here, making Nir Oz proportionately the hardest-hit of the kibbutzim that Hamas invaded.” [WSJ]
War Assessment: In Tablet, Edward Luttwak makes the case for why Israel is winning the strategic war on the ground in Gaza. “It is now evident that the tactical victory that Hamas achieved on Oct. 7 with all its scenes of unimaginable horror has become a leading driver of its strategic defeat, by compelling the Israeli government to persist in spite of the atrocious plight of the hostages, by motivating IDF troops to fight until its destruction, and by forfeiting much potential support even from within the Arab world, allowing all Arab governments that had them to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. That feckless American college students sing its praises will not avert the well-deserved fate that awaits Hamas, and without the heavy casualties that some feared while others gleefully anticipated.” [Tablet]
Undoing UNRWA: In the Washington Times, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) calls for the disbanding of UNRWA. “If humanitarian operations in Gaza are to continue, they must be shifted to a different, trusted organization that operates with transparency and accountability. There are a number of other vetted organizations with the capacity to surge their operations. UNRWA needs to end. A new organization should be established to support vulnerable Palestinians while ensuring funds do not promote extremism. It should be open to comprehensive financial audits conducted by a third party deemed acceptable by both Israel and the Palestinians to ensure independence and fiscal integrity. At the same time, donors should require increased vetting of all organization employees operating in the region to ensure they do not have ties to a foreign terrorist organization, have not advocated or engaged in any terrorist activity, and have not supported anti-Israel or antisemitic rhetoric. Donors should also have the opportunity to evaluate textbook content before it is shared in schools rather than after allegations of biased material that incites violence and spreads hate emerge. Further, third-party monitors should be able to conduct unannounced visits to monitor activities in schools and facilities.” [WashingtonTimes]
Around the Web
Coming to America: King Abdullah II of Jordan is in Washington today with his wife, Queen Rania; he’ll meet with President Joe Biden this afternoon.
Peace Push: In a video message published this morning, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that the U.S. “will continue to pursue a real pathway to enduring peace, to enduring security for Israelis, for Palestinians [and] for everyone in the region.”
White House ‘Missteps’: White House Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer told Arab-American leaders in Michigan that the Biden administration had made “missteps” in its handling of the Israel-Hamas war that “left a very damaging impression based on what has been a wholly inadequate public accounting for how much the president, the administration and the country values the lives of Palestinians.”
Policy of Appeasement: Vice President Kamala Harris’ office is offering anti-Israel protesters meetings with senior White House officials as the Biden administration looks to smooth relations with Arab-American community leaders and organizations.
Arms Deal: The U.S. is moving forward with an arrangement to sell F-16s to Turkey in a $23 billion deal following Ankara’s support for Sweden’s admission to NATO.
Attack on NATO: Former President Donald Trump said in a campaign speech over the weekend that he “would not protect our NATO allies” who are “delinquent” in dues paying in the face of Russian aggression and would “encourage” Moscow to attack NATO allies.
Vegas Visit: Two days prior, Trump met with Miriam Adelson in Las Vegas, who has opted not to back a candidate in the GOP primary but is expected to support the eventual nominee in the general election.
Mitch’s Malaise: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is losing political capital amid Trump’s string of primary victories, challenging efforts at reaching bipartisan compromise on Capitol Hill.
Promotion:John Kirby, previously the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, was promoted to an expanded role as White House national security communications adviser and assistant to the president.
Austin Hospitalized: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized for an “emergent bladder issue” a month after coming under criticism for not disclosing hospital stays in December and January tied to treatment for prostate cancer.
Fetterman’s View: In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) explained his support for Israel, saying it’s “been incredibly easy to be on the right side” of the country’s war against Hamas.
Policy Review: Reps. John James (R-MI) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) introduced a bill demanding a review of the U.S. relationship with South Africa in light of the country’s long-standing relationship with Hamas and its response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
TV Talk: Last night’s Super Bowl ad sponsored by Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism featured Martin Luther King Jr. speechwriter Clarence Jones explaining that “when we stand up to silence, we stand up to all hate.”
Anchor’s Take: The Free Press’ Bari Weiss interviewed Arab-Israeli news anchor Lucy Aharish about her views on Israel’s war against Hamas and the future of the Jewish state.
Rolling On Out: Rolling Stone Editor-in-Chief Noah Shachtman is leaving the publication, reportedly over editorial disagreements with CEO Gus Wenner.
Comic Relief: The Los Angeles Timesinterviews author and comedian Moshe Kasher about his recently released book, Subculture Vulture: A Memoir in Six Scenes.
Cambridge Controversy: The Boston Globeinterviews the Harvard Law student who co-authored a controversial statement, joined by dozens of student groups, blaming Israel for the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Harvard Posts: Former Harvard Hillel director Jonah Steinberg was named an advisor to the university’s presidential task force on antisemitism; computer science professor Boaz Barak was also named to the group.
Campus Beat: Anti-Israel students at Brown University ended a weeklong hunger strike, during which they unsuccessfully demanded that the university divest from companies operating in Israel.
Ackman’s Anger: Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman slammed a recent Washington Post profile for which he cooperated, saying that his “optimism was misplaced as the public has been again misled, important issues are not addressed fairly or accurately, and false impressions have therefore been created in the minds of readers about important issues.”
Going West: The Wall Street Journal spotlights Ian Jacobs, an heir of the Reichmann dynasty and a protege of Warren Buffett, who is investing in San Francisco’s struggling downtown business district.
Staying Put: Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon is further entrenching himself in the company, bucking rumors that he would soon exit the Wall Street firm following a flurry of negative press and reports of internal dissent.
Credit Hit: Moody’s downgraded Israel’s credit outlook to negative, the first time that the country’s rating has been dropped.
Reporter’s Role: The IDF discovered photos and documents confirming that Al Jazeera reporter Mohamed Washah was also a senior member of Hamas’ anti-tank unit.
Word War: In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that comments he made to journalists in October were “purposely distorted” by South Africa’s legal team at the International Court of Justice.
Africa Assault: Four Emirati troops and a Bahraini soldier were killed in an Al-Shabaab attack on a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Remembering: Former Washington Post editor Peter Silberman died at 93.
Pic of the Day
Norberto Har and Fernando Marman (foreground) were reunited with loved ones this morning at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, after being rescued from Hamas captivity in Rafah, Gaza.
Comedian, actor, podcaster, writer and producer, Ari Shaffir turns 50…
Commercial director in the Inglewood and Beverly Hills offices of Keller Williams Realty, Gary Aminoff turns 87… Best-selling author, known for children’s and young adult fiction, Judy Sussman Blume turns 86… Author, former member of the Knesset and then chair of the Tel Aviv City Council, Yael Dayan turns 85… Dean at Shalem College in Jerusalem and professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, Leon Richard Kass turns 85… Former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak turns 82… Periodontist in Newark, Del., Barry S. Kayne, DDS… Economist, physicist, legal scholar and libertarian theorist, David D. Friedman turns 79… Computer genius, inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil turns 76… Grandmother of Aryeh, Gabby, Alex and Daniella, Esther Dickman… Former president of Disney-ABC Television Group, Ben Sherwood turns 60… President and general counsel at The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Alyza Lewin… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Brett Kavanaugh turns 59… Film director, producer and screenwriter, Darren Aronofsky turns 55… Comic book author and illustrator, Judd Winick turns 54… Deputy director for external affairs and communications at the Kresge Foundation, Christine M. Jacobs… Former MLB player, he is now the program director and owner of London, Ontario-based Centrefield Sports, Adam Stern turns 44… Work & Life columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Rachel Feintzeig… Deputy solicitor general of New Jersey, Michael Zuckerman… Israeli actress, best known as ADA Samantha Maroun on “Law & Order,” Odelya Halevi turns 35… Syndicated political columnist and senior editor-at-large for Newsweek, Josh Hammer turns 35… Senior advisor in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs at the State Department, Megan Apper… Counsel in the international trade group at Crowell & Moring, Jeremy Iloulian… PR and communications manager at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Anna Miroff… New York regional director for the American Jewish Committee, Josh Kramer…