The Iran agreement is a most urgent issue, right now, facing Israel and the American Jewish community. It is important in itself, of course It holds out the best chance to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and to prevent the war that would likely break out if this agreement falters, and as such it is crucial for the future of Israel, the Middle East and American involvement in the region. Potentially, it can be a turning point in American-Iranian relations as well, an event that might be as significant as the opening to China in the 1970s.
But the Iran agreement is more important than its broader geo-strategic significance. Right now, there is a ferocious battle being waged by the Israeli government, AIPAC and other right wing Jewish American organizations to get Congress to vote down the agreement. This right wing effort to derail the Iran agreement is supported and supporting a Republican agenda.
The Republicans who are bent on undermining the authority of President Obama have been working in tandem with Prime Minister Netanyahu before, during and after the invitation to the prime minister to speak before Congress in March. The very act of not informing the White house and refusing to meet with Democratic senators has placed Netanyahu within the Republicans concerted efforts to defeat the Iran agreement, to destroy the president’s significant and groundbreaking diplomatic efforts. What better way to do it than to package their disdain for the president with the message that the agreement spells doom for the Jewish state.
For the Republicans facing 2016 what could be better than to use Israel’s prime minister for their political gains. They are probably hoping to place the Jewish community in a bind on this vote and to hopefully gain Jewish votes in the future despite the fact that they don’t have a single Jewish senator. Not one. The Democrats have 10 Jewish Senators. There are 18 Jewish House Democrats and just one Jewish Republican. Numbers do matter. Since more than 70% of the Jewish vote went to Obama it is not unreasonable to ask why the political party that is not attracting Jewish votes is not only courting Netanyahu but portraying itself as a guardian of the Jewish people rushing to prevent another Holocaust.
Unfortunately, some Jewish federations around the country are supporting this effort as well. They choose to ignore top Israeli security experts, like Amos Yadlin former head of military intelligence and Ami Ayalon a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service who urge Israel’s government to work with the American administration, accept and yes watch over the agreement calling it “not a bad deal” and “the best option;” moreover, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, according the The Times of Israel, “disagreed that the Iranian nuclear program posed an existential threat to Israel.” It is, thus, becoming a battle over whether there is only one Jewish voice that of Netanyahu, who often claims that he speaks for all Jews. If Netanyahu wins, let there be no mistake—he will have become the master of America’s Middle East policy, doing what the Republicans have failed to do so far, to reduce Obama to the role of a bystander. We cannot let this happen.
It is likely that the Republicans in the House and Senate will vote down the agreement, Obama will veto their action, and the real test will be whether Obama and the Democrats can hold enough votes to prevent the 2/3rd veto override. This will be close. Politicians in New York State will be key. (Peter Eisenstadt, living in South Carolina, already knows how the state’s members of Congress will vote, unfortunately.) So contact your congressperson, Louise Slaughter or whomever it is. And contact Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. The polls show that most American Jews, 60%, support the Iran agreement. This is a call to our elected representatives and they need to hear, again and again.