Jewish groups reticent on Iran nuclear deal, from serious concern to cautious optimism

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Mohammad Javad Zarif and John Kerry caricatures by DonkeyHotty. Flickr creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/16825509858/

Mohammad Javad Zarif and John Kerry caricatures by DonkeyHotty. Flickr creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/16825509858/

American Jewish organizations are unanimous on the need to prevent a nuclear Iran in order to protect both the U.S. and Israel. They disagree, however, on whether the current deal with Iran is best way to achieve this goal.

For most Jewish organizations, the immediate reaction to yesterday’s agreement with Iran was caution. The deal is complicated, and organizations were hesitant to give a thumbs up or down without a thorough review of the accord.

Mohammad Javad Zarif and John Kerry caricatures by DonkeyHotty. Flickr creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/16825509858/

Mohammad Javad Zarif and John Kerry caricatures by DonkeyHotty. Flickr creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/16825509858/

The Union for Reform Judaism said that it has relied on a team of experts as the negotiations with Iran have progressed and will do so again now that an agreement is settled.

“We urge all committed parties to take similar, carefully considered approaches before rushing to conclusions,” the Union said in a statement.

Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) was equally noncommittal. It voiced support for the negotiations and urged “Congress to give the accord its utmost scrutiny.”

Other groups were more willing to tip their hand. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) was reticent to give a firm dismissal, but it was concerned. AJC executive director David Harris said the deal needs a thorough vetting process by Congress that focuses on whether the deal enhances the security of the United States and its allies.

“This may be the single most important foreign policy issue of our generation to come before legislators in Washington. As a nation, we absolutely must get it right,” Harris said. “This agreement ought to be weighed on its merits only – nothing more, nothing less.”

American Israel Public Affairs committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobbying group, is likely to oppose the deal. It expressed concern that the agreement “would fail to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) all-but-rejected the deal saying it had “serious concern” about the deal. ADL’s Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham H. Foxman released a statement saying they were “deeply disappointed” by the final deal.

“At best, if Iran fully complies with the terms of the JCPOA, its nuclear weapons ambitions will be deferred during the 10 to 15 year term of most restrictions. At worst, in the view of many highly respected experts, Iran will continue to clandestinely pursue illicit activities, like weaponization research,” Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham H. Foxman said.

Other groups were much more optimistic. J Street said that it too would review the deal,. However, it expected to support the deal, calling it “the best—if not only—means of ensuring that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.”

Americans for Peace Now (APN) voiced immediate support for the deal. APN president and CEO Debra DeLee said APN would back the measure as it went through Congress.

“Congress owes it to the American people to support this deal – a deal which prevents a nuclear-armed Iran and averts another unnecessary, costly, painful Middle East war,” DeLee said.

Lobbying by APN, AIPAC, and other groups may not matter in the end. Congress has 60 days to vote on a resolution whether to support or reject the deal. While Congress may vote to reject, the accord is likely to remain in place because opponents would need to have enough votes to overturn a presidential veto.

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  • The Shalom Center vigorously supports the agreement.
    The Torah (Deut 20:10-11) teaches that if you besiege a city (which is what the sanctions have been), proclaim SHALOM to it, and if it then agrees to decent terms that fulfill your crucial needs, make sure it adheres to them and end the siege.
    That is what this agreement does.
    The Israeli Jewish community, for whom the Holocaust is a constant nightmare, can be consumed by fear when an increasingly right-wing government appeals to that fear to increase its own power (as PM. Netanyahu did just before the election). But in this generation, neither Israel nor the world-wide Jewish people is powerless, a helpless victim,
    The Iranian govt’s bitterness toward Israel would be dangerous if Iran had the bomb. Without it, their hostility is bluster. There are only two ways to keep the bomb out of Iran’s hands: this agreement, or war & permanent occupation. Far worse for US than the Iraq war.
    See theshalomcenter.org for more discussion.

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