My Thoughts On The Iran Deal

I hope everyone is having a good summer. I apologize for such a long, detailed and serious post – but I felt that it was important to share my concerns with you today.
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A headline on Ynetnews.com, an online site of one of Israel’s many newspapers, caught my attention yesterday. “US Team Beats Iran In Robot Soccer Final”. How I wish this headline wasn’t about a bunch of humanoid robots engaged in an intelligent sporting event. If only it was about the United States and other countries taking a bold stand and doing everything in their power to stop Iran from continuing down the dangerous path toward acquiring a nuclear weapon. If only it was about a fight that was fought and won in Vienna – a fight, much like the one involving humanoid robots, that did not harm or kill actual human beings. But, as has been widely reported, and as many might suggest is a natural part of the negotiation process, the United States and other world powers that comprise the P5+1 did not win in Vienna. Instead, they have, to quote Isaac Herzog, the opposition and Labor Party leader in Israel, let Iran “out of the cage” empowering her to “become a regional tiger.”

In addition to the real concern over the agreement reached in Vienna which, as many of us believe, is that the agreement legitimizes Iran as a nuclear weapon threshold state, the agreement is wreaking havoc here in the United States, particularly within the Jewish community. Politically, it has affected our own Jewish members of Congress. Back in May, 150 House Democrats signed a letter supporting President Obama’s determination to reach a deal with Iran. This is an important number because, if Congress is able to pass legislation over the next several weeks that rejects the agreement, 150 Democrats will have the power to uphold President Obama’s veto of this legislation. What must be pointed out is that missing from these 150 Democrats are our local leaders, Representatives Lois Frankel (Ramat Shalom’s Representative who has expressed her concerns over the agreement to me and other rabbis – read her most recent remarks here), Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy. Many of these Congressmen/women are Jewish themselves and/or they represent many Jews. As such, they are aware of the genuine concerns that many of us have about this deal and they are evaluating the agreement very closely. Unfortunately, the stage is set for a political firestorm. It is so important that we share our concerns with each of our Congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans – supporting them, thanking them, encouraging them to do the right thing. You can do this by clicking here.

For the most part, Jewish organizations here in the United States, including the Conference of Presidents, the American Jewish Committee and the usually very progressive Anti-Defamation League, have openly expressed and shared their strong disapproval of the Iran nuclear agreement. I share their concerns.

As many of you know, I am an active member of AIPAC, the strongest pro-Israel lobbying group in the US. AIPAC has been unusually outspoken against the agreement reached in Vienna and is aggressively lobbying Congress to put an end to the agreement. You can click here to learn why AIPAC considers the agreement to be unacceptable.

In Israel, the general consensus among the nation’s leaders, leaders who are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum on many issues, is that the deal with Iran is extremely irresponsible and dangerous – not just for Israel, but for the entire world. You can read more about this here.

Given all of this, I was shocked to read just yesterday that a poll released by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal shows that the majority of US Jews, 49%, support the agreement, compared to 28% of the general American population! 31% of American Jews oppose the deal compared to 24% of general American population. (Read more here.). These numbers, which admittedly come from just one poll, support the stance of J Street, the small, progressive advocacy group that works to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict and often clashes with AIPAC. J Street has been actively supporting and promoting the deal with Iran in a way that has actually offended leftwing, progressive Israelis. Noah Efron, an Israeli, leftwing political activist, senior fellow at the Shaharit “Think-And-Do” Tank, professor at Bar Ilan University, presenter on the Promised Podcast and (usually) a supporter of J Street, posted a letter expressing his concern to J Street supporters on Facebook stating:

There is something close to a consensus among leftist politicians here in Israel that the deal brings with it some grave dangers…I can understand how one might conclude that, on balance, this deal is better than no deal at all. I may agree, I don’t know. But it’s harder for me to understand your apparent lack of ambivalence and lack of concern, say, about some of the weaknesses (especially of oversight) in this deal…Your cheery support for the deal comes across to some of us here in Israel as a callous lack of concern about the real dangers that are part of this deal (from a regional nuclear arms race to Iran one day trying to destroy Israel, as it has threatened to do). The perception that the leading representatives of leftist Zionism in America is unconcerned about this danger, makes it harder for those of us trying to build support for leftist politics here, from within (and at a time when this is hard enough already)…I realize that you believe that this deal is, ultimately, in the best interest of Israel, the region and the world. But shouldn’t your position be that you will do everything in your power in the coming years to see that the weaknesses in the deal do not allow Iran to threaten Israel or anyone else? Shouldn’t your brows be furrowed and your countenances serious? Because as a (leftist) parent who is genuinely fearful for the future of his kids and theirs, I can’t help but find your popping-the-champagne-bottles cheer a little chilling.

I am very impressed with Professor Efron’s statement. I am opposed to the deal and hope that Congress is able to stop it. I am doing what I can to work with AIPAC and reach out to national leaders and I invite you to join me. I understand that not all of you share my position, but I do hope that, whether you agree with me or not, you allow Professor Efron’s words – words that come directly from Israel – to sink in. This should not be a left-right issue, a Democrat-Republican issue. This should be about the safety of Israel, the United States and the world.

Tomorrow night, we mark one of the darkest moments in Jewish history: Tisha B’Av – the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. On this day, we remember the destruction of the two ancient Temples that stood in Jerusalem and many other nightmares that reportedly took place throughout history on the 9th of Av. The rabbis teach us that the Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE because of sinat chinam – hatred between Jewish people. They warn us never again to engage in such hatred. I hope we can remember that we Jews need each other. We must brace ourselves for a lot of political fighting over the agreement with Iran. President Lincoln taught us that a “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” We as Jews, Americans and supporters of Israel must do everything in our power to ensure that we are not a house divided. We must ensure that we stand strong and protect all that is near and dear to us.

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