American Jewry’s Greatest Test

The June deadline may slip but it appears that President Obama will sign an agreement with Iran that Israel views as calamitous. Israel has repeatedly said that Iran poses an existential threat to the country and pro-Israel organizations have responded by calling for stricter sanctions and opposing the concessions the United States has reportedly made to placate the Iranians. The question now is whether American Jewry has the will and the capacity to mobilize sufficient opposition to prevent Israel from being endangered.

For too long, the pro-Israel community, and many Israelis, have speciously believed that Congress can protect Israel from the sometimes ill-advised policies of the Executive Branch. This has never been true. Congress didn’t prevent Eisenhower from pressuring Israel to withdraw from Sinai after the 1956 War, failed to stop Reagan from selling AWACS to Saudi Arabia, was unable to fight George W. Bush’s linkage of loan guarantees and settlements and has been helpless to alter Obama’s hostile treatment of the Netanyahu government. Congress is now powerless to stop Obama from appeasing Iran.

It is true that Congressional pressure did lead Obama to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, but the sanctions gambit has been a failure. Countries, including the United States, have cheated, and it was never realistic to expect Iran to give up the chance to become a nuclear power because of some temporary economic hardships. In fact, Iran has not given up its pursuit of the bomb while simultaneously advancing its regional hegemonic interests and intensifying its sponsorship of terrorism.

Obama has stubbornly resisted calls to intervene in Iraq and Syria as those two countries implode, and made withdrawal of troops from the region a centerpiece of his policy, so the chance of him using force to stop Iran’s nuclear program is virtually zero. This is the most serious weakness in his bargaining position; the Iranians have no fear of Obama, see he is an amateur in the ways of the bizarre and believe they can get sanctions lifted without any serious concessions.

If press reports are accurate, the proposed agreement will allow Iran to remain on the threshold of building nuclear weapons, to continue its advanced missile research, to continue uranium enrichment, to prevent inspections of military sites, to refuse to disclose information about its past nuclear activities and to continue to promote terrorism and the destabilization of the region. Such an agreement will have the opposite effect of the one intended: Once sanctions are lifted — and the idea they can be “snapped back” into place if Iran violates the agreement is laughable — Iran will have a windfall of tens of billions of dollars to spend on its nuclear program, on strengthening its army, on subverting its neighbors and on fostering global terrorism. This is in addition to provoking a nuclear arms race in the region that will further imperil Israel and the West.

The legislation passed by Congress to allow it to review any agreement the president signed is toothless; Obama can ignore it and will if need be. Moreover, no matter how bad the deal is, it is unlikely Congress will try to stop its implementation. Even some of Israel’s closest friends have indicated they will not challenge the president.

Opponents of the Iran framework have been unable to counter Obama’s false dichotomy of an agreement or war. The military option may be the best alternative; however, the pro-Israel community will not make that case out of fear that it will make Jews look like they are pushing the United States into a catastrophic conflict (a point Obama and others will undoubtedly make) and provoke an anti-Semitic backlash. Such a position would also alienate Israel’s traditional liberal allies.

This leaves the pro-Israel community with only one good alternative and that is to adopt Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position that the alternative to a bad agreement is a good one. The question is: Who will challenge the president when he argues the deal he signs is the best we can get?

The only hope of preventing a bad agreement is for the leaders of the pro-Israel community to mobilize the public the way they did in the heyday of the Soviet Jewry movement. It will not be easy, especially with leftist Jewish groups backing Obama against the government and the people of Israel. Still, after years of hearing people say that things would have been different in the 1940s if the lobby was as strong then as it is today, there can be no excuse for the failure to use all of our resources to prevent Israel from being placed at risk.

Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.