If you were familiar with the state of Iran’s nuclear program five years ago, today you would find it unrecognizable. Thanks to the JCPOA, known in shorthand as the Iran deal, Iran has shipped 98 percent of its highly-enriched uranium out of the country. It has disabled the Arak Plutonium reactor by irreversibly filling its core with cement and has disabled 2/3 of its centrifuges. The entirety of its nuclear program is now subject to the most intrusive inspection program in history.
This change represents a massive reduction in the Iranian nuclear threat, and a major boon to the security of Israel and the United States. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has called it a “strategic turning point.” Incredibly, after years of Israel and the US contemplating the need to take risky military action against Iran, all of this was accomplished without firing a shot.
This is a major story — the story of how strong sanctions and tough diplomacy made the world safer. Yet those who furiously opposed the Iran nuclear agreement don’t want you to talk or think about it.
They know that, on the merits, they were wrong. They claimed, contrary to virtually all expert opinion, that the deal would be calamitous for Israel — and offered no reasonable or practicable alternative of their own.
Now, instead of admitting their mistake and moving on, they are trying to distract the public from the real story. They charge that the groups who supported the deal must have had an ulterior motive and imply that there was a vast conspiracy designed to benefit President Obama and undermine Israel.
The fight over the Iran deal in the United States was an intense political battle over an important issue, like many others. On both sides of the argument, advocacy and policy organizations mobilized to support their position and to make their case to Congress and to the American people.
J Street is extremely proud to have been one of the leading groups advocating for the agreement. We raised $5.5 million to finance our campaign — while our opponents, including groups like AIPAC, raised an estimated $20-30 million to make their case. We made sure that the voices of the 60 percent of American Jews who supported the agreement were heard loud and clear — instead of being drowned out by the usual flood of money from the other side.
With the funds we raised we were able to place print, TV, and online advertisements, to create a website to house key facts and information about the agreement, and to ensure that prominent Israeli security experts who supported the deal were able to come to the US and present their arguments to Members of Congress.
One of the many sources of our fundraising was the Ploughshares Fund. Ploughshares is well-known as one of the most distinguished nonproliferation organizations in the world. They work to increase global security by monitoring and reducing the spread and development of nuclear weapons. For decades, they have been a leader in raising the alarm about the Iranian nuclear threat, making them a natural partner for those who backed this agreement. We are proud to have worked with them and to have received their support.
Ultimately, after months in which all of the facts were thoroughly weighed and in which both sides were able to present their case, the deal’s opponents were unable to convince the vast majority of congressional Democrats of the soundness of their arguments. The deal went forward — with the support of some of the most staunchly pro-Israel voices in Congress.
The agreement is now being implemented and enforced. Israel’s Atomic Energy Agency has unanimously endorsed it. Prime Minister Netanyahu, formerly the most vocal opponent of the agreement, has almost entirely stopped talking about it. Yet some opponents cannot let it go.
The deal proved that strong diplomacy can yield better results than hawkish bluster and military force. It showed that an entrenched right-leaning establishment in Washington does not have a monopoly on what it means to be “pro-Israel” — and that this establishment can be challenged and defeated. These are lessons that they cannot accept.
If the opponents finally have compelling arguments to make on the merits of the agreement, they should make them. Otherwise, those who care about the security of the US and Israel would do well to ignore their mud-slinging. Instead, let’s focus on the substantial and unprecedented benefits that the agreement has brought. Let’s turn our full attention to rigorously enforcing it, while continuing to stand up to Iran’s dangerous behavior in the region.
Jessica Rosenblum is J Street’s Vice President of Communications and directed the organization’s work in support of the Iran deal last summer.