David A. Lyon

P5+1 Deal with Iran: Against it or Hate it?

My email inbox is stuffed with articles, posts, and opinions about the P5+1 deal with Iran. It was difficult to sort them out until I devised a system to organize them. I put them into two files on my laptop. I labeled File #1, “Thoroughly Against the Deal”, and I labeled File #2, “Completely Hate the Deal”. See how easy it is when you have a system? It might appear that there’s no difference between the piles, but there really is.

File #1 is filled with articles, posts and opinions from those who are thoroughly against the deal. That is, there is nothing about the negotiated deal that meets any of the criteria preferred by pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC. For their efforts, AIPAC outlined a 5-point plan they used to inform its supporters and to lobby on Capitol Hill. Briefly, the 5-point plan demanded: 1) Inspections & verification: Inspectors must be permitted unimpeded access to suspect sites; 2) Possible military dimension: Iran must fully explain its prior weaponization efforts; 3) Sanctions: Sanctions relief must commence only after Iran complies with its commitments; 4) Duration: Iran’s nuclear weapons quest must be blocked for decades; and, 5) Dismantlement: Iran must dismantle its nuclear infrastructure so it has no path to a nuclear weapon.

Nothing in the negotiated deal leaves the U.S., Israel, or the Middle East region more secure. Iran celebrated the deal as if nothing changed, and that’s precisely the concern held by those who are adamantly against the agreement. Iran’s hegemony in the region will embolden it in its support of terrorist groups, which threaten Israel and its timid allies including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Iran’s nuclear goals will likely raise the stakes for another cold war between nations that hold keys to nuclear weapons. Today, the difference is that the enemies are not behind “iron curtains”; they’re everywhere technology lets them in and where loose negotiations permit escalations of imminent threats. They might ask File #2, “How can the U.S. stumble into a deal with Iran, which has a proven track record of terrorism and threats against America, and which leaves Israel, America’s greatest ally in the Middle East, at risk?”

File #2 is filled with articles, posts and opinions from those who completely hate the deal. That is, they accept the deal as it is and have no illusion that it won’t ultimately be confirmed, but they still hate it. They see it only as an achievement that brings Iran to the table. Once there, no matter how they celebrate before the news cameras, they’re now signed partners in an agreement with the P5+1 nations and will be held accountable. Netanyahu said that “a bad deal is worse than no deal.” File #2 disagrees. The late Yitzchak Rabin said, “You make peace with your enemies, not with your friends.” This is closer to the understanding of File #2, because they know that while peace isn’t in the near future, they also believe that an agreement with one’s enemies, even if they hate the deal, creates a position from which all signed parties can begin to commit. F.W. de Klerk said that you can only negotiate with reasonable people. There’s nothing reasonable about Iran, but that’s not the supposition of File #2. They reached a reasonable agreement, and to their mind, a bad deal is better than no deal. They might ask File #1, “Did you really think that the U.S. would walk away with nothing to hold over Iran?”

David Ben Gurion wisely said, “Everyone is an expert on the past; but no one is an expert on the future.” That’s what makes File #1 and File #2 so difficult to separate. Many of us don’t know whether to be against the deal or hate the deal, or both. Both groups will lobby during the next 60 days before the U.S. Congress votes on the deal. In the meantime, let’s not forget File #3, the one filled with our prayers that the next generation might inherit from us a world where the difference between the first two files is irrelevant.

About the Author
Rabbi Lyon is Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, Texas. Lyon can be heard on iHeartRadio's Podcast "Heart to Heart w/Rabbi David Lyon" on and iHeartMedia app. He is the author of the book "God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime" (Jewish Lights 2011), available at He is President-Elect of the CCAR (Central Conference of America Rabbis) Board of Trustees. He serves on the board of the Jewish Community Legacy Project (JCLP); and in Houston, Lyon serves on the board of the United Way of Greater Houston; advisory board of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston; and member of ADL's Coalition for Mutual Respect.
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