Uri Pilichowski
Author, Educator and Father - Brother to All

Successful Politics is Being Effective

I resent Democrats for voting for the Iran deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action put the entire world, and especially Israel in danger. The Democrats put politics ahead of safety and just didn’t get it.
It was easy for me to see Republicans as “getting it” and on our side.

Now, I’m starting to resent the Republicans as well. I’m no longer sure they “get it.”

To correct the mistake of the Iran deal, I was hoping for a President and Congress that would rip up the deal, demand greater concessions, and be willing to lead the global community to harsher sanctions against the Iranian regime. I never believed the Obama administration’s claim that this was the best deal we were going to get, and the sanctions were going to collapse if we didn’t sign something immediately. America leads, and as the largest producer in the world, we should’ve led the world to demand that Iran eliminate ALL nuclear activity, immediately and forever.

On July 14th, with mere hours left to the Congressional session, three bills were hastily introduced on to the House floor. All three bills were the dreams of the Pro-Israel community. The first, H.R. 4992, limits the transfers of funds to or from Iran, the second, H.R. 5631 prescribes requirements for mandatory sanctions for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and a whole series of Iranian institutions that support terror, the third, H.R 5119, prohibits funds available to any American federal department from purchasing heavy water produced in Iran.

Yet, some of our most staunch allies in Congress, notably Congressman Eliot Engel, the ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Congressman Ted Deutch the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa voted against these bills. Upon further inspection, it was clear that over 90% of the Democratic members of Congress voted against these three bills. I, and my students were incredulous. How could the Democratic party shirk their responsibility – again?!

How could the Democrats not vote for these three bills? The message the passage of these bills would send would resonate from Congress to the White House, telling President Obama that while he might’ve gained support for the Iran deal, he has anything but a blank check from Congress to reestablish ties with Iran. Most importantly, Iran would hear loudly and clearly that the United States is serious about ensuring that it does not acquire a nuclear weapon, it can not develop ballistic missiles capable of threatening Israel and Europe, and its sponsoring of terror will not be tolerated.

Or would it?

These three bills were solely sponsored by Republicans. Why didn’t any Democrats sign on to sponsor? Simple, they weren’t given the opportunity. There was no bipartisan effort by the Republican sponsors of this bill to include their Democratic colleagues. These bills didn’t even go through committee, they were brought straight to the floor. Why would Republican leadership go out of their way to exclude Democrats on three different foreign affairs bills?

The answer is easy. The Republicans weren’t trying to stop Iran, they knew very well that these bills had no chance of passing. They knew the terms of their bills was something that President Obama could never sign, and therefore didn’t make an effort at trying to have these bills pass into law – which would’ve required bipartisan support.

What was the true purpose of these bills? With Republicans going back to their districts to campaign for reelection (the entire House is up for election this November) the Republicans needed more ammunition to weaken their Democratic opponents. Three brand new bills, all aimed at an enemy in Iran, accompanied by the boast that Democrats voted overwhelmingly against a bill, provide plenty of red meat to serve at parlor meetings and meet and greets across their respective districts.

There are Democrats dedicated to stopping Iran. These are Democrats who watched in dismay as their colleagues viewed the debate around the Iran deal having more to do with politics than policy, more with taking sides than security. These are Democrats who understand that to craft effective legislation to stop Iran’s race to a new ballistic missile program and to stop it from its nefarious terrorist activities, bills must be drafted with policy and language that allows Democrats to sign on and push the President to sign the bills. These bills must have overwhelming bipartisan support. When bills are crafted without this language, Democrats see Iran as just another partisan issue being used by the Republicans to make them look weak on security. They automatically reject these bills.

Sure, we in the Pro-Israel community want bills like these to pass. We want the harshest, toughest laws enacted that will bring Iran to its knees. Our anger boils over at Iran’s comments to “Wipe the Zionists off the map!” But politics isn’t about feeling tough, it’s about getting things done. Successful politics is being effective.
Congress and the President needs to do two things immediately.they need to renew the Iran Sanctions Act and institute sanctions in response to Iranian missile tests. Will the White House be open to passing these bills?

On May 29th, the Jerusalem Post reported, “The White House has not said whether renewal of the [Iran Sanctions Act] would be a technical or spiritual violation of the agreement, or conversely, whether it would bolster the administration’s ability to enforce it. The nuclear deal does not allow the US to pass any new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, but it remains unclear whether renewal of existing law – and the continuation of executive orders waving enforcement of parts of that law – amounts to passage of new sanctions, or simply to renewal of an existing infrastructure of sanctions mechanisms.
Some in the Obama administration fear that renewal of the act would maintain a culture of sanctions detrimental to a burgeoning US-Iranian rapprochement.
But AIPAC considers the Iran Sanctions Act – a bill it aggressively lobbied to pass in the first place – to be the essential architecture of existing and future sanctions on Iran, critical throughout enforcement of the deal and even more so should the deal begin to crumble.” The White House isn’t closed to passing new tough-on-Iran legislation, but will need a push from Democrats to do so.

The three bills that we opened discussing, H.R. 4992, H.R. 5631, and H.R 5119, were harmful to the efforts of reining in Iran’s destructive behavior. These bills might’ve made us feel tough, but they were not only ineffective but they set back efforts to pass effective legislation. Taking a stand through go nowhere legislation not only doesn’t stop Iran, it enables Iran to continue its dangerous efforts. To stop Iran, we need bipartisan legislation passed through committee, co-sponsored by hundreds of members from both parties, and eventually signed into law by the President.

Ironically, on that same day that the fiasco of the three bills occurred, two bipartisan Pro-Israel bills were passed through committee by Congressman Engel and Deutch. The first (H. Res. 929) encourages the prompt conclusion of negotiations of a robust and long-term U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that Israel has the capacity to defend itself from all threats. The second (H. Res. 750) urges the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, as the U.S., Canada, and Arab League do, rather than only designating a part of it, as the EU does currently.

Let’s pray to God, and encourage our elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats, to pass legislation that will be effective at stopping Iran’s efforts.

About the Author
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator. As a teacher, author and speaker, he teaches Torah and Politics, where he specifically emphasizes rational thought and conceptual analysis.
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