Shai Franklin
Partner with Gotham Government Relations

Time to open new chapter on Iran deal

President Obama’s Jewish community webcast last Friday marked an important opportunity for American Jews: the chance to close the “bad Iran deal” chapter of our history.

Whether ironic or fitting, it took the non-Jewish but sympathetic President of the United States to pull us back together and remind us of what’s valuable and true. Not that the supporters of the deal are honest and right, and the opponents are sneaky and wrong (that’s a separate conversation). The crux is, that we’re all pro-Israel, including those in the Jewish community and even the politicians engaging in street fights and floor battles.

Yes, the most vocal and righteous voices have been raised against the deal: Is Rep. Jerry Nadler really a self-hating Jew? Is National Security Advisor Susan Rice really an advocate for genocide? And yet ,despite the belated efforts by several community leaders to bring us back to unity, it’s taken the President to seize the moment.

This moment coincided neatly with the turning point in the fight over Congressional approval for the Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). By last Friday, it was clear the President would get the 34 votes to keep the Senate from overriding his veto of any resolution disapproving the JCPOA, and possibly the 40 needed to keep it from even reaching a vote in the first place. (Today, Senator Barbara Mikulski became the 34th Senator to come out in favor.)

Rather than walking off with his prize and waiting for the High Holidays to pass, the President forthrightly engaged American Jews, through the framework of our bruised community establishment. He wasn’t really appealing for Jews to ask their elected representatives to support the deal. His was an offer to reconcile and keep walking along the path of full inclusion in American life and of shared U.S. and Israeli interests.

No community leader has been able to muster such authority, and quite a few have gone out of their way to exacerbate tensions among Jews and between the two governments.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, could have called upon community leaders and major organizations to end the campaign against the JCPOA on the Hill, lest we all endure a Yom Kippur of dueling sermons and painful debates over herring and crackers. Having raised the alarm repeatedly for months, he has chosen not to hit “snooze”.

Netanyahu needs what will be a symbolic Congressional vote, following on his symbolic Congressional speech last winter, so those Democrats voting with the President (and with, by the way, most American Jews) might feel the wrath of pro-Israel checkbooks in the lead-up to Election Day 2016.

Very well.

In recent years, Washington culture has increasingly embraced toxic and futile gestures. For years now, Republicans are still busy planning new challenges to Obamacare, even though the conservative Supreme Court has upheld its key provisions, even though the entire health care and insurance industry now depends upon it.

For those of us prepared to move on and begin maximizing the possiblities (and minimizing the caveats) within the JCPOA, we have an opportunity and an open door on C Street (the State Department) and Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House). And we have pragmatic, results-oriented recommendations (including how to counter Iran’s remaining terrorist and other threats) from experts like Mike Eisenstadt, Tony Cordesman and Nick Burns, not so much to modify the JCPOA as to use it wisely.

For those still intent on driving home messages and/or scoring political points at the expense of Jewish unity and the U.S.-Israel relationship, well, gezunderheit. Just one request: Please unsubscribe us from your emergency email alerts. We’re good.

About the Author
Shai Franklin, a consultant and lobbyist with U.S. and overseas clients, has served as an executive with American and international Jewish organizations and is a Senior Fellow with The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Foundation.
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