The Iran nuclear deal passed in the US because of a “parliamentary maneuver,” and as a result the next president might not feel bound by it, Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said on Tuesday.
Hoenlein told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the conference’s annual meeting here in two weeks that although the deal went through, it was not a signed treaty and therefore the next president could rethink it. He pointed out that polls showed that 80 percent of the public was opposed.
The deal went through on the strength of a parliamentary maneuver, “but you don’t have a signed agreement, “ he said. “You don’t have a treaty the president could sign, because he knew it couldn’t get passed. And the next president might not be bound by the deal.”
According to Hoenlein, “I could see the next president want to reconsider it, look at the terms and see what steps have to be taken.”
Hoenlein said it was not right to frame the deal as a defeat for the pro-Israel community in the US, since the debate was not about Israel, and that America is also threatened by an emboldened Iran flush with sanctions relief money and able to fund its proxies around the globe.
He quoted a researcher in Washington as saying that there were between 30,000 to 40,000 Hezbollah agents in South America, and that they have dug tunnels into the US from Mexico.
“Hezbollah people are in Mexico,” Hoenlein said. “Iran has weapons manufacturing plants in South America, all sorts of businesses, including one of the richest uranium fields, second only to Canada, in Venezuela.”
Hoenlein said this uranium factory was located next to Russian and Chinese factories, “so if you bomb them you will have a big problem.”
Hoenlein also said that Hezbollah runs an illicit cigarette ring with some 50 locations along the Canadian-US border, costing New York state some $300 million a year in lost tax revenue. In light of this, he said, it is a grave mistake for the US to think that Iran is solely an Israeli or a Middle East problem.
Regarding the remaining 350 days of the Obama Administration, Hoenlein said that a month in the Middle East is a long time, let alone a year.
“We have an administration in place, we have to work with them, and see what we can do with them,” he said, adding that he has been told by people in the administration that the Middle East is not going to be the focus of US President Barack Obama’s final year.
“There are other issues the president will focus on as his legacy issues,” he said, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry has “clearly put a lot of emphasis on this [the diplomatic process], in part because they want to block initiatives like the French international conference and a UN Security Council resolution.”
Hoenlein said that while there have been disagreements with the Obama administration, “we also have to acknowledge there are a lot of good things between Israel and the US.”
He cited the close security and military cooperation, and also noted Obama’s speech at the Israeli embassy last week, the first president ever to speak at the embassy, saying this was a positive message of reconciliation.
Regarding whether Obama would veto a Security Council resolution on the Mideast that Israel opposed, Hoenlein said this would depend on the text of the resolution. He said that he did not think that the current US elections campaign would play into Obama’s considerations.
As to what he thought was behind the recent French initiative to call an international Mideast peace conference, and if that fails then to recognize a Palestinian state, Hoenlein said it was difficult to decipher France’s motives.
“One day they are taking the best positions, and the next day they start these campaigns,” he said. Citing the large Muslim population in France, Hoenlein said domestic politics may be one factor.
Further, he said, “they want to play a role in the international scene and take a lead on an issue. I think too often that countries, including France, try to stick it to the US.”
He said he has not seen any evidence that the French moves were coordinated with Washington.