Foxman: US-Israeli rift over Iran deal exaggerated

“Many people are playing this crisis for their own benefit politically here in Israel too,” ADL national director says.

September 10, 2015 04:19
3 minute read.
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, shows the book "The Bible, the J

Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, shows the book "The Bible, the Jews, and the Death of Jesus" . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The extent of the rift between American Jews, the US and Israel has been greatly exaggerated by elements seeking to make political hay of their disagreements, former Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Foxman, who recently retired after heading the ADL for 27 years, said the US-Israel relationship is “the most important” of Israel’s diplomatic ties and that “if you read the analyses of people with axes to grind,” the Iran debate appears as if it were “destroying the Jewish community and our lobby.”

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“I’m not a hysteric,” Foxman continues, saying that he did not see the ultimate passage of the Iran nuclear accord as a binary win-lose equation in which President Barack Obama overcame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When the president has to go to The Daily Forward to explain his positions and two-thirds of congressmen have come out against him with even his supporters calling the deal flawed, the deal’s passage cannot be seen as a pure win, Foxman says.

“Why are we seeing all this hysteria? Because everybody is playing their interests,” he says, explaining that it is in the interest of the Democratic Party to blame Netanyahu and Israel, and it is in the Republicans’ interest to pan the president’s handling of the negotiations with Tehran.

“The interest is the upcoming American elections,” he says, stressing that Netanyahu has “succeeded in getting his message on Iran out there [to be] debated and discussed.

“Many people are playing this crisis for their own benefit politically here in Israel too,” he adds.

While Netanyahu’s seeking presidential approval before addressing Congress last March would have “changed some of the atmospherics,” the prime minister was “understood even by opponents, except for those who wanted to use it politically,” Foxman says.

According to many critics, the debate over the deal has “torn apart” the American Jewish community because “for the first time the perception [for US Jews] of American national security interests differed from perception and articulation of Israel national security interests,” he continues.

However, he counter-asserts, “considering how serious the differences were, I believe the American Jewish community did relatively well.”

Most US Jewish organizations, with the exception of J Street, either came out against the deal or, like the Reform movement, declined to pick sides, citing the “day after,” the lack of consensus and the need to maintain communal cohesion going forward, Foxman feels.

Polls, including one conducted by Jewish sociologist Steven M. Cohen for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, indicate that “a clear majority of Jews wants Congress to approve the deal,” highlighting a disconnect between them and the organized Jewish establishment.

“Plainly, the idea that American Jews speak as a monolithic bloc needs very early retirement,” Cohen wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last month.

Further commenting on the “doom and gloom” scenario in which pundits have eulogized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s influence following its attempts to mobilize congressional opposition to the deal, Foxman says that the lobby did well, considering it was up against the president, who is the “most powerful lobbyist in the world.”

The day after the agreement becomes law, Democrats will approach AIPAC for help in their reelection bids, and Republicans will likewise approach the group, he says.

“I don’t see a defeat for AIPAC. I don’t see they have been hurt,” he says.

“So what is my concern if all is so hunky dory?” Foxman asks. Because the US-Israel relationship is the most important relationship in the world for Israel’s well-being, any crisis, real or perceived, that may challenge... or hurt it is very serious.”

“If the prime minister were to ask me what he should do, I think that he should engage in damage control,” he says, adding that given the Syrian migrant crisis and other issues emanating from the region, a secure and stable Israel is in America’s interest even more than before.

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