US President Barack Obama laughs during a meeting at the White House.
(photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)
NEW YORK – After Congress votes on the Iran nuclear deal next month, US and Israeli policy on Iran will realign “pretty quick,” President Barack Obama predicted on Friday.
“Daylight” between the two allies is healthy and an absence of argument “could be dangerous” for both countries, Obama said, speaking from the White House during a live webcast with the American Jewish community co-sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America.
Obama said he was committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region and to preventing the flow of Iranian arms to its proxies on Israel’s borders.
“We’re all pro-Israel,” he said. “We’re all family.”
While he said there was no equivalence between the rhetoric from the two sides of the debate, Obama said he respected opponents of the nuclear accord reached on July 14 – when their arguments came from a principled place.
“People of goodwill could come down on different sides of this issue,” he said. “Like all families, there are going to be disagreements.”
He decried, however, the treatment of Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York), who endorsed the nuclear deal to the anger of much of his constituency. The response on social media to his decision was fierce, and included the use of the term “kapo,” referring to Jews who cooperated with Nazis during the Holocaust.
Obama says the agreement puts permanent restrictions on Iran ever acquiring nuclear weapons. Critics fear it paves a path for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capacity.
On this concern, the president said that “in 15 years, if what the critics say is true,” his successors will have the support of the international community to respond.
And in the meantime, “nothing in this agreement prevents us from continuing to push back forcefully against terrorist activity,” he said. “We aren’t normalizing relations with Iran here.”
Obama characterized the deal as a 15-year “penalty box” for Tehran’s past behavior, which then eases to allow the Iranians to “open up their peaceful nuclear program.
“In the best of all worlds, Iran would have no nuclear infrastructure whatsoever,” he continued. But he said international powers did not think Iran could reasonably be denied the ability to enrich uranium, one of the two main paths to obtaining weapons-grade fissile material.
“After 10 years, they are able to obtain some additional advanced centrifuges,” he said, but added that they still will be “carefully monitored.”