US public opinion expert: Iran deal can still be stopped

"It would require the most efficient, effective and unified PR campaign in my lifetime."

July 5, 2015 21:51
3 minute read.
Iran nuclear talks

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (L-3rd L) meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd R) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 27, 2015.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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If the American people vigorously oppose the Iran nuclear agreement that is expected to be signed by Tuesday in Vienna, US President Barack Obama will not be able to push it through Congress, American public opinion expert Frank Luntz told The Jerusalem Post in an interview in Israel on Sunday.

Luntz said his polls indicate that 88 percent of Americans do not believe the deal will make the world more safe, stable or secure. He said more than 80 percent of Americans believe a deal should not be signed if it is not enforceable, verifiable or accountable.

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Therefore, when advocating against the nuclear deal, Luntz recommends that Israeli and American Jewish leaders use the above terminology to be most effective in persuading Americans.

To relay that message, Luntz met Sunday with Israeli leaders across the spectrum, including cabinet ministers.
Michael Wilner reports on nuclear talks from Vienna

“If there’s no pushback, Obama can pass it,” Luntz said. “The deal can be stopped.

But it would require the most efficient, effective and unified PR campaign in my lifetime.

It requires the coordination of Jewish groups in the US and people who support Israel globally. Everyone has to work together, and it has to start happening now.”

To stop the Iran deal, Congress would require two-thirds opposition to override an expected presidential veto.

Luntz said he was encouraged by the wrath that many Democratic senators were feeling from Jews and other Israel supporters in their communities. He said Americans, unlike their politicians, do not differentiate Iran’s nuclear program from its role as the world’s top supporter of global terror.

“I hope to make the case that Iran’s global behavior and its nuclear intent must not be separated,” he said. “The appeal against a nuclear Iran cannot just be on behalf of Israel, or even on behalf of America. It must be a global initiative because Iran is a global threat.”

Luntz is a Republican who has worked for many top Republican politicians, but he advises Israel to reach out more to Democrats, who he worries have become much less pro-Israel over time. He said that to attract left-of-center Americans, Israel needed to use terms like social justice, human rights, and seeking a lasting peace.

Polls Luntz has taken have found that 47 percent of Democrats believe Israel is a racist country while among Republicans it is only 13%. Three quarters of Democrats and only one quarter of Republicans consider settlements an obstacle to peace.

Asked if Israel wants peace, 88% of Republicans and only 48% of Democrats said yes.

When asked who wants peace more, Israelis or Palestinians, 92% of Republicans said Israelis, 58% of Democrats. Among college students 78% of Republicans said Israelis and 22% Palestinians, but among Democrats, 53% said Palestinians want peace more and 47% said Israelis.

The question of which side Americans should support in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict found that Israel has a serious problem on campuses. Among adults, 88% of Republicans said they were more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, 7% said neutral, and 5% more pro-Palestinian; 46% of Democrats said more pro-Israel and 27% each said neutral or more pro-Palestinian.

But among college students, 47% of Republicans said pro-Israel, 44% said neutral and 9% pro-Palestinian, and only 21% of Democrats defined themselves as more pro-Israel, 55% neutral, and 23% said they were more pro-Palestinian.

To conduct the survey among college students, Luntz spoke at length to more than 1,000 students in an extensive study that was supported by the Jewish National Fund. Luntz said he was optimistic after attending an event on how to fight campus boycotts of Israel that was sponsored by American philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban, but he said key decisions on how to fight for Israel on campuses must be made before school starts in September.

“Seeing the intensity of the Jewish groups gave me hope,” he said. “There is greater unity on this issue than there has been since I got involved in it in 2002. There needs to be a unity of purpose from the Israeli government, and you can’t have a separate strategy in the US among 25 different organizations.

Never again can we be disorganized and disruptive.”

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