Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Senator Rob Portman.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
A bill that would enable Congress to oversee a prospective nuclear deal with Iran can be passed into law despite problems in the legislative process, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Sunday.
Portman met Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Zionist Union leaders. He visited Bethlehem over the weekend.
The senator lamented that disputes over a series of amendments were making it harder to pass the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. Three amendments introduced have made it harder to pass the legislation: One would characterize the Iran deal as a treaty, another would insist on Iran recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and a third would address the issue of Iranian support for terrorist groups.
“I think we’ll be able to work through this,” Portman said. “I hope so because I think it’s very important that we be able to review the agreement, all its language and its side agreements. We need to ensure that the agreement would go to Congress before the United Nations.”
Portman said the effort to pass the bill had hit “a snag” after it was passed unanimously in committee. But he said he was still hopeful the legislative process could be completed.
“Without this legislation, [there is] no guarantee of a Congressional role,” he said.
“I’ve believed strongly for quite some time that Congress must have the ability to review the agreement because of the serious danger of an Iran with a nuclear weapon, the threat it would pose to Israel, the region, and also the US.”
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Portman also raised concerns about a nuclear Iran starting a nuclear arms race in the region, Iran’s support for terrorist groups, and its negative impact on conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
He credited Netanyahu with giving anti-Iran legislation a boost by speaking to Congress.
“The unanimous passage of the bill in committee indicates the trip did not have a negative impact,” he said. “Netanyahu’s speech was useful to raise the visibility of the issue. Let’s face it. Congress has a lot on its plate. It was helpful just to raise awareness about the significant threat Iran poses. It’s important for Congress to face up to this issue.”
Besides Iran, Portman’s trip dealt with other regional issues like Syria, Lebanon, Islamic State and the Palestinians. He also wanted to focus on his efforts to fight boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, which he was involved in when he was a US trade representative.
Together with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Portman passed an anti-BDS amendment in the Senate Finance Committee 10 days ago.
On the Palestinian issue, Portman said it was important for the US to stand with Israel to maximize chances for leverage to get an agreement that would makes sense for all parties: The US, Palestinians and Israel. He said forcing an agreement would be a mistake because any such deal would not be sustainable.
“In the past, the US has made a mistake of trying to force an agreement,” he said. “It can’t be forced. It has to come from the parties. We’ve learned over the years to stand with our ally and help it achieve agreements.”
Portman, who comes from a swing state in Ohio, was seriously considered as a running mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. He said “I don’t think so” when asked if he thinks he will be on the ticket next time.
He ruled out running for president himself in the current election.
Because of American concerns about the economy, he said he believes the 2016 election is wide open and that presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is no shoo-in. He said some 20 Republicans may run.
“Yes, [Clinton] can be beaten,” he said. “She is definitely beatable. “It’s impossible to predict. The American people will be looking to who can provide leadership at home and abroad.”
He expressed hope that an Israeli will win an NBA championship – Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt.
“We love David Blatt,” he said. “He has been unbelievable in putting together the chemistry of a first-class team.
I’m really pumped up. Blatt has been awesome. We’re really happy to have him in Cleveland.”
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