The stage at the 2017 AIPAC conference..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Anti-Defamation League has joined a growing list of major American Jewish organizations demanding tough questions to be answered by Congress, over the strength of the Iran nuclear deal
, insisting that if the questions can't be answered the legislature reject the deal.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, B'nai B'rith International, the Orthodox Union and AJC have all voiced deep concern or outright opposition to the deal announced last week by Tehran and international powers. But taking a different approach, ADL has posed four questions that it says lawmakers should be able to satisfactorily answer.
Does the agreement sufficiently limit Iran’s nuclear weapons capability?
Can the verification and enforcement mechanisms ensure Iranian compliance?
Abe Foxman on his last day at ADL and the future for world Jewry
How can America’s deterrence be strengthened in the face of relatively front-loaded sanctions relief?
How can the US refine a broad regional strategy to counter the threat of Iran’s aggression?
“Congress should critically examine how the deal would be implemented, whether it can, in fact, effectively safeguard America and its allies from the threat posed by a nuclear Iran, and consider additional appropriate policies and measures that will decrease the likelihood Iran will become a nuclear weapons state,” said ADL national chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abe Foxman, ADL's longtime national director.
“The serious stakes of the issue merit a debate that rejects the false choice between accepting this agreement and advocating for war. This message ill-serves the goal of ensuring that an agreement with Iran will make America and its allies safer," they said.
The aggressive stance taken by the ADL against the Iran deal is reminiscent of AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby in Washington, and their current attempts to thwart the Obama administration's nuclear deal, despite the fact that, according to White House officials, their actions amount to overt partisanship.
AIPAC runs the risk of brandishing that image as it enters the fray. But its leadership is well aware of that risk as it moves toward a historic vote on Capitol Hill.
They believe that, on the contrary, this is a principled policy position that many Democrats hold and that a “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program has nothing to do with the sitting president’s party affiliation.
AIPAC officials have long believed the secret to their success is in maintaining bipartisan, ironclad support. Their fights are rarely national headlines: Visa-waiver programs between Israel and the US, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and of course, sanctions legislation against Iran for its nuclear work have all been AIPAC priorities that received near-unanimous congressional support.
And the lobby has not always pitted itself against US President Barack Obama’s White House. Preceding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Iran, AIPAC stressed its respect for the administration and largely stayed out of the public debate. And the White House called on AIPAC to help it whip support for a resolution for the use of force against Syrian President Bashar Assad after he used chemical weapons on his own people in August 2013.
But this coming fight will have no equivalent, as the lobby has planned a multi-million dollar campaign against the president’s chief foreign policy achievement. AIPAC seeks to peel off support from his own party such that it can secure a veto-proof majority against the deal.
In order to succeed, AIPAC may go nuclear: The group may identify vulnerable Democrats approaching elections, and lobby to deny them campaign dollars from Jewish donors that are otherwise crucial. Or it may go further, and lobby to direct funds to the opponents of Democrats who vote with the president.
This sort of political warfare is entirely inconsistent with the way Jewish-American organizations typically operate in Washington – in large part, because consensus on issues pertaining to Israel is so reliable. But these tactics are commonly used by other lobbies, on topics of particular importance to them, such as the National Rifle Association’s fight with the president over gun control after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
These fights become public when the president is involved, and especially public when the president prioritizes a policy. But the tactics themselves are not uncommon in Washington.
AIPAC will not operate alone. But it will lead the fight publicly, insisting on a “better deal” that requires Iran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and that it keep its commitments for far longer than a decade.