The stage at the 2017 AIPAC conference..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
More than a month after the US and five other nations struck a deal with Iran on its nuclear weapons program, the White House secured the backing of 34 senators in the Democratic caucus – the minimum needed to survive a vote of disapproval in Congress later this month.
AIPAC-sponsored TV commercials attacking the deal are still being aired in a number of states in America. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Texas Sen.
Ted Cruz, and conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck are planning a “Stop the Iran Deal” rally at the Capitol, on September 9, the day after Congress returns from recess.
And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would continue to speak out strongly against the agreement.
But the fight to stop the Iran deal is essentially over.
Many in Israel and in the US are now taking stock of the campaign against the deal. Some are claiming it was a mistake to launch a losing battle in the first place.
We strongly disagree on a number of levels.
Netanyahu and other political leaders in Israel and in the US who recognize the danger of a deal that enables the Islamic Republic to become a threshold nuclear state have a moral obligation to speak out. Failing to do so is a dereliction of duty.
The State of Israel was created in large part as a result of the lessons of the Second World War, one of them being that the Jewish people cannot rely on other nations for its protection and continuity. Rather they must be given the political and military means to protect themselves and determine their own destiny.
Opposition to the deal here in Israel is a rare consensus issue. Both on the Right and on the Left there is agreement that a nuclear-capable Iran or a regional nuclear arms race sparked by Iran’s designs for a nuclear weapon represents an existential threat to the Jewish state. This consensus should be articulated unabashedly and publicly at every opportunity on every available platform.
Whether or not the battle against the deal was doomed from the outset, Israel must use any means at its disposal to warn the world of the dangers of the deal out of a desire to amend the agreement, if not annul it altogether.
Netanyahu was criticized for publicly clashing with US President Barack Obama. A number of Israeli politicians in the opposition voiced the concern that doing so would endanger our relations with America.
However, both Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry have made it clear on a number of occasions that while they thought blocking the deal was a bad mistake, they respect Netanyahu’s fears and concerns. Both said they are looking forward to cooperating with Israel on hammering out a beefed-up security package that would ensure Israel’s military edge.
Criticism has also been leveled at AIPAC and other Jewish lobbyists for devoting so many resources to fighting the deal. First, it has been claimed that the organization risked undermining its bipartisan image. Second, it has been said that AIPAC undermined its own reputation as one of the most powerful lobbying groups on Capitol Hill.
But opposition to the deal is not a partisan issue. Republican opposition to the deal might be stronger. But a number of Democrats are opposed, as well such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. Also, polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans – including many Democrats – opposes the deal. And even when Democrats come out in favor they do so reservedly.
Past experience has shown that even when AIPAC loses a battle on Capitol Hill it does not risk its status as a bigleague lobbyist. In a 1981 a showdown with the Reagan administration, the most popular Republican administration among American Jews in recent history, AIPAC lost its fight against the sale of AWAC planes to the Saudis. Nevertheless, AIPAC made a name for itself as a force to be reckoned with at a time when it was still a young organization.
In 1991, AIPAC once again fought a losing battle, this time against the Bush administration’s decision to tie $10 billion in loan guarantees to a settlement freeze. Once again AIPAC suffered no drop in its influence in Washington.
Indeed, after both these incidents, donations to AIPAC increased along with its influence.
Leading an aggressive campaign against the Iran deal was the right thing to do both morally and tactically.
There are times in history when leaders must make a stand regardless of the chances for success. When the motives are pure, even opponents show respect.