US Reform movement: We can’t choose sides on Iran

Rabbis, lay leaders say all those with opinions must rein in the rhetoric. "We must consider the day after," they added.

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With Fellow EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal (photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)
Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With Fellow EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal
“There is simply no clarity that would support taking a position ‘for’ or ‘against’” the Iranian nuclear accord, the leaders of the American Reform Movement’s main institution organs asserted on Wednesday.
In a joint statement, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Association of Reform Zionists of America declined to take sides in the debate, instead asking American Jews to consider the “day after” and the repercussions of an acrimonious debate both upon communal cohesion and American-Israeli relations.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed upon in Vienna and currently up for review before Congress is “challenging to analyze,” the groups’ leaders wrote, citing arguments both for and against legislative approval.
“We recognize that these arguments have merit: The JCPOA does present a way forward, there are real dangers to rejecting it, and it does not foreclose Iran’s ability to become a nuclear weapons threshold state.”
The Reform leaders said the movement’s main concerns were how to address the concerns of those critical of the agreement, what will happen after an agreement is finalized, and how to maintain a strong US-Israel relationship.
“At this time, there is no unity of opinion among the Reform Movement leadership – lay and rabbinic alike – just as there is not unity among our membership as to the JCPOA itself; but there is unity as to the important questions and concerns we pose in this statement,” they explained.
Aside from concerns over the agreement itself, they expressed concern over the possibility that Israel’s security would become a partisan issue as well as the “tension, and the harsh rhetoric, in the discourse between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu,” stating that they hoped that the two leaders would take “concrete steps, transcending politics, to repair the rifts that impede this relationship between longstanding and essential allies.”
Whether the accord is approved or not, it is important to remember that there will be a day after, the continued, calling it essential that the debate not create a “rift” between Israel and the US or between American Jews and Israelis.
“We are concerned, as well, with the possibility that some will use the debate as fuel for anti-Semitic views,” they wrote.
“When our people gather in a little less than a month for the High Holy Days, members who support the deal will pray alongside those who do not. If the harsh judgments and rhetoric continue between Washington and Jerusalem – and within our American Jewish community – we will be deprived of a deep commonality that binds our people together. Calling those who oppose the deal “war mongers” shuts shown constructive debate; calling those who support the deal “enablers of a second Holocaust” ends thoughtful discourse.”
According to the Reform leaders the deal does have“serious limitations” and they enumerated several concerns regarding deterrence, Iranian terrorism, inspections and other issues.
Among other things, they recommended that the US issue a strong statement that it will not take any options off the table to prevent Iran from going nuclear and that it will never accept a Tehran with atomic weapons and called upon Washington to “work with our European allies to ensure that harsh international sanctions will be adopted if Iran leverages its newfound resources to further fund terror activity.”
If Iran violates the inspections regime, they added, the administration should commit to “imposing significant additional consequences” in addition to “snap back” sanctions.
Moreover, the United States should upgrade its military aid to Israel and suggested, among other possibilities, the creation of a formal alliance “similar to NATO” between the two countries.
For the most part, Jewish organizations have come out against the deal while the majority of American Jews polled have been supportive.