We support the Iran Deal

For more than a decade, we’ve been told that an Iran with nuclear weapons would pose not only a grave threat to Israel, but an imminent threat to Israel’s existence.
July 29, 2015

For more than a decade, we’ve been told that an Iran with nuclear weapons would pose not only a grave threat to Israel, but an imminent threat to Israel’s existence. For this reason, for more than a decade we’ve been pressing U.S. presidents and Congress to take action to address this threat.  The Iran nuclear agreement achieved by the United States and its negotiating partners does just that.  

Yet the LA Federation, following in the footsteps of AIPAC, has come out firmly against the agreement.  It claims, among other things, that it opposes the deal because the deal “threatens the mission of our Federation…to support a secure State of Israel.”

We deeply disagree.  As American Jews who are deeply connected to and supportive of Israel, we support this deal, and urge our community leaders and elected officials to do the same. 

While we recognize that there are some very reasonable reservations about the deal – in particular the risk that lifting sanctions will lead to an increase in Iran’s support for terrorism and concerns over how Iran exiting the sanctions “penalty box” will affect regional power dynamics – we believe, fundamentally, that this is a good agreement for both the U.S. and Israel, and that it must be given every chance to succeed.  

Negotiations are not a zero sum game. They involve a process of give and take, yielding a balance of achievements, compromises, and costs for non-compliance under which all parties to the resulting agreement have a clear interest in living up to their obligations.

The achievements of this deal for the U.S. – and Israel – are clear: moving Iran away from the nuclear threshold; extending the “break-out” period for Iran to develop nuclear weapons from a few months to at least a year; and imposing unprecedented limits on Iran’s nuclear activities. In doing so, this deal removes the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran for 10-15 years, and rolls back and limits that threat going forward. Arguing that this deal clears the way for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon is simply not credible.

Certainly there are risks – most worryingly the risk that Iran will try to cheat and pursue a nuclear weapons program. That is why this deal is grounded not on trust but on an unprecedented, far-reaching monitoring and inspections regime.

Make no mistake: blocking this deal in Congress – as the Federation and AIPAC want – will not reduce the Iranian nuclear threat, nor will it open the way for a “better deal.” Rather, it will assure the collapse of international sanctions on Iran, increasing the genuine threat posed by Iran in the region and beyond. It will undermine U.S. credibility, sending a message that Congress’ real goal is regime change, not curbing Iran’s nuclear program. And it will bolster Iranian hardliners who argue that Iran must develop a nuclear weapon to deter military attack by the U.S. and Israel.  Scuttling this agreement will, in short order, reduce the options for the U.S. and the world to either accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or going to war. 

In calling for Congress to reverse this diplomatic achievement, the Federation, AIPAC, and other like-minded Jewish community groups are promoting a hardline, misguided position that, while consistent with the position of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, is unrepresentative of American Jewish views – views the Federation claims to represent. A national poll sponsored by the Jewish Journal in the days after the deal was announced found that 53% of American Jews want Congress to approve the deal and 35% oppose. 

Back when he was Defense Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak said, “The lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within the historic Land of Israel – and not an Iranian bomb – is the most serious threat to Israel's future.”  Former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin has said that “The implications of no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict pose a bigger existential threat than the ones of a nuclear Iran.” And all six of the surviving former chiefs of the Shin Bet spoke out emphatically in the Gatekeepers on the terrible costs to Israel of maintaining the occupation. 

If the Federation is truly concerned about supporting “a secure State of Israel,” we urge it to repudiate its misguided opposition to the Iran deal and at the same time speak out, belatedly, against Israeli policies that deepen the occupation – like expanding settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes in the West Bank – and in support of urgently reaching a two-state solution.

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