Polls of Americans Jews have found that they tend to back the Iran deal in higher numbers than the general public. In July, a Jewish Journal survey found that 53% think Congress should approve the deal versus 35% who don’t. In contrast, a CNN poll that month found that 52% of Americans overall think Congress should reject the deal, while 44% say it should be approved.
Moreover, many Jewish Democrats in Congress — including California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz — have said they support the plan. However, the highest-ranking Jewish senator, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, said last week he opposes it.
And certain organized Jewish groups, such as AIPAC, are among the most vocal, and active, in their opposition to the deal. There are also Jewish groups, such as the liberal J Street, that have been lobbying for it to pass, though the $5 million they’ve allocated is dwarfed by AIPAC’s budget.
Both groups were among the 22 Jewish organizations whose leaders met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday night to discuss the Iran nuclear deal.
Several of those in attendance lodged complaints that the President’s arguments for the deal — including predicting war if Congress voids it — were damaging to American Jews and made a direct appeal that the debate over the Iran nuclear accord not be framed that way.
Obama responded that he was mindful and sensitive to those concerns but underscored that he truly believes that if the deal is struck down, war could be in short order. Several participants described the exchange as the most intense moment of the meeting.
On Wednesday, the President continued with that line of argument. “Let’s not mince words: The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some sort of war — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” he said.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest pushed back against the criticism of Obama’s line of attack — also leveled by many Republicans — in a press briefing Thursday.
Asked about the charge that Obama was painting opponents of the deal as warmongers, Earnest said the President was “pointing out a simple fact.”
He also said the President “is disappointed that too often critically important policy issues like this get reduced to whoever can spend the most amount of money advocating for or against it.”
Earnest emphasized that there were places of agreement between pro-Israel advocates and the White House.
“The concerns that some of the strongest supporters of Israel have about Iran are entirely justified,” Earnest said. “The President has those concerns.”
Obama himself also spoke in his address Wednesday about his attention to Israel’s perspective and his belief that this deal protects Israel as well as the United States.
“I have also listened to the Israeli security establishment, which warned of the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran for decades. In fact, they helped develop many of the ideas that ultimately led to this deal,” he said. “So to friends of Israel, and to the Israeli people, I say this: A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief.”
Foxman noted Obama’s deep conviction about the importance of getting the deal through Congress in discussing his strategy for achieving that result.
“The President feels very strongly on this — this is his legacy. And he’s using every weapon in the arsenal he’s got,” Foxman said. “But some of the arrows in his quiver might land in the wrong place.” ∞∞∞∞∞ MORE »»»»