ADL, AIPAC worried by Iran deal; J Street set to push it

American Jewish groups turn their focus to coming Congressional battle over nuclear agreement hailed by Obama, loathed by Netanyahu

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Abraham Foxman (courtesy: ADL)
Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Abraham Foxman (courtesy: ADL)

WASHINGTON — American Jewish and pro-Israel groups turned their focus toward Capitol Hill Tuesday morning after waking to the long-anticipated announcement that an agreement had been signed between Iran and the P5+1 member states. A number of organization expressed concern over the deal, even as they offered muted congratulations to the Obama administration for its efforts in securing a negotiated agreement with Iran.

Many of the major organizations representing the American Jewish community and Middle East policy positions are expected to begin a lobbying blitz over the next two months as Congress reviews the Iran deal. J Street, Americans for Peace Now and the National Iranian American Council are all expected to push, together with the administration, for Congress to okay the deal, while statements issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others indicated that those organizations will ultimately push for the deal’s rejection.

The ADL expressed “serious concern about shortcomings” in the agreement.

ADL National Chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher and National Director Abraham H. Foxman wrote in a statement that after a preliminary review, they “are deeply disappointed by the terms of the final deal with Iran announced today which seem to fall far short of the President’s objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.”

“The thrust of the deal relies entirely on Iran’s good faith and the ability of the IAEA to effectively carry out its inspection obligations,” the two complained.

The ADL leaders noted that while the administration and its negotiators “invested a formidable amount of effort in securing a respite from the most immediate threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action does not prevent it for the long term.”

After listing concerns with the enforcibility of the deal, Curtiss-Lusher and Foxman turned their focus toward Congress, calling on legislators to “carefully scrutinize this agreement and weigh the concerns of non-proliferation experts, assess the national security implications for the US in light of Iran’s destabilizing and deadly meddling in conflicts throughout the region and consider the views of America’s allies and friends in the region.”

The two included a call for civility – urging “an open and respectful consideration that rejects partisan or ad hominem attacks on the intent or the character of proponents on either side of the issues.”

Even among those groups which were less strident in expressing disappointment, enthusiasm for the deal seemed muted if present at all, with many emphasizing the need for careful Congressional review – a process that is likely to begin Tuesday and last for the next two months.

The American Jewish Committee’s Executive Director David Harris emphasized that “it is now incumbent on the United States Congress, pursuant to the provisions of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, to thoroughly review, debate, and, ultimately, vote it up or down.”

Noting that “the nuclear deal concluded in Vienna does not appear to address other extremely troubling aspects of Iranian behavior,” including its intercontinental ballistic missile program, its calls for the annihilation of Israel and “death to America,” Tehran’s direct involvement in state-sponsored terror, its repression of human rights, and its regional aspirations, Harris said that in the coming days, his organization “will be commenting further on the just-announced deal, and sharing our views with Members of Congress, once we’ve had the opportunity to better understand its details.

Many groups offered a tripartite message of appreciation for the administration’s efforts, concern over the deal’s contents, and a call for Congress to exercise close review of the agreement.

“We appreciate the administration’s efforts and hard work over the course of the negotiations,” AIPAC wrote in a statement issued Tuesday morning. “We also recognize the critical role that Congress will now play in approving or disapproving the proposed agreement.”

AIPAC wrote that it was “deeply concerned” that the agreement does not meet five requirements that the organization described as “critical for a good deal.”

“We are deeply concerned based on initial reports that this proposed agreement may not meet these requirements, and thereby would fail to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror,” the organization warned. “As the administration has agreed, now is the time for Congress to carefully review all elements of the proposed agreement to ensure that Iran is verifiably prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon.”

American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen issued a statement striking for its similar message, saying that “while we appreciate the diplomatic efforts,” the organization “remains concerned about the threat of a nuclear Iran in the relatively near future, and its undiminished capacity to support violence in the region.”

Rosen added that “the American people expect the United States Congress to engage in a robust, thorough review of this deal, and to provide its own assessment regarding the agreement’s impact on the security of the United States, its regional allies and the entire world.”

JStreetLogo (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
JStreetLogo (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

J Street responded to the announcement with cautious optimism, describing the outcome of negotiations as a “successful conclusion” and saying that it “welcomes news of the agreement,” while acknowledging that “the deal is complex and multi-faceted, and it will take some time to analyze all its features.”

Still, the organization which has supported the administration’s efforts to negotiate with Iran, emphasized that “from what we have seen so far and what we have learned from President Barack Obama and the negotiators, this agreement appears to accurately reflect the parameters set forth in the April 2 framework,” adding that the deal “also appears to meet the critical criteria around which a consensus of US and international non-proliferation experts has formed for a deal that verifiably blocks each of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.”

J Street officials anticipate that after conducting their own review of the deal, the organization will call on members of Congress to support the deal, with the group warning that “likely consequences” of a Congressional rejection of the agreement would include “a collapse of diplomacy and international sanctions as Iran pushes forward with a nuclear program unimpeded.”

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