PM to make direct appeal to US Jews in bid to thwart Iran deal

Netanyahu and Jewish groups team up for virtual ‘town hall’ format, with PM taking questions from audience on nuclear deal

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

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to ABC News on the Iran nuclear deal, July 19, 2015 (screenshot: ABC)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to ABC News on the Iran nuclear deal, July 19, 2015 (screenshot: ABC)

WASHINGTON – In the latest of a series of attempts to persuade US voters to push their legislators to reject the Iran nuclear deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver an address to the North American Jewish community next week to discuss the agreement, which he staunchly opposes.

The announcement, issued by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, comes a day after President Barack Obama held a mass conference call with supporters of the deal, to rally them behind the controversial agreement.

According to Conference of Presidents, Netanyahu will address US and Canadian Jewish communities through a live webcast on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to delivering remarks, the prime minister will also take questions from participants.

In a virtual twist on a town hall meeting, the Conference of Presidents and Jewish Federations in the US and Canada are encouraging participants to join the call through computers and cell phones as well as through group viewings at Jewish institutions.

“The prime minister will deliver remarks directly from his office in Jerusalem, which will be transmitted to computers, cell phones and flat screens set up in synagogues, organizations and Jewish community centers large and small throughout the continent,” the Conference of Presidents said in an announcement Friday afternoon.

Participation is free, and participants can register in advance online.

“The issues involved with the Iran nuclear agreement are complex and of great consequence to the North American Jewish population,” said Stephen M. Greenberg, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We welcome this unique opportunity to present the prime minister, who has helped bring these vital issues to public attention.”

Conference of Presidents has hosted a number of information sessions on the deal, while its leaders have continued to express skepticism on some of the terms of the agreement reached in mid-July between Iran and the P5+1 member states. The Conference of Presidents is an umbrella organization that represents dozens of Jewish groups across the political spectrum, counting among its members both supporters and opponents of the agreement.

The Jewish Federations of North America, the event’s co-sponsor, has also had a delicate balancing act regarding positioning on the issue.

Some local federations have issued statements opposing the deal, while others have chosen to remain neutral as the agreement is debated in the halls of Congress.

“There is no doubt that at this time, the worldwide community is in the midst of a historic moment,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Board of The Jewish Federations of North America. “Federation communities throughout the continent have been actively engaged on this issue for years, and they understand the complexities of these important discussions. We appreciate the opportunity to allow our constituents to engage with the prime minister directly in what will no doubt be an informative and enlightening session.”

The American Jewish community is seen as a key barometer for the fate of the deal, as Congress enjoys a 60-day review period of the agreement, before a crucial vote on a resolution of disapproval or approval in September. A number of Jewish organizations, including the Orthodox Union, have called on members to lobby their representatives to oppose the agreement, which critics say does not prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear power in the long-term.

Other organizations, like the American Jewish Committee, say that they are still reviewing the details of the agreement, and have yet to determine an official stance on it.

J Street has been at the vanguard of the deal’s advocates, quickly announcing its support for the agreement and arguing that it presents the best opportunity to rein in Iran’s spinning centrifuges. The leftist lobbying organization was one of the participants in the Thursday afternoon conference call with Obama, during which the president warned against the power of mega-donors who opposed the deal and called on supporters to speak up in support of the agreement.

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