NEW YORK — European leaders have reservations and concerns about the Iran nuclear deal, but have reluctantly followed Washington’s enthusiastic lead, according to Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations.
Hoenlein, who routinely meets statesmen across the globe, told a meeting with the Israel Diplomatic Correspondents Association on Thursday that he knows firsthand that Israel and the Gulf states are not alone in their apprehension over the Iran deal. European prime ministers and foreign ministers — including from countries that are part of the so-called P5+1 group (the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) that negotiated the accord – are “very uncomfortable with this deal,” he maintained.
According to Hoenlein, these leaders told him in private meetings that they objected to many of the agreement’s provisions but that the US took the lead, and they followed. “Unfortunately, they are not courageous enough, obviously, to say that in the negotiations,” he said.
“What the Europeans say essentially is that we gave this over the United States. The US took over the leadership and they’re responsible,” he added. “This deal that looks like everybody was a cheerleader for – [but] they are expressing their reservations in private.”
Still, Hoenlein said opposition to the deal must be carefully thought out, lest it deepen the rift between Israel and the US.
“The fact is, though, that it doesn’t matter anymore because it’s a done deal, and we have to deal with the fact that this exists and we have to be careful about how we do this. We don’t want a rupture in US-Israel relations over this,” he said.
US President Barack Obama, in a speech Hoenlein characterized as “very troubling,” on Wednesday said Israel was the only country in the world to publicly oppose the deal, pointing out that that the United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed it.
Secretary of State John Kerry last Friday embarked on a Middle East tour aimed at reassuring the Gulf states, who see Iran as a threat to both their own national security and to the stability of an already shaky Middle East.
On Thursday, the US State Department issued a statement saying that the 10 member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations and Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand “welcomed” the Iran deal on the occasion of an international summit in Malaysia.