The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (the largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella group) and the Rabbinical Council of America (the largest national rabbinic membership group) put out a statement today telling their memberships that they are “gravely concerned about the deal announced yesterday between the U.S. and its five negotiating partners and the Iranian regime.” The statement continues:
Given the gravity of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and this complex agreement, we did not—despite our skepticism—formulate a position or issue a policy statement about it immediately after President Obama announced the deal at 7:00 am on Tuesday. Rather, we took the time to read the agreement, hear from senior Obama Administration officials as well as Israeli leaders, and consider the analysis of experts in the field.
Our assessment of the agreement, and of the presentations by government officials and analysts, is driven by one fundamental question: Will the proposed agreement protect the security of the United States, Israel and our other allies?
By this standard, we have found the deal with Iran seriously wanting and will mobilize our member rabbis and synagogues throughout the nation to urge Congress to fulfill their mandate and disapprove the agreement.
This won’t be the only effort, but it is a significant one if for no other reason than geography. These groups have a large and politically active presence in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida, to name a few states. These are key Democratic strongholds where senators and representatives have sought and received support from these voters for years. Oh, and Hillary Clinton has often flashed her support for the state of Israel in seeking votes and support from this community both as a senator and as a presidential candidate. Given their spiritual devotion to the issue, expect them to write letters, show up at town halls and offices, and buttonhole representatives. Look for them also to carry this issue into the 2016 election.
The reasons they cite for their opposition are telling, and not coincidentally in line with the misgivings many key Democrats have already expressed:
First, the inspections regime is insufficient to ensure Iran cannot cheat and surreptitiously develop nuclear weapons, despite President Obama’s promise that the deal would be subject to the toughest verification and inspections in the world. This agreement falls far short of providing “anytime, anywhere” inspections by IAEA monitors. Moreover, the agreement gives Iran the ability to deflect inspections at a site for enough time (more than 3 weeks) to remove and hide materiel it does not want discovered.
Second, President Obama asserted that “we are giving up nothing” by testing Iran’s compliance with the deal. However, under this agreement Iran will receive billions of dollars in funds that it can use to fuel even more terrorism and destabilizing activities across the globe.
While the Orthodox community is large, it is a fraction of the pro-Israel community, in which evangelicals make up the largest part. The importance of this issue to the pro-Israel community cannot be overstated. It dwarfs previous issues such as the sale of AWACs (Airborne Warning and Control System) to Saudi Arabia. The question is whether the Democratic Party cares or whether there remains only one party that takes seriously the interests of a strong Israel and a close Israel-U.S. relationship.