AIPAC Pushes Tough Line on Iran as Nuclear Thaw Picks Up Pace

Will Abortive Syria Battle Affect Lobby's Effort?

Charmer? AIPAC plans to push back hard in the face of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive. Will the group’s stumble on Syria affect its new effort?
Getty Images
Charmer? AIPAC plans to push back hard in the face of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive. Will the group’s stumble on Syria affect its new effort?

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 27, 2013, issue of October 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Emerging from a losing and ultimately aborted congressional battle to win approval of military action against Syria, the mainstream pro-Israel lobby is now launching a new drive to set the terms for a potential nuclear deal between the United States and Iran.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is launching its campaign — one much closer to its core concern — in reaction to the flurry of communiqués that Iranian leaders have unleashed lately. In their diplomatic and media offensive, the Iranians have announced their keenness to negotiate a mutually agreeable solution to the related problems of international sanctions against their country and Western opposition to their nuclear program.

AIPAC’s initial response to Iran’s diplomatic blitz has been less than welcoming: Its lobbyists have initiated an effort in Congress to mandate a new set of tougher sanctions against Iran, while the group has warned publicly against showing too much flexibility before Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rowhani, backs up his words with deeds.

“Pleasant rhetoric will not suffice,” the lobby declared in a September 20 memo to its supporters. “If Iran fails to act, sanctions must be increased.”

AIPAC has viewed Iran’s nuclear program as a key concern for the past two decades and has dedicated much of its lobbying activity to the issue. It has, in fact, been the main supporter of most of the U.S. sanctions legislation targeting Iran, and has spoken out about the need to keep a military option prominently on the table when dealing with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

But the powerful lobby is entering this latest battle in a delicate position. The recent showdown over authorizing military action against Syria highlighted the deep aversion that the administration, Congress and the American public currently harbor toward the use of force in the Middle East, even in response to Syria’s apparent deployment in August of prohibited chemical weapons against civilians. The way the campaign played out made clear the strong preference that all these players now give to diplomacy and compromise.

AIPAC is banking that attitudes will be different when it comes to Iran. Pro-Israel activists say they remain confident that Americans will understand the need for maintaining a tough policy toward that country’s development of its nuclear program, which they argue threatens not just Israel, but also the West. They cite, among other things, a long record of congressional support for a hard-line approach to Iran, and years of public advocacy aimed at explaining the danger of a nuclear Iran to the American public.

“The Iranian issue is different than the Syrian one,” said Seymour Reich, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Reich, who favors diplomatic engagement with Iran, believes that the American public will accept the pro-Israel community’s adherence to a policy of “trust but verify,” as formulated at the time by President Ronald Reagan when negotiating with the Soviet Union. The Jewish community’s support for military action against Syria, he added, did not cost it any credibility and will not diminish its ability to advocate now for caution when engaging with Iran. “I haven’t seen any adverse reaction to the Jewish community’s support for the president on Syria,” he said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.