Jewish Groups Split as Iran Deal Looms — J Street Backs White House

Pro-Israel Groups Uneasy as Bibi Slams 'Historic Mistake'

Backing Barack: J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami addresses the dovish group’s recent convention.
j street
Backing Barack: J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami addresses the dovish group’s recent convention.

By Reuters

Published November 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Jewish groups were split Friday over a possible nuclear deal with Iran as the White House called Israeli and Saudi criticism premature and unease about the plan grew among U.S. lawmakers and Middle Eastern allies.

“There is no deal, but there is an opportunity here for a possible diplomatic solution, and that is exactly what the president is pursuing,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama on Air Force One to New Orleans.

“So any critique of the deal is premature,” Earnest said.

Criticism also begun bubbling up from some leading pro-Israel groups in Washington. White House officials met some of the more hawkish American Jewish leaders last week but failed to win broad support for a pause in further sanctions against Iran.

“Any deal that breathes life back into Iran’s economy in return for token and superficial moves that put Tehran no further from nuclear breakout … appears to be a horrific strategic error,” said Josh Block, chief executive officer of The Israel Project, a non-partisan, pro-Israel organization.

J Street, a more liberal lobbying group, took a different tack, urging supporters on its website to “tell your senators: don’t undermine Iran negotiations with new sanctions.”

There was no immediate comment on the Geneva talks from the largest and most influential pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

Tehran, engaged in a critical round of talks in Geneva with the United States and five other world powers, is seeking relief from financial sanctions imposed by America and the European Union that have slashed its oil sales, severely hurting its economy.

Obama said on Thursday that he was open to “modest relief” on sanctions if Iran halts advancements on its nuclear program as talks on a permanent deal continue.

Asked about sharp criticism of the proposals by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Earnest said the United States and close ally Israel were “in complete agreement about the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Washington and its allies believe Tehran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for seeking the ability to make a weapon, a charge Iran denies.

Netanyahu warned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his European counterparts that Iran would be getting “the deal of the century” if they carried out proposals to grant Tehran limited, temporary sanctions relief in exchange for a partial suspension of, and pledge not to expand, its nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia also has complained bitterly about the U.S. thaw in relations with Shi’ite Muslim Iran, the main regional rival of the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

PUSH FOR FURTHER SANCTIONS

U.S. lawmakers have threatened to slap new sanctions on Iran even as the talks in Geneva have appeared to progress, despite White House appeals to hold off while it tests the diplomatic waters.

Kerry made an unscheduled trip to Geneva to try to help bridge what he said were “important gaps” in the negotiations, which appeared likely to be extended into Saturday.

The Senate banking committee may introduce a bill with new sanctions on Iran’s oil sales after similar legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in July. And some Republicans are considering introducing a package of tighter Iran sanctions as an amendment to a defense authorization bill that is expected to be debated next month.

“We need to see the details, but if there really is a deal this bad, lawmakers are going to have to explore their options,” a senior aide to a senator said on Friday. Pro-Israel sentiment runs high on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.

Eric Cantor, majority leader in the Republican-controlled House, said the emerging deal in Geneva would fall short if it failed to completely halt Iran’s nuclear program.

“We should not race to accept a bad deal, but should keep up the pressure until the Iranians are willing to make significant concessions,” 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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.