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Like many other countries, Israel disputes Iran’s insistence that its program is solely for peaceful purposes. Iran, which has called for Israel’s liquidation as a Jewish state, has defied several U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on it to suspend its enrichment of uranium — a process crucial to both civilian and military nuclear uses — until it satisfactorily addresses questions raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body charged with monitoring civilian nuclear programs under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. (Israel, which itself possesses nuclear weapons, is not a signatory to this treaty.)
Pro-Israel organizations have been huddling with the administration ever since the ground breaking interim agreement was signed with Iran on November 23. In conference calls and private phone conversations, White House and State Department officials sought to address many of the Jewish community’s concerns. At the same time administration officials have sent a clear message that pursuing new sanctions against Iran during the interim period would not just put at risk the agreement already achieved it would also break apart the international coalition dealing with Iran, making any future global sanction moves more difficult.
On one such call, with deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken and under secretary of treasury for terrorism David Cohen, questions from Jewish federation and Jewish Community Relations Council activists reflected to a great extent the talking point Israel had put out in the days following the Geneva signing ceremony. The Jewish leaders voiced strong skepticism over the deal, with one caller reading out Iran’s violations of Security Council resolutions, another questioning the wisdom of loosening pressure on Iran, and several others seeking explanation for the administration’s request to halt new sanction activity.
A similar call took place with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations. Both were declared as off-the-record conversations.
Administration officials, mainly from the National Security Council, also reached out to Jewish organizational leaders personally to brief them on the accord and on the road ahead in dealing with Iran.
The concerns raised in these conversations reflected the overall distress among many mainstream Jewish leaders over the compromise with Iran. But they do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader Jewish community. The recent survey by the Pew Center for Research, although it was conducted before negotiations with Iran began, found that 52% of American Jews support President Obama’s handling of the nuclear crisis with Iran. An American Jewish Committee poll this year revealed that Jewish Americans are growing less supportive of the use of military force to resolve the nuclear conflict with Iran.