Jewish Groups Back Away From All-Out Fight Over Iran Nuclear Deal

Seek To Influence Final Pact, Despite Israel Opposition

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By Nathan Guttman

Published November 27, 2013, issue of December 06, 2013.
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More recently, a CNN/ORC poll taken shortly before the interim agreement was reached, indicated that the broader American public supported the prospective accord, whose broad outlines were already public. In the poll of 843 adults, conducted between November 18 and November 20, 56% of said they would favor an international agreement that would ease some sanctions on Iran and impose major restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program but not end it completely. Thirty-nine percent were opposed to this. The survey’s overall sampling error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The Jewish groups’ change of tone was influenced by the administration’s efforts to defuse tensions with them and recognition among communal leaders that a head-to-head clash with the administration, and with American public opinion, would be futile. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which sets the course for most of the pro-Israel community by virtue of to its size and influence, reflected the shift in messaging in a statement it issued on November 25. In its statement, AIPAC dialed down its opposition on the two key factors that have set Israel and the Obama administration apart.

On the question of requiring new sanctions during the six-month interim period, AIPAC broke with the Israeli position and is no longer advocating for immediate increase in sanctions on Iran. Instead, it supports a move by Democratic and some Republican senators to pass new legislation but ensure it only kicks in only if Iran violates the Geneva agreement.

Looking forward to the discussion over Iran’s future civilian nuclear program under the expected final agreement, AIPAC is now defining its red line as insisting the United States “deny Tehran a nuclear weapons capability” — a vague term that falls short of Israel’s demand for “zero enrichment” by Iran of uranium for its nuclear production.

In the run up to the Geneva accord the lobby had led the way with an advocacy drive for immediate sanctions despite the administration’s opposition to the move.

AIPAC did not give up its criticism of the deal. Its statement quoted lawmakers describing the dangers it entails and cited what the pro-Israel lobby viewed as shortcomings in the compromise.


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