Debbie Wasserman Schultz Squeezed Hard as Iran Sanctions Fight Heats Up

Florida Democrat Caught Between Obama and Jewish Leaders

Divided Loyalty: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a strong supporter of Israel and its agenda. But she is also the head of the Democratic National Committee — and was put there by President Obama.
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Divided Loyalty: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a strong supporter of Israel and its agenda. But she is also the head of the Democratic National Committee — and was put there by President Obama.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 21, 2014.
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According to a source in touch with both Wasserman Schultz and AIPAC, Wasserman Schultz sought out the lobby’s leaders about this when both were together at the funeral of former prime minister Ariel Sharon early in January. The AIPAC leaders assured her there that they were not targeting her, this source said.

Meanwhile, a video ad produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel, a conservative pro-Israel organization led by Republican William Kristol, is much more aggressive. “She says she’s pro-Israel,” the ad states. “She says she’s tough on Iran, so why is she against bipartisan Iran sanctions?” asks the ad, which was aired in Wasserman Schultz’s South Florida congressional district. Inside the Beltway, Adam Kredo, a journalist with the Washington Free Beacon, a favorite news source for Washington conservatives, has kept up the drum beat from the right with stories highlighting Wasserman Schultz’s role in the congressional debate.

“Senior congressional aides…say that Wasserman Schultz’s behind-the-scenes bid to stymie the Iran resolution has become problematic for bipartisan supporters of a robust sanctions regime,” Kredo reported. “’People are talking about it,’ said one senior Capitol Hill insider familiar with the sanctions negotiations. ‘Sources in the Jewish Federation network in Florida are saying this too; she’s not been very helpful.’”

Through all of this, Wasserman Schultz, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has resolutely avoided speaking out publicly on this issue.

Her spokeswoman, Mara Sloan, said in a statement that Schultz “has been a strong supporter of sanctions against Iran and will continue to be.” Sloan listed all the Iran sanctions bills that Wasserman Schultz supported and co-sponsored in the past and said she “remains a staunch proponent of stricter sanctions against Iran as a deterrent to their nuclear weapons ambitions.”

But Sloan would not address the question of Wasserman Schultz’s position on the current sanctions legislation.

“It’s significant that such a massive onslaught seems not to be working,” said Dylan Williams director of government affairs at the dovish-leaning J Street lobby, of the push against the congresswoman.

But will Wasserman Schultz, who has always been closer to AIPAC than to J Street, pay a personal political price for working against AIPAC on this issue?

“No,” predicted Wexler, “Debbie will come out of this debate just fine.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman


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