President Obama addressed the American Jewish community to defend the Iran nuclear deal and express support for Israel, calling the disagreement an argument ‘within the family’
President Obama last Friday compared tensions between the US and Israel over the Iranian nuclear deal to a family feud and said he expects quick improvements in ties between the longtime allies once the accord is implemented.
The president’s comments came as momentum for the nuclear accord grew on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will vote next month on a resolution to disapprove of the deal. Democratic Senator Tom Carper became the 30th senator to publicly back the agreement, saying last Friday that it was a good deal for America and for allies like Israel.
“Like all families, sometimes there are going to be disagreements,” Obama said in a webcast with Jewish Americans. “And sometimes people get angrier about disagreements in families than with folks that aren’t family.”
The webcast was hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and The Jewish Federations of North America. Organizers said thousands of people participated and questions submitted online were selected by the moderators.
If Senate Democrats can amass 41 votes in favor of the deal, they could block passage of the disapproval resolution. Obama has vowed to veto the resolution if it passes, and Democrats could hold off Republican efforts to override his veto if they get 34 votes — just four more than they have now.
The looming congressional confrontation has sparked a summer of intense debate between supporters and opponents of the nuclear accord.
The president encouraged skeptics of the agreement to “overcome the emotions” that have infused the debate and evaluate the accord based on facts.
“I would suggest that in terms of the tone of this debate everybody keep in mind that we’re all pro-Israel,” he said. “We have to make sure that we don’t impugn people’s motives.”
While Obama was measured in his remarks last Friday, he has spoken passionately about the nuclear accord in the past, accusing those who oppose the deal of supporting war over diplomacy.
Earlier on Friday, his spokesman equated an anti-deal rally Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz plan to hold next month to a “pro-war rally.”
Obama also infuriated congressional Republicans earlier this month when he compared opponents of the agreement to Iranian hardliners who chant “Death to America” in the streets of Tehran.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said last Friday that Republicans were still waiting for the president to retract that assertion.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the fiercest critics of the nuclear agreement, took part in a similar webcast hosted by the same organizations earlier this month. While Obama and Netanyahu have never had a warm relationship, the Iran deal has deeply strained ties between the leaders.
Local Jewish leaders immediately responded to the President’s remarks on Friday with hard facts on the disastrous consequences that the Iran nuclear deal would have on both America and Israel. Helen Freedman, the executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) told the media in a written statement, “President Obama’s rhetoric only disguises the fact that Iran is already at war with Israel and America. Beginning with the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981, and continuing with U.S. Embassy bombings in Beirut and Kuwait in 1983 and 1984, the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983, the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli Embassy and Community Center in Buenos Aires, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and starting in 2003- 2014, the Iranian support for America’s enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is ample evidence for America’s 1984 designation of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. “
She added that, “Americans are being hoodwinked by a President whose motives can be examined, but whose actions leave no room for doubt. The “deal” is the path to Iran’s nuclear power and its ability to terrorize the world with the infusion of $150 billion dollars. Obama has indeed put Iran in the driver’s seat, and this highway leads to danger and destruction. Our only hope is a Congress that is wise enough and courageous enough to overwhelmingly denounce this deal.”
For his part, Obama said once the nuclear accord is implemented, he expects “pretty quick” improvements in US-Israeli relations. He called for resuming talks with Israel over ways to boost its security in a dangerous neighborhood.
In the weeks following completion of the nuclear deal, Israeli officials have reportedly resisted discussing increased security assistance with the US because they say such talks would imply acceptance of the accord.