The debate regarding the proposed nuclear deal with Iran reminded me of a meeting I participated in with Daniel Kurtzer, then U.S. Ambassador to Israel under George W. Bush, at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in 2007. Though I’ve been to Israel several times, both before and after, our meeting stood out in my memory, helping me to separate politics from facts in considering the proposed nuclear deal.
The purpose of my 2007 visit to Israel was to join a delegation from Americans for Peace Now in a series of meetings with politicians, experts, analysts, and activists from across the spectrum of Israeli public and political opinion. Our group heard of the many challenges and possible solutions to the significant security, demographic, water, and civil issues that Israel faced. This trip to Israel and our meetings left me better informed, and even more motivated to devote my energies to defending Israel’s security and its essential Jewish and democratic character. Toward the end of our weeklong visit we met with Ambassador Kurtzer.
What we expected would be a half-hour meeting ended up being much longer. I found the depth and breadth of his knowledge impressive on a wide range of topics, and deeply informative. I especially appreciated the lack of politicization of his opinions. He wasn’t siding with any political party or position but those of long-term U.S. and Israeli strategic interests.
With this background, I found Ambassador Kurtzer’s recent article on CNN so notable in his decisive support of the proposed pact with Iran. He said, “What has emerged from the P5+1-led effort … is a sound arms control agreement – surely not perfect, but a set of intrusive and extensive measures that will hamstring any Iranian effort to break out for at least a decade, even longer. By all yardsticks, this is a very strong accomplishment.”
As is well known, if the agreement is violated by Iran, the international coalition will retain the cohesiveness and mechanism to re-impose the coordinated international sanctions, which brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. I find these arguments very convincing.
Joining Ambassador Kurtzer in support of the proposed deal are 60 U.S. national security leaders, more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors and more than 70 European political, diplomatic and military leadership figures. More recently, twenty-nine of the nation’s top nuclear scientists and engineers wrote to President Obama on Aug. 8, 2015 in support of the deal. These experts focus on the facts and consequences of the proposed deal while leaving politicized, ideological and funding based considerations to the lobbyists and pundits.
As a recent USA Today editorial pointed out, those who reject the proposed deal are living in a fantasy land. These opponents contend if the proposed deal fails the talks will just re-start and lead to a better deal while the international coalition and its coordinated sanctions can be maintained. Both of these conclusions are baseless and deeply flawed. They also ignore the inevitable consequence that Iran would then be free to pursue development of nuclear weapons.
These vital considerations are foremost in the minds of the many Israeli security, military and nuclear Israelis who support the proposed deal. Two particular voices stand out: the former head of the Mossad, Efraim Halevy, who wrote that under the pact Iran is “forced to agree to an invasive and unique monitoring regime, which is unparalleled around the world ...” and the former head of the Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, who said that “when it comes to Iran's nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option ..." Their opinions are based on hard facts, not political posturing, and carefully weighed consequences.
A growing number of U.S. House and Senate members have declared their support and issued substantive, thoughtful statements, which explain their decisions. These senators and representatives set an example of responsible leadership and courage on a grave national, and Israeli, security question.
Recent polls show that a strong majority of American Jews support the deal. One poll found that 53 percent of American Jews want Congress to support the deal. Another poll found that 60 percent of American Jews both support the Iran deal and want Congress to approve it.
I deeply hope that American Jews and members of Congress follow Ambassador Kurtzer’s lead, do the right thing and declare their support for the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. There are no feasible alternatives which serve Israeli and U.S. strategic and security interests better.
Mark Silverberg of Moreland Hills is a member of the board of directors and secretary/treasurer of Americans for Peace Now.