It’s Past Time to Retire the Myth that American Jews Didn’t Support the JCPOA

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Benjy Cannon
on January 4, 2017

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Despite ample data to the contrary, the myth that American Jews and Israelis opposed the Iran agreement continues to find currency in some circles. Most American Jews supported the Iran agreement and voted to that effect in 2016. As we head into a period where the Iran agreement may find itself challenged by opponents in Congress and the administration, the media should take care to accurately represent the Jewish and pro-Israel community’s support for the JCPOA.

This time – somewhat ironically –  the charge came in a Washington Post fact-check by Glenn Kessler about Kerry’s speech. When “fact-checking” Kerry’s claim during his speech last week that “no American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s,” Kessler wrote the following:

Kerry backs this up by citing military exercises, support for the Iron Dome defense system and a recently concluded $38 billion, 10-year military assistance program. But he does not mention Israel’s deep skepticism of the Iranian nuclear deal, which supporters of Israel say will weaken its long-term security  if, despite administration assurances to the contrary, it ends up providing Tehran with a path to a nuclear weapon.

There are some troubling distortions and oversimplifications in this answer.

First of all, Kessler cites Israel’s “deep skepticism” of the Iran deal. It’s worth parsing this further. While Prime Minister Netanyahu and his far-right government certainly oppose the Iran agreement, many of Israel’s leading security experts recognize that the deal improved Israel’s security. This includes Uzi Eilam, the former Director General of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot and Former head of Israeli Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin. It’s misleading to imply that Israel as a whole opposes the deal when it enjoys such strong support amongst security experts.

This is connected to Kessler’s second inaccuracy. He claims that “supporters of Israel” believe that the deal will weaken Israel’s long-term security. That is, at best, an overgeneralization. While some members of the pro-Israel establishment, like AIPAC and the AJC, adamantly opposed the agreement, some pro-Israel groups, like J Street and Americans for Peace Now, actively supported it.

Moreover, a J Street poll conducted in the summer of 2015 found that 60 percent of American Jews supported the Iran agreement. But it wasn’t just J Street and like-minded groups coming up with those numbers: A  Jewish Journal poll found that 53 percent of American Jews supported the deal – a higher proportion than the rest of the country. On election night 67 percent of American Jews thought that Clinton – who supports the Iran agreement – was the better suited to take on Iran as president than Trump.

Given the support for the agreement in the pro-Israel community and Israel, Kessler should not count it as a blight on the Obama administration’s record of support for Israel’s security. Noting that the deal raised ire in some corners of the American Jewish community is one thing; suggesting it negates the Obama administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is just backwards.

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