Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring his fight against the Iran nuclear agreement to the Obama administration’s home territory by addressing the American Jewish community by live webcast on Tuesday.
Netanyahu will share Israel’s concerns about the agreement and contend it facilitates Iran’s path to nuclear weapons rather than blocks it, said an official in the prime minister’s office who wasn’t authorized to comment on-record. He’ll also meet this month with visiting Democratic and Republican representatives, ahead of a crucial U.S. congressional vote on the accord expected in September.
“The issues involved with the Iran nuclear agreement are complex and of great consequence to the North American Jewish population,” said Stephen Greenberg, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in an e-mail on the webcast.
The nuclear agreement hammered out in Vienna last month between Iran and world powers has strained relations between Israel and the U.S. In March, Netanyahu irked the White House by criticizing the emerging deal in a speech to a joint session of Congress that wasn’t coordinated with the administration.
The Republican congressional majority, which is expected to reject the pact, would need support from some Democrats to override President Barack Obama’s threatened veto.
Obama will meet with American Jewish leaders on Tuesday after Netanyahu’s webcast to discuss the accord. He’ll make the case that the agreement “isn’t just in the best interest of the United States, it is also within the national security interest of its biggest ally in the Middle East, Israel,” his press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.
“There’s no denying there is intense political pressure on both sides of this agreement,” Earnest added.
A poll published July 23 by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal showed that 53 percent of American Jews say Congress should approve the deal, with 35 percent saying it should reject it. Among all Americans, 41 percent support the accord and 38 percent oppose it.
Netanyahu will be meeting over the next two weeks with Democratic and Republican congressional delegations visiting Israel on trips sponsored by the America Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The delegations, headed by Democratic House of Representatives minority leader Steny Hoyer and Republican house majority leader Kevin McCarthy, are coming to Israel as part of regularly scheduled trips for new representatives, according to an AIPAC official.
The Obama administration has also tried to make its case for the Iran accord to Netanyahu’s domestic constituency, with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz telling visiting Israeli journalists in Washington on Monday that “if I was Israeli, I would support the Iran deal.” Moniz asserted that “from day one and until forever, we will have greater insight and verification options with the agreement than without it.”
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz replied on Tuesday that “If I were American, I would oppose the agreement. I would oppose the agreement because it ensures from the outset Iran’s becoming a nuclear power capable of producing dozens of atomic bombs per month, 10 years from today.”
A group of former Israeli army generals and security officials published a letter Monday in local newspapers saying that with the Iran deal “an accomplished fact,” the government should renew trust with the U.S. administration “in order to prepare for the challenges emanating from the agreement.”