This past summer, the pro-Israel community, to our dismay, was proven correct. For decades, we have repeated the mantra that if Israel becomes a partisan issue, we will surely lose. And this summer, when the debate over the Iran deal—an agreement with potentially existential consequences for Israel—became partisan in spite of our best efforts, we lost this fight. The deal went through, regardless of almost unanimous Republican opposition.
While it is truly tempting to respond with blame and anger, to embrace the wave of partisanship crippling our country, if we actually want to enact policies that will help Israel, we don’t have the luxury of swimming with the tide. It is our obligation to continue to fight effectively, not emotionally.
Despite a full-throttled attempt to stop the deal, it has been implemented and Iran has been graced with over $100 billion with which to fund their nefarious terrorist activities throughout the region. Drive only a few hours north or south from Tel Aviv and you will find a group dedicated to Israel’s destruction, which has been emboldened and enriched by the Iranian deal. We can wring our hands and point fingers or we can work to address this major threat by working with Congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle and reminding them that policy needs to trump politics. Many of those who ended up supporting the deal did so with serious reservations and we are calling on them to address the flaws they, themselves, highlighted. They need to renew the Iran sanctions legislation, the foundation for the sanctions regime which must remain in place, or there will be no snap-back ability. They must develop a vehicle for true oversight and implementation of the Iran deal, and it is imperative they continue to pressure the Administration to enact sanctions against violations around human rights abuse and support for terrorism.
Given the very serious increase in strategic concerns, Israel has requested an increase both in foreign aid and in access to advanced American military technology. A Congressional bi-partisan letter of support for this increase was sent to the President as he continues his negotiations with Israel over the terms of the next Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The President knows that although he submits a request to Congress, they are the ones who allocate the actual dollars—and he is hearing loudly and clearly from members of his own party that they want him to help Israel in this critical moment.
Israel is being threatened not only by terrorists on its borders, but by an effort to delegitimize its very existence through threats of boycotts and sanctions. We have been working with Congress to ensure they are fully aware of what is truly happening on the ground. Members on both sides of the aisle have released statements laying the blame for the lack of movement in the peace process squarely where it belongs—at the feet of the Palestinian Authority that incites terrorism and praises children, raised in hatred, as martyrs. They have also added language into multiple trade bills that warns European companies or government entities against implementing any boycotts or sanctions against our important ally, Israel.
We in the pro-Israel community were truly disappointed by the outcome of this summer’s difficult fight. But we had to choose how to respond in the face of that loss. Did we want to act out of anger and frustration, or did we want to move forward and work to effectively strengthen Israel? We did not take the easy choice; instead, we once again stood up and played the crucial role we have always played. We reminded members of both parties that only by working in a bipartisan way can Israel, the United States’ only true ally and friend in the Middle East, be protected. Without bipartisan support, the Iran sanctions legislation will never be renewed and anti-BDS language will never find its way into trade legislation; if only one party calls for additional funds and access for the Israelis and condemns Palestinian terror, it can be dismissed as political maneuvering.
I urge everyone to join me in Washington, DC, on March 20-22 for AIPAC’s policy conference. Come together with over 18,000 other pro-Israel activists—students and retirees, Christians and Jews, Hispanics and African Americans—as we send a bipartisan message to Congress, the President, Israel and the world, that the U.S.-Israel relationship is strong. Spend two days learning in-depth about the relevant policy issues and concerns, and celebrating Israel’s incredible advances. And, stay for Tuesday’s lobbying day when thousands of activists go to Capitol Hill to remind our elected leadership that to keep America strong, they need to focus on policy and not politics: renew the Iran sanctions legislation, protect Israel’s qualitative military edge and continue the bipartisan strengthening of the crucial alliance between Israel and the United States.
By Philip Goldschmiedt
Philip Goldschmiedt has been living in Teaneck for 23 years and davens at Congregation Keter Torah.