Today is Tu B'Av - the 15
th day of the month of Av - our Jewish day of love when the moon is full and summer is sweltering.
On this day, in complete contrast, I write to you after a
in Israel where our hearts ache because of the actions of Jewish terrorists. It is hard to write those words - "Jewish terrorists" - but they are accurate.
We mourn and condemn the attack at yesterday's Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem and the murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, an 18 month old Palestinian boy in an early-morning arson attack today.
My primary purpose for writing is to reflect briefly on the Iranian agreement, a topic I have been thinking about for some time.
This year will be one that will remembered in the history books. The relationship of Iran to the West will be fashioned for the next generation by decisions Congress will make in the coming weeks. Our President has concluded an agreement with the Iranian Republic along with five other countries (Russia, China, France, UK, and Germany). The goal of the agreement is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The only reason this agreement was possible came from unprecedented economic pressure through sanctions especially over the past few years.
This is shaping up to be an epic political battle. We as Americans have a strong interest in what happens and we as supporters of Israel have existential concerns. We as Jews may be caught in the middle.
There is no doubt that this deal gives away many of the Administration's stated goals for the agreement. Last month before the deal was finalized, I joined five rabbinic colleagues from Minnesota - Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative - on an AIPAC day-long trip to Washington DC to meet with Senators Klobuchar and Franken. My purpose was to encourage our senators to speak strongly for the conditions American needed in the deal, to strengthen the Administration's hand in the negotiations. The agreement is now done -- all 159 pages -- and compromises in these conditions were made. The question for Congress is whether America and our interests, which include Israel's security, will be better off with the deal or without the deal. This involves more than focus on Iran's nuclear ambitions; it includes foreign relations with the rest of the world and Iran's support for terrorism. The answer then is far from clear.
The fears of this deal are real and legitimate. For Israel, Iran's ability to have sanctions relief means that funds will be freed to support Hezbollah and Hamas and its nuclear ambitions will now be monitored but ultimately "sanctioned." Among Israel's politicians, there is united opposition to the deal. Among Israel's military elite, there is debate on which path between Scylla and Charybdis will ultimately be better.
Like many of you, I have read many commentaries and I have been on phone calls with Israeli officials, experts, and recently VP Biden spent an hour with Jewish leaders describing in detail many provisions of the deal. After all this, the questions that truly haunt me are these: Now that a deal is done, what are the consequences for Jews worldwide with Israel leading the charge against the deal? What would happen in the short and long term if Congress rejects the deal and overrides a veto? Would that be better or worse than accepting a flawed deal?
As you wrestle with these and your questions, please be informed and have conversations with friends and family. Read statements from AIPAC and J-Street and contact your Senators and Representatives to express your views.
Below are some commentaries I recommend:
- Background on Iran's history of seeking nuclear weapons: click here
- Several commentators offer cogent reflections:
- Dennis Ross talks about the tough questions raised by the deal. (You can watch a talk he recently gave in Philadelphia here.)
- Aaron David Miller says that the Iranians got a very good deal.
- Ari Shavit, who spoke last year at Mount Zion, addresses the dangerous perception that Israel owns the 'vote no' campaign.
- Past President of the Reform Movement (URJ) Rabbi Eric Yoffie gives reasons to support the deal and addresses what this debate is doing to the American Jewish community.
- Our JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) issued this statement and our Reform Movement (URJ) has suggested a cautious approach.
- JCRC is helping to sponsor this event to learn more:
Iran Nuclear Deal
Pros and Cons
A Round Table Discussion
Organized by United Nations Association of Minnesota
August 24, 2015, 5:00-7:00 P.M.
Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
University of Minnesota
Moderator: Dean Eric Schwartz
Panel Speaker: Professor William Beeman,
Iran Scholar and Chair of
Department of Anthropology, U of M
Panel Speaker: Steve Hunegs, Executive Director
Jewish Community Relation Council, JCRC
Guest of Honor: Congressman Keith Ellison
Other guests have been asked but not confirmed.
Co-sponsored by Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Others are invited to co-sponsor at no cost.
Contacts: Jay Shahidi, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stu Ackman: email@example.com
Adam Stock Spilker, Rabbi