In a meeting to promote the Iran nuclear deal, Obama warned American Jewish leaders that if the agreement is cancelled, there will be war and rockets will rain on Tel Aviv.
Continuing in his effort to rally support for the Iran nuclear deal, US President Barack Obama met privately for more than two hours with Jewish leaders at the White House on Tuesday evening, making a detailed case for the accord and urging opponents — including some in the room — to “stick to the facts in making their own arguments,” according to participants.
Obama referred to tens of millions of dollars being spent by critics, most notably the pro-Israel group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The president’s meeting came just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a live webcast aimed at Americans Jews, arranged by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The Israeli leader railed against the agreement, calling it a “bad deal” that leaves Tehran on the brink of a bomb.
Greg Rosenbaum of the National Jewish Democratic Council was one of 20 Jewish leaders who attended the meeting. He told Israel Radio that Obama said that American military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities is “not going to result in Iran deciding to have a full-fledged war with the United States.”
Instead, the president reportedly threatened, “You’ll see more support for terrorism. You’ll see Hezbollah rockets falling on Tel Aviv.”
“I can assure you that Israel will bear the brunt of the assymetrical response that Iran will have to a military strike on its nuclear facilities,” Obama stated, adding that he had invited Netanyahu to discuss increased US military assistance but that the Israeli leader declined.
Participants at the White House meeting who oppose the agreement raised raised their concerns at being painted as eager for war. Obama continued to argue that if Congress rejects the agreement, he or the next president will be forced to consider taking military action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Obama described the deal as “historic,” adding that it would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. He also stressed that the US will continue to support and help strengthen Israel’s security.
The back-to-back sales pitches from the leaders came on the eve of a foreign policy address Obama was to deliver as he seeks to bolster support for the deal in Congress. A White House official said Obama would frame lawmakers’ decision to approve or disapprove of the deal as the most consequential foreign policy debate since the decision to go to war in Iraq.
The official said Obama would also argue that those who backed the Iraq war, which is now widely seen as a mistake, are the same ones who oppose the Iran deal.
Enough Votes for Obama’s Deal?
The White House is preparing for the likelihood that lawmakers will vote against the deal next month and is focusing its lobbying efforts on getting enough Democrats to sustain a veto. Only one chamber of Congress is needed to so do.
Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the White House is confident it can sustain a veto “at least in the House.”
The president got a boost in the Senate Tuesday with Senators Barbara Boxer of California, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida announcing their support for the deal. However, the administration lost the backing of three prominent Jewish Democrats — New York Reps. Steve Israel and Nita Lowey and Florida Rep. Ted Deutch.
Obama, who has long been criticized for his lack of engagement with Congress, has become personally involved in selling the deal to lawmakers and other influential groups. Those who have met with him say it seems to be his top foreign policy priority.
“It was pretty solid evidence of a couple of things: first of all, just how engaged the president is on this issue, and second, how important it is to him,” said Andrew Weinstein, a South Florida community leader who attended the meeting.
Also among the roughly two-dozen leaders joining Obama in the Cabinet Room were Michael Kassen and Lee Rosenberg of AIPAC, which is vehemently opposed to the deal, as well as Jeremy Ben-Ami of the left-wing J Street, who is among the deal’s most vocal proponents. The White House said representatives from the Orthodox Union (OU), the Reform Movement, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also attended.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff
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