Many in Congress and in the American Jewish community are opposed to the agreement reached among the United States, its P5+1 international partners, and Iran. Indeed, for American Jews, this issue is becoming a litmus test for one’s support for Israel. This is regrettable. We believe such opposition is misplaced, mired in the past, and is missing an opportunity to shape a more hopeful future.
The Obama administration, and particularly Secretary Kerry and his team, should be applauded for the hard bargains and tenaciousness that they demonstrated in reaching this agreement. This deal opens myriad possibilities for the Middle East, for Israel, and for the United States. For the first time in a long time, a country headed toward nuclear weapon capability has been stopped in that pursuit.
Among other things, this deal provides over a decade of delay in Iran’s nuclear program and will extend the breakout time to produce a bomb to at least a year, far longer than the current two to three months. It provides monitoring of both declared and suspected nuclear facilities. If Iran does not meet its obligations, it will suffer severe consequences. Indeed, the military option could then be utilized by any of the signatories to the agreement or by others. And Iran’s activities, whether in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, or elsewhere, can be confronted without hesitation. Who knows, perhaps the communication channel opened through these negotiations between Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Minister Zarif, might be exploited to address other challenges. Undoubtedly, this agreement will not end all of Iran’s nefarious activities but it was never intended to address them all. There will no doubt be other challenges ahead.
In light of the above, it might be preferable for the opponents to consider a different strategy. Perhaps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should begin discussions with the Obama administration about what the two governments can do together to ensure Iranian compliance with its obligations under the agreement, what can be done if they do not comply, and how best to jointly oppose bad behavior in the region on the part of Iran. Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who also opposes the agreement, has demonstrated wisdom in this regard in stating that he would travel to Washington to seek more security assurances for Israel. We have no doubt President Obama will listen carefully to those requests. In his commentary in the Israeli press, former IDF Major-General Yisrael Ziv, no stranger to security considerations, underscored the importance of Israel rehabilitating its relationship with the United States in order to coordinate responses to problematic Iranian actions. This sentiment has been echoed by Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli Air Force general, who suggested that, in addition to preparing for dangers that might be posed by the agreement, there should be an effort on the part of Israel to work with its allies, first and foremost of which is the United States.
Most important, the focus should now turn not only to ensuring Iranian compliance of its obligations under the deal but also to fight the other dangers, such as terrorism, regional destabilization, and threats to Israel and US citizens being held in Iran. It should be done so by encouraging the international community to fight those dangers with the same persistence and unity as they did the nuclear threat.
The agreement comes with undeniable risks, but it provides the possibility of a better future and demonstrates that diplomacy can indeed produce meaningful results. We should focus on ensuring that that better future is realized so as to provide a new and more peaceful era for all the nations of the world.
This article was originally published in the Boston Globe on July 17, 2015