In a blistering letter published by the New York Times this week, former American Jewish leader Seymour Reich denounced Israel’s prime minister for interfering in America’s affairs by urging Congress to reject the Iran deal. Reich is a former chairman of the Presidents’ Conference and once headed the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Commission. Which means he should have known better.
For the very same day that Reich’s letter appeared, diplomats from the five European and Asian countries involved in negotiating the deal were on Capitol Hill, urging Congress to accept the Iran deal. Will Seymour Reich now write a follow-up letter, accusing the European and Asian diplomats of interfering in America’s affairs? Don’t hold your breath.
In his August 7 letter, Reich argued that Netanyahu’s appeals to American Jewry and Congress have been “wholly inappropriate” because they “constituted an intrusion by a foreign leader into American domestic politics.”
Reich continued: “It’s up to the United States to make a decision on this deal on its merits.” Well, of course it is, and it will. Prime Minister Netanyahu is forcefully expressing his opinion as to the specific merits of the Iran deal, and Members of Congress will weigh his opinion along with the opinions of many others, and then decide. How can it be “inappropriate” for the prime minister of the country most endangered by the deal, to express his opinion on it?
As might be expected, foreign supporters of the deal have been chiming in, too. Diplomats from Germany, Britain, France, Russia, and China have “launched a coordinated lobbying effort on Capitol Hill,” the Washington Post reports.
Philipp Ackermann, the deputy ambassador from Germany, together with the deputy ambassadors of the other countries involved in the Iran talks, began by “briefing” 25 Democratic senators, and additional meetings with senators are set for next week. These foreign representatives also “have been in regular contact with members of the House,” the Post notes. According to the Post, the foreign diplomats have echoed many of the arguments that [President] Obama has made.” What a coincidence!
Thirty years ago, Seymour Reich was chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Thank goodness he’s not the chairman of the Conference now. The current chairman, Stephen M. Greenberg, has pointedly refused to endorse the Iran deal. The Conference of Presidents supported Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress in March, and it cosponsored Netanyahu’s webcast to American Jewry last week.
If Seymour Reich and the other Jewish supporters of the Iran agreement were sincerely opposed to “foreign intrusion” in the debate, they would be angrily condemning Germany, Britain, France, Russia, and China for lobbying just as they are condemning Netanyahu. But their criticism is reserved for Israel’s prime minister alone.
Their invocation of the high-sounding principle of “no foreign intrusion” is phony. What bothers them is not foreign intrusion; what bothers them is what those foreigners are saying. Foreign intruders who are against the deal are dangerous interlopers, in their view; but foreign intruders who support the deal are perfectly welcome.
So please, Mr. Reich, stop pretending that this is an argument over whether or not foreigners should express their opinions. Make your case on the merits. Try to convince us that a deal which gives Iran 24 days to hide its nuclear violations, permits Iran to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, and strengthens Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas is a good deal for America and Israel.
Maybe you’ll succeed in persuading a few American Jews to endorse it. And then maybe afterwards, you can ask if they’d be interested in purchasing a certain bridge in Brooklyn.
(Mr. Korn, the former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the Miami Jewish Tribune, is chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists.)