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Congressional support for Iran deal solidifies– and Cory Booker pushes back against friendship ultimatums

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There have been two important developments in the Iran Deal over the last day or so. 1, There’s growing consensus that the deal is going to go through. Even Leon Wieseltier says his opposition is futile. That’s great news. 2, There’s a growing sense inside the Jewish community that opposing the deal contains a huge liability for pro-Israel forces. That they will be exposed and their power reduced, with the potential loss of Democratic progressives.

I’ll get to the developments in a moment. But first, there’s a battle of the polls going on. I’ve emphasized the polls that show Americans support the deal; but CNN has a poll out showing that the public disapproves of the Iran deal. Just what the Pew poll said last week. CNN:

Overall, 52% say Congress should reject the deal, 44% say it should be approved.

Some opposition to the deal may be fueled by skepticism.

The new poll finds a sharp partisan gap on whether Congress should approve the deal, with 66% of Republicans and 55% of independents saying Congress ought to reject it and 61% of Democrats saying it should be approved. Younger adults, who tend to lean more Democratic, are more apt to favor the deal: 53% of those age 18-34 say approve it, while 56% of those age 35 or older say reject it. There is also an education divide on the deal, with 53% of college graduates saying the deal should be approved, while just 37% of those with a high school degree or less formal education saying they think it should be approved.

Regardless of the polls, something has shifted in the last 24 hours. There’s growing consensus that the deal is going through. For two nights in a row now Hardball guests and host have said that the deal will be approved. Chris Matthews celebrated Senator Dianne Feinstein’s and Dick Durbin’s support for the deal and said that everyone is watching Chuck Schumer, who is “enormously prestigious,” and predicted that Schumer will vote against the deal but not vote to override President Obama’s veto.

“He’ll be one of the thirty four to hang with [Obama]. I think. I don’t know,” Matthews averred.

Jamelle Bouie of Slate concurred:

My hunch is that Democrats don’t want to deliver a defeat to the president. I would be surprised if the White House can’t get the votes in either chamber.

Francesca Chambers of the Daily Mail said that the focus is on 18 Jews in the House, then mentioned the critical support from Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan, who came out for the deal yesterday, after long study. Levin roots his support in his love for Israel. He wants to give Israel even more armaments.

We must also act to bolster the security of our ally Israel.  We should promptly conclude the next ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on Foreign Military Financing and accelerate the co-development by the U.S. and Israel of the Arrow-3 and David’s Sling missile defense systems and increase funding for Israel’s life-saving missile defense, the successful Iron Dome system.

Here’s the soul-searching part of Levin’s endorsement. Note the importance of the Holocaust in generational Jewish thinking (Levin is 83):

Each Member of Congress will bring both private and public life experiences to address this difficult issue.

I along with my brother and late sister when we were in our teens experienced with our parents great personal joy when President Truman announced U.S. recognition of Israel. It was something that we could take hold of amidst the unfolding horrors of the years before. Israel’s security has and always will be of critical importance to me and our country.  I believe that Israel, the region, and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon.  I believe the Agreement is the best way to achieve that.

Let’s move on to the second point. Given the growing consensus, it appears that some of the pressure the Israel lobby is exerting is backfiring. Now I know that this is tea leaves, but look at what Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey posted to Facebook yesterday: 

“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”
― Alice Walker
Fantastic quote, yes, but it seems an implicit reference to the forces mustering against Booker. It would seem that Booker has been given friendship ultimatums. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has called Booker his close friend. But he tweeted the ad below. It ran in the Sunday New York Times, from some of Booker’s Jewish supporters. Notice who’s in the picture, Schumer, Gillibrand, Booker, Menendez. Only Menendez has come through for the lobby, and Menendez is Booker’s mentor.
Pressure on Booker from his old friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Pressure on Booker from his old friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

I want to believe that Booker is upset by all the pressure, and that his natural identification with progressive causes, on incarceration and civil rights, is leading him to question the principles of Israel supporters.

Note this piece targeting Booker from Joel Weingarten in Politicker NJ. The piece does itself no favors by hiding the Israel agenda throughout.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has refused to say whether he will support the President’s proposed Iran agreement. Yet for anyone who cares about our nation’s security, this should not even be a close call.

Last night on Hardball, Jamelle Bouie pointed to the damage that the discussion is doing to the Israel lobby. As the Republicans mob up in favor of Israel, the Dems are walking away.

This is giving some Democrats an opening to be a little more critical of Israel.

Right; people are afraid that if opposition continues, the big loser will be Israel. As the Republicans buy Israel lock stock and barrel and talk about Jews being led to the ovens so as to get Sheldon Adelson’s cash (the point that Anne Gearan made on Hardball Monday and that Eli Clifton makes at Lobelog), Democrats will stake out an opposing position, and some of those Dems will begin to argue about Israel.

Peter Feld, who has done consulting for Democratic candidates, snarked on twitter:

Finally a persuasive reason to defeat the #IranDeal. Israel Could Lose America’s Democrats for a Generation

Feld links (via Richard Silverstein) to a piece at Foreign Policy, in which Jim Traub warns the lobby against overreach:

What will happen, though, if Congress overrides Obama’s veto — thus destroying the signal foreign-policy achievement of his tenure, humiliating the president before the world, and triggering a race for nuclear weapons capacity in Iran and across the Middle East — is that Democrats will blame Netanyahu and Israel. And it won’t just be the American left, which already regards Israel as an occupying power. The fraying relationship between Israel and the Democratic Party will come apart altogether. Pro-Israel Democrats like Hillary Clinton will have to begin calculating how high a price they’re prepared to pay for their continued support.

Hillary Clinton might even question her support! Traub knows the Establishment. The best thing about his piece is all the hints that Israelis are nuts; he calls out Ari Shavit. And warns Americans about lining up with the Israeli leaders:

[If the deal fails] Netanyahu will then take the game one step further by calling for airstrikes against Iranian facilities. If he succeeds — which I doubt — Americans will never forgive Israel for its role in a catastrophic decision.

Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that he is perfectly prepared to pay that price. Can Chuck Schumer say the same? I would suggest that his higher obligation would be to protect Israel from its own worst instincts.

Traub is reflecting the new consensus. The middle ground is going to win. J Street has a new poll out saying that 59 percent of Jews support the deal. J Street’s Dylan Williams has a an angry tweet up about the Miami Jewish Federation’s decision to oppose the deal:

Miami Jewish Fed on #IranDeal: We know there are diverse opinions in our community… but we’re going to ignore them

Miami Jewish Federation's statement

Miami Jewish Federation’s statement

I think the game is over. Even Leon Wieseltier is saying that his opposition to the deal is “futile.” Though he is calling for a renewed cold war with Iran and an alliance with the Sunni states. Because of Iran’s support for anyone who would undermine the occupation.

And Shmuley Boteach also sounds defeatist, in this piece saying that the support for the deal exposes the “political powerlessness” of the Jewish community. He seems to have given up on Schumer:

[Support for the deal] has exposed the persistent myth of Jewish control. Here is an American president who received nearly eighty percent of the Jewish vote in his first presidential election and seventy percent in his second. He received oodles of Jewish financial support and the backing of tons of Jews in the media. But that did not add up to a hill of beans when it came to negotiating with a government that swears it will kill six million Jews in Israel, not to say anything of its promises of “Death to America.” When it comes to Israel you can recite any lie and get away with it. No, my friends, the Jews control absolutely nothing. The Iran deal has exposed global Jewish impotence. We can’t even get Senator Chuck Schumer, the Jewish senator from New York who has enjoyed tremendous Jewish backing, to come out against the deal. We can’t persuade democratic Senators from states teeming with Jewish constituents…
Boteach is right and wrong. Right that the classic period of the lobby, when it could get napkins signed by 76 senators, is passed. Wrong because the pro-Israel forces have regrouped; and they don’t want Shmuley in their gang. Sandy Levin and J Street are going to be the reconstituted Israel lobby: Keep pouring in the aid! (At least they’ll get an argument from the left side of the party. And some day Cory Booker will be with us.)
Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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33 Responses

  1. Citizen on July 29, 2015, 12:03 pm

    Polls are all over the place on support v non-support of Iran Deal, depending on which questions are asked and how they are asked; also, always look to what organization or agency commissioned the poll.

  2. Citizen on July 29, 2015, 12:12 pm

    Has Trump chimed in on the Iran Deal yet? Probably he said it was a bad deal and those Americans who negotiated it were stupid and gullible? In 2013 he sent a Valentine’s Day card to Netanyahu: via @YouTube

  3. Citizen on July 29, 2015, 12:17 pm

    “Levin roots his support in his love for Israel. He wants to give Israel even more armaments. ”

    Poll: Most Americans don’t want to compensate Israel for the Iran Deal:

  4. ckg on July 29, 2015, 12:35 pm

    Sander Levin’s support for the deal really shouldn’t come as a surprise since his brother Carl came out in support over a week ago. Good for them both.

    • lysias on July 29, 2015, 12:40 pm

      They’re both about to retire from Congress, aren’t they? So they risk nothing by supporting the president, as I imagine they both would want to do given their druthers.

      I expect that in the end the Democrats will whip enough votes to uphold a veto in at least one of the Houses of Congress. As long as that is achieved, Congress members who might risk losing their seats by supporting Obama (chiefly because they come from Jewish districts) can be allowed to cast votes against Obama.

  5. Nevada Ned on July 29, 2015, 1:17 pm

    The deal is very unfair to Iran, a country that has no nuclear weapons, and no program for obtaining them. Hilary Clinton has promised to continue the savage economic sanctions regardless of the nuke deal, in order to deal with Iran’s other alleged bad behavior.

    The deal allows the US to ‘snap back” the sanctions based on a fake incident (like Saddam Hussein’s alleged “Weapons of Mass Destruction”).

    The only real argument for the Iran deal is that the alternative may be war.

  6. ckg on July 29, 2015, 1:36 pm

    @lysias. Carl Levin retired in January, so he is beginning to act more like a citizen than a politician. Unfortunately his successor Gary Peters (Dem) is a definitely a politician and is undecided about the deal. Sander Levin, interestingly, recently announced his intention on running for re-election in 2016. His congressional district represents some of the most predominantly Jewish communities in Michigan–Bloomfield Township, Franklin, Bingham Farms, Huntington Woods. He probably considers his seat safe–he won in 2014 by a 24-point margin. In contrast Debbie Dingell, who represents Dearborn, is strangely undecided.

    • ckg on July 29, 2015, 1:53 pm

      (Dearborn is the heart of the U.S. Shia community.)

  7. Kay24 on July 29, 2015, 2:21 pm

    Interesting article Phil. I hope your instincts are going to proven right, and that indeed the support for this deal is growing. The pro zionist side has put out ads that now sounds very lame, when they keep repeating “we need a better deal”, when there is no alternative any of them offer. The best statement I read somewhere was when someone said that for Netanyahu the best deal is NO DEAL. The man with the cartoon bomb simply cannot be taken seriously anymore. Those who parrot his talking points and make insane suppositions, are making a huge mistake linking themselves to a clown like Netanyahu – he has been found to be lying, exaggerating, and no one believes the rhetoric anymore. They have tried all the tricks in the book to defeat this deal, and it will be a great victory if the Obama administration pushes this through.

  8. Kay24 on July 29, 2015, 2:23 pm

    Sorry for the repetition my Edit feature is not working, I get an empty space when I click on it.

  9. Les on July 29, 2015, 3:40 pm

    Peter Beinart: “The American Jewish establishment is not a democracy. It’s a plutocracy.”

  10. David Doppler on July 29, 2015, 6:39 pm

    It is time for realistic Zionists to de-throne Netanyahu, before he wreaks more havoc. If the Congress passes a disapproval bill, Obama vetoes, and the veto-override fails by a few votes, so Obama wins, but by the narrowest of margins, and all those Congresspersons are made to publicly mouth hasbara instead of doing their jobs, the Lobby may find its coffers of political influence pretty much exhausted. They’re losing the young and the educated, trading for the old and the stupid. Trading academia, what’s left of journalists, progressives generally, for Rush Limbaugh ditto-heads.

    Enough already. Dissolve the Israeli government.

    • just on July 29, 2015, 6:50 pm


      Yesterday while watching Kerry @ the Foreign Relations Cmte, it was transfixing to hear all the critters worrying and screeching about Israel, Israel, Israel and binding the US together with same. Mr. Kerry mentioned Israel, of course, but he also talked about other allies and regional security. Now, I know the average American doesn’t do cspan, but one day (and I think it sooner rather than later) they are gonna be scratching their heads and wondering: why is my rep. so concerned about them and not me. It’s clear that the Iran deal is good for the region and good for America.

      War is not.

      I’m doing my best to explain this to folks around me. It’s a golden opportunity to talk to your neighbors…

      • JennieS on July 30, 2015, 3:57 am

        Cspan is not available to me down here in New Zealand so I am reliant on the Guardian article for Kerry’s speech to the Foreign Relations Committee and I was deeply unimpressed. He rightly said that the cancellation of the US signature on the agreement by an overwhelming “no” vote in Congress would hamper the US’s ability to make agreements with other nations in future. Frankly I think that all the screeching and wailing has already done that damage regardless of the outcome of the Congressional vote.
        Two of his remarks I found particularly offensive-:
        1. Without the US the “multilateral sanctions regime will fall apart”. The sanctions are supposed to be lifted in return for Iran honouring it’s commitments. I would hope that if the US signature on the agreement is cancelled by Congress that the other six signatories (including Iran) proceed to implement the agreement. Does this mean that the fake ‘intelligence’ of Iran’s ‘cheating’ is already being prepared?
        2. Kerry maintained the lie about Iran’s nuclear programme being aimed at the production of nuclear weapons.

    • RockyMissouri on July 30, 2015, 12:33 pm

      If only.

  11. just on July 29, 2015, 7:48 pm

    “Sunni Arab Nations Are Israel’s Allies,’ Says Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General

    “The director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, called the Middle East’s Sunni Arab nations “Israel’s allies.”

    Gold used the term twice in a presentation Wednesday in New York focused on the shortcomings of the Iran nuclear deal.

    “What we have is a regime on a roll that is trying to conquer the Middle East,” Gold said of Iran, “and it’s not Israel talking, that is our Sunni Arab neighbors — and you know what? I’ll use another expression – that is our Sunni Arab allies talking.””

    read more:

    It’s all about regional hegemony, of course. It’s all BS, of course. It’s divorced from a peaceful reality and future. Check your calendars. It’s July 29, 2015 and the odious Dore Gold has made a new surreality .

    OK~ maybe there will be regional peace due to the Iran Deal~ tomorrow. (There was never really any worry about Iranian nukes, anyway.)

  12. JLewisDickerson on July 29, 2015, 8:11 pm

    RE: “No, my friends, the Jews control absolutely nothing. The Iran deal has exposed global Jewish impotence.” – Boteach

    ■ A Problem of Self Image (Mysh ) — from Richard Silverstein’s Tikun Olam site

    • JLewisDickerson on July 29, 2015, 8:25 pm

      P.S. Of course, when Boteach says “the Jews control absolutely nothing” he is actually complaining that right-wing Likudnik Jews like himself don’t control everything! After all, most polls show that a significant majority of Jews (at least in the U.S.) SUPPORT the Iran agreement! ! !

      P.P.S. I don’t think it is a good idea to refer to the “Iran deal”. Using something like the “Iran agreement” avoids it being associated with Monty Hall (i.e. television’s Let’s Make a Deal)!
      “Come on down!”

      • just on July 29, 2015, 8:37 pm

        I dislike it too, but I just used it in a post here, John!

        I dislike referring to ACA as Obamacare too, and didn’t use it forever. Guess what’s it’s called even though I still say Affordable Care Act? All I ever really wanted and fought for was Universal Healthcare.

        Sheesh. ;-)

      • JLewisDickerson on July 29, 2015, 8:52 pm

        P.P.P.S. It also brings to mind Donald Trump’s “The Art Of The Deal”!
        The word “deal” has a lot of negative implications. Gambling/poker/cards, for instance. Games of chance!

      • RockyMissouri on July 30, 2015, 12:36 pm


  13. Krendall Mist on July 29, 2015, 9:53 pm

    Gee, maybe I am ignorant, but I thought what was going on was an upcoming vote in the US Congress about whether to go along with an agreement among the US, the rest of the security counsel, and Germany with the Islamic Republic over the latter’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. What’s all this here talk about Israel and the views of US Jews on how the deal affects Israel?

  14. piotr on July 30, 2015, 6:31 am

    Someone forgot to inform GoI that “progressive except Palestine” does not include “progressive except Iran”. Surely those are different quite different, and “progressive except Palestine and Iran” is basically neo-con.

    More precisely, the lines were already drawn and people fond of GoI hate progressives and “progressives”, and folks like Wieseltier are either tolerated as useful idiots or openly detested. The battle which is most important for supporters of GoI is the battle for power in Israel, and the hostility to Israel was build up as one of the shiboleths: you dare to pronounce it wrong, and off with your head. Herzog, Livni and Lapid got the sounds correct, but lacked the required enthusiasm and consistency, so they failed to gain votes.

    I mean, when a true PEP looks at Iran issue, he/she sees mere struggle for power that leads right wing to victory, and they detest that right wing as it includes religious cranks that despise non-Orthodox, outright fascists, economic rightwingers, the full Zoo. Those can be minor details, but on top of it, the foreign policy tries to cobble Israeli-Sunni axis, and this project seems dangerously insane fro PEP perspective. Make no mistake, I have no beef with Sunnis, or even Saudi Sunnis, but what is the composition of that “axis”? The most bloody government of Egypt in memory, monarchies that thrive on slave labor, a monarchy that suddenly decided to make a record of public beheadings, and a few terrified bystanders (I mean Jordan that has no slave labor that I know of, and no ambitious beheading practices).

    To the degree that PEP perspective is “realist”, this is folly. To the degree that PEP perspective is racist (“we must recognize that not all cultures are equal”), this is totally deluded.

    In other words, PEPs are still PEPs even if not PEP&I. But they started to resemble Communists purged from their party (I know exactly how that looks like). Inevitably, it leads to a wider perspective, but it may take time.

    • wondering jew on July 30, 2015, 9:14 am

      piotr- Do you feel that Iran (strengthened by the end of the sanctions) will be a positive player in Syria? What will Iraq look like if Iran has its way? What will Iraq look like if Iran does not have its way but is a stronger player? What do you want Egypt to look like in 2 years, in 20 years? how will a strengthened iran play a role in your future vision for Egypt.

      I realize that because of Iran’s rhetoric over the years plus their support for Hezbollah and Hamas that I am biased against them. But…

      Do you really consider Iran an innocent player in the region? a beneficial player?

      Do you consider the imams to be benevolent dictators? What was the capital punishment rate in Iran last year? in the last few months?

      • annie on July 30, 2015, 3:53 pm

        What will Iraq look like if Iran has its way?

        and what does Iraq look like after 10 years of the US/IS having it’s way? isis. choose your medicine yonah.

      • piotr on July 31, 2015, 6:40 am

        I actually think that Iran has a positive role to play in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, ISIL was pushed back in Tikrit by a force that consisted mostly by militias armed and advised by Iran, afterwards USA made a big effort to marginalize those militias, with some degree of sucess, but alas — ISIL advanced in Ramadi and the whole pushback stopped. And it is our allies that were helping ISIL. In other words, when Iran is to weak, our allies pursue their follies with terrible consequences. In other words, we are do not have choices between government of Denmark and Iran, but between terrorists supported by Gulfies, Jordan, Israel and Turkey and militias supported by Iran.

        In simple terms, the rational policy is to tell our allies: when you fuck up, we will work with Iran instead. And our allies are either bloodthirsty tyrannies (monarchies, fascist of Egypt) and deeply imperfect democracies, Israel and Turkey. There is no particular reason not to make choices from situation to situation, and right now, it would help to cooperated with Iran, actually, hinder Iran less.

        By the way, Iran has a complicated political system that should not be glibly summarized as tyranny. They have elections with theocratically screened candidates, Israel wishes to do that too with anti-Zionist candidates but Supreme Court so far prevents it, Turkey now wants to eliminate incorrect parties after the elections. It is not comparing white and black.

  15. Citizen on July 30, 2015, 8:49 am

    Re the banner to this article, Congressional support for Iran deal solidifies:

    #IsraelFirst Both: Top 2 Billionaire Donors Bypass K Street–#Soros (Democrat), #Adelson (#GOP) via @rollcall

  16. Citizen on July 30, 2015, 8:52 am

    I just read 100s of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis Are descending on Washington DC to oppose Iran Agreement. Chagall could paint this? Or George Grosz?

  17. K Renner on July 30, 2015, 12:38 pm

    If you’re not for the Iran deal, then you’re for arbitrary, unnecessary friction, even more excessive pandering to a state that’s not much more then a liability to America in the geopolitical sense, and, as we can see from some of the “anti deal” camp, even for an unnecessary and wholly destructive conflict.

    These people have made it their mission to be as loud and boorish and stupid as possible when it comes to fear mongering and the rampant demonization of all Iranians. It’s absolutely sick.

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