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.)
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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.

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

“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:

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.

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… Read more »