Senator Barbara Mikulski’s announcement this morning of support for the nuclear agreement with Iran brings the number of US Senators now supporting the deal to 34, meaning the agreement will survive the Congressional review process and will continue being implemented.
This marks not simply a victory for diplomacy or for President Obama but for the majority of Jewish Americans who supported the deal even though many organizations purporting to speak for them opposed it.
Despite pouring tens of millions of dollars into their campaign to sink the deal, it is now clear that opponents will not succeed in what has been the most important foreign policy fight of the decade.
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The outcome in Congress is shaping up as an important rebuff to those who argue – even after the catastrophic war in Iraq – that we can only solve problems in the Middle East through the use of raw power and military force.
And it’s an important win for the approach President Obama has taken, building a broad international coalition behind sanctions and then using tough diplomacy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
J Street has been proud to play a role in this fight. The cause of diplomacy in the Middle East is dear to our hearts and we felt this deal was the best route to advance both American and Israeli security interests.
We knew when we started – and saw in the polling over the last two months – that a solid majority of American Jews agreed with us and were broadly in favor of this deal.
We also were so pleased to be able to bring credible figures from the Israeli military and national security establishment to the United States to argue in favor of the deal.
Our opponents played on fears and emotions, and we share their concerns about the regime in Iran, its role in the region and its track record at home. But, in the end, we provided reasonable answers to every question they raised, and they offered no viable alternative to achieve our shared goal of preventing this bad regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The milestone reached today does not by any stretch mean the battle over policy toward Iran is over. First, there are still a number of key legislators still undecided on the agreement whose support will be critical moving forward. We will continue to actively lobby and mobilize until the voting is done.
More worrisome, however, are the plans opponents of the agreement are already laying for amendments to the resolution under consideration and for further legislation that could tie the President’s hands and undermine the deal.
We will, of course, support any Congressional action that shores up the deal and ensures its goals are achieved. But we will fight any effort by opponents to achieve their goal of killing the deal through the back door when they couldn’t muster the votes to do so directly.
We will also draw some important lessons from this experience as we return to our core mission of advocating for a peaceful end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The political atmosphere in this country on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East is forever changed. More and more political leaders and policy makers are seeing that it is possible for the US to pursue a path in the region that aims to settle conflicts there through negotiations and diplomacy.
That means there is more space for us to push for assertive action to advance the two-state solution, stop the advance of settlements and end the occupation.
We have much to do in the days, weeks and months ahead – both on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, for a moment at least, I’d suggest that all of us involved in J Street take a step back and appreciate the milestone for Middle East diplomacy that we mark today.