As a proud American Jew who has always called himself a Zionist and is deeply committed to Israel’s security, I have followed the political debate around the nuclear agreement with Iran with keen interest and concern. And though we live in an imperfect world where all paths leave something to be desired, I have determined that this historic agreement is the right choice for the U.S. and for Israel, and I strongly urge Congress to approve it.
Any deal must be judged alongside its alternatives. Some opponents have suggested that it could be rejected in favor a “better deal.” Yet, as the Obama administration and numerous diplomats and experts have pointed out, walking away from the agreement would cause many of our international partners, such as Russia and China, to resume business with Iran. Thus, many of the sanctions on Iran would still end, but there would be no deal in place to monitor or restrict Iran’s program. Under those circumstances, it would be nearly impossible to convince our allies to return to negotiations, let alone push for a “better deal.” I want to see major restrictions on Iran now, and with this agreement, that is exactly what we would get.
Other opponents have suggested that a military airstrike could sufficiently derail Iran’s nuclear program. This would be a deeply provocative move that could prove disastrous; both the U.S. and Israel have learned over the past decade the limits and unforeseen consequences of military force. Moreover, U.S. and Israeli military experts attest that such a strike could only delay, and not eliminate, Iran’s program. As Secretary of State John Kerry has stressed, we cannot eliminate the technical knowledge of Iranian nuclear scientists with an airstrike. A military strike appears to be a last resort but otherwise the weakest option we have. If bombing Iran’s facilities would be reckless and unreliable, and a “better deal” is extremely unlikely, we must consider whether this agreement is our best option.
Iranian leaders have repeatedly denied the painful history of the Holocaust and threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Such frightening comments cannot be taken lightly. Yet, it is clear that an agreement in which Iran’s nuclear program would be severely curtailed, and subject to extensive and intrusive international monitoring, is a significant victory and helps achieve our ultimate goal –– ensuring that this dangerous nation can never develop a nuclear weapon. Approving the agreement is the best choice we have.
This calculus is shared by a clear majority of American Jews. National surveys reveal that, by a wide margin, American Jews support the agreement and want to see Congress approve it. A poll conducted in July by the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles found that when asked whether Congress should “vote to approve or oppose the deal,” American Jews support the deal by an 18-point margin, 53 percent to 35 percent.
Additionally, despite the rhetoric coming from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many top leaders in Israel’s security establishment have come out against rejection of the agreement. Among those who oppose rejecting the deal are former head of the Mossad, Ephraim HaLevy, and former head of the Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon. Retired Major General Amram Mitzna, the former head of planning for the Israeli Army, wrote last week, “This agreement is better than no agreement and must not be rejected … The time has come to pull our heads out of the sand, accept the deal as fact and begin planning for the future.” General Shlomo Brom, Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, said that the agreement, “represents the best chance to make sure Iran never obtains a weapon. While there are aspects of the deal that merit close review, many of these attacks just don’t stand up to scrutiny.”
Many of us who believe this deal should be approved love Israel just as do others who oppose the deal; the voice of the pro-Israel American Jewish community is not monolithic. Those among us who believe this deal should be approved will make our voices heard. I hope that in the coming weeks, members of Congress will heed the words of those who know Israel’s security best: This deal isn’t perfect, but it is far better than the alternatives and will make the United States and Israel safer than they are today.
Marshall Dayan is an attorney by profession, active in community affairs and with his congregation, Adat Shalom.