It is now clear that there will not be a congressional resolution of disapproval of the agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — and that it will, therefore, be implemented. Thus, the day after is now; it is time to come together and focus attention on what needs to be done going forward.
Even those who support the JCPOA recognize the very problematic nature of some of its provisions — the “sunset” of certain restrictions on Iran’s capabilities to move ahead with its nuclear weapons program; the weaknesses in the inspection regime with respect to Iran’s “undeclared” sites; the uncertain nature of the restrictions on research and development and the concern that Iran will cheat in “small” ways and that there will be no resulting consequences, as examples.
The administration and Congress can ameliorate some of these problems, either through legislation or executive order. Ambassador Dennis Ross has a number of suggestions in this regard. As one example, Paragraph iii of the Preamble to the JCPOA states: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” Legislation can be adopted now that provides that if, after the restrictions on the production or stockpile of highly enriched uranium expire, Iran seeks to produce or import weapons-grade uranium or rebuilds the heavy water reactor at Arak so that it can produce weapons-grade plutonium, it will have violated the agreement and, in response, the U.S. will take military action.
Of equal, if not greater, concern is the release of vast sums of money that has been frozen by the existing sanctions, some of which will undoubtedly be used to continue and enhance Iran’s activities in support of terrorism in the region and around the world. There can be legislation enacted now which provides that, if such support continues, the U.S. government must respond, whether it be with targeted sanctions or military action. More than that, there needs to be a concerted effort to insure that, even without legislation, the administration and, indeed, the other members of the P5+1, particularly the Europeans, take action to counter these activities.
Finally, while, according to both American and Israeli sources, the level of cooperation and coordination between the United States and Israel on the military, security and intelligence fronts has never been better, and the relationship between the administration and the government of the State of Israel is strained, to say the least. That must change, and there are positive signs that it will. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry have agreed to meet when the prime minister is in New York for the annual meeting of the General Assembly later this month, and there is talk about a meeting between the prime minister and the president in Washington in November. There are significant issues that both governments will face in the coming months that must be dealt with in a constructive way. There will surely be, for example, a resolution introduced in the Security Council concerning the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and/or Israel’s settlement policy and activity. It is rumored that France is already drafting such a resolution. The administration has publicly announced that it is “reassessing” its view as to such resolutions. It is critical that we vigorously oppose any anti-Israel resolution that is offered and insure that the U.S. will veto any such resolution, as it has in the past.
Put very bluntly, there are too many serious issues that face the United States and Israel for the divisiveness in our community to continue. Thus, it is critical that we put an end to the rhetoric — some vicious — that has infected the debate on the merits of the JCPOA. There is enough blame to go around on both sides. The criticisms of and threats against Sen. Chuck Schumer for opposing, and Rep. Jerry Nadler for supporting, the JCPOA, as examples, are simply beyond the pale of reasoned and rational debate. And the threats from the left of a campaign to oppose Schumer’s possible bid to become Senate minority leader, and from the right to run a “well-financed” candidate in a primary against Nadler, are self-destructive. Each is a senior member of the legislature and a great friend of the Jewish community and of Israel. If we are to achieve any of the goals set out above, this internecine warfare must stop and we need to come together and work together.
The Talmud teaches that Yom Kippur can repair our relationship with God, but not our relationships with our fellow men. It is up to us to heal those wounds and move forward in a constructive, respectful and unified way.
Robert G. Sugarman is the immediate past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the immediate past National Chair of the Anti-Defamation League. The views expressed are his own.