Chuck Schumer and other liberal fence-sitters will have their reputations stained forever if they let this Iran deal pass.
March 2, 2015
The Democrats’ historic support for
the Jewish state has always been what’s best about the party. The
understanding not only that Jews are entitled to a state, but also that a
liberal democracy is entitled to defend itself—robustly and sometimes pre-emptively—against
illiberal enemies, is why the party of Harry Truman, Scoop Jackson and Daniel
Patrick Moynihan commands historic respect.
But that party is evaporating. A 2014
Pew survey found that just 39% of liberal Democrats are more sympathetic to
Israel than they are to the Palestinians. That compares with 77% of conservative
Republicans. During last summer’s war in Gaza, Pew found liberals about as
likely to blame Israel as they were to blame Hamas for the violence.
That means the GOP is now the engine,
the Democrats at best a wheel, in U.S. support for Israel. The Obama
administration is the kill switch. Over the weekend, a defensive White House
out a statement noting the various ways it has supported Israel.
It highlighted the 1985 U.S.-Israel free-trade agreement and a military
assistance package concluded in 2007. When Barack Obama must cite the
accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and George
W. Bush as evidence of his pro-Israel bona fides, you know there
is a problem.
True, there is also the
administration’s financial support for the Iron Dome missile-defense system,
along with votes at the U.N.’s General Assembly opposing the usual anti-Israel
resolutions. The administration and its congressional lemmings are nothing if
not heroic when it comes to easy votes.
But this week Democrats don’t have
the luxury of an easy vote. Will they boycott the Israeli prime minister’s
speech? Will they insist the administration put any deal it reaches with Iran to
a vote in Congress? Will they support a fresh round of sanctions, vehemently
opposed by the president, if no deal is reached?
The administration is now trying to
dodge all this by waging an unprecedented campaign of personal vilification
against Benjamin Netanyahu (of a sort they would never dream of waging against,
say, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan ), accusing him of seeking political gain
for himself in the U.S. at Mr. Obama’s expense.
Yet the calendar chiefly dictating the
timing of Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was set by John Kerry , not John
Boehner , when the secretary of state decided that the U.S. and
Iran would have to conclude a framework deal by the end of this month. Mr.
Netanyahu is only guilty of wanting to speak to Congress before it is handed a
diplomatic fait accompli that amounts to a serial betrayal of every promise Mr.
Obama ever made to Israel.
Among those betrayals:
In June 2010 the administration pushed,
and the U.N. Security Council adopted, Resolution 1929, which “demands” that
“Iran halt all enrichment activities.” But now the administration will
endorse Iran’s “right” to an industrial-scale enrichment capability—a
right, incidentally, that the administration denies to South Korea.
Resolution 1929 also states that Iran
is “prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles.”
But Iran continues to manufacture and test ballistic missiles, the Supreme
Leader Ali Khamenei demands they be mass produced, and Iran’s top nuclear
negotiator is adamant that “we are not ready to discuss this matter with any
foreigner.” All of which gives the lie to weak State Department protestations
that a deal will halt the ballistic missile program.
In December 2013, Mr. Obama personally
assured a pro-Israel audience in Washington that, when it came
to diplomacy, “no deal is better than a bad deal.” Now unnamed
administration officials are selling the line that “the alternative to not
having a deal is losing inspections, and an Iran ever-closer to having the
fissile material to manufacture a weapon.” In other words, virtually any deal
is better than no deal.
In March 2012, Mr. Obama insisted “my
policy is not containment, my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear
weapon.” He has said as much on some 20 other occasions. But the deal being
contemplated now, with a sunset provision that will ultimately give Iran the
right to enrich in whatever quantities and to whatever levels it wants, is
neither prevention nor containment.
All of this is dreadful policy for
Washington. But it is a sellout of Jerusalem, one that can’t be rectified by
some additional military funding or the usual token measures by which Democrats
atavistically affirm their support for Israel. Chuck Schumer and other liberal
fence-sitters will have their reputations and consciences stained forever if
they let this one pass.
As for Israel, at least it will be able
to say that it gave fair warning to the Democrats of the historic betrayal in
which they are being asked by the president to participate. In the end, everyone
is accountable to history. At moments like this, it’s better to be on the side
of the brave.