Kerry Has 'Intense Exchange' with Jewish Leaders over Iran Deal

By Geoff Earle and Kevin Fasick

New York Post

July 24, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry had an “intense exchange” when he tried to sell the Iran nuclear deal to skeptical Jewish leaders in New York on Friday.

A day after GOP senators blasted him for getting “fleeced” by Iran, Kerry faced another tough crowd in a closed-door meeting with about 120 Jewish leaders at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“It was very intense exchange, serious exchange,” the group’s vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, told The Post.

Kerry spoke from a podium and fielded pointed questions from a crowd of Israel supporters concerned that the deal could allow Iran to get relief from sanctions while still maintaining some nuclear infrastructure that could threaten Israel.

“There was no acrimony, but there was intensity,” at the event, held at the Stern College for Women in midtown, said Hoenlein

He said members asked Kerry about “snapback provisions” if Iran cheats, a 24-day waiting period for nuclear inspections, and the window of when Iran gets to re-start some nuclear R&D.

One critic was former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Kerry’s former Senate colleague, who “made some impassioned comments,” according to Hoenlein.

The State Department called to request the meeting as the Obama administration works to secure enough support in Congress to fend off a motion of disapproval and prepares for a possible override of a promised presidential veto.

“Clearly they’re concerned about where members of Congress are at,” said Hoenlein. “That was implicit in his remarks.”

The role of Sen. Charles Schumer, and a longtime defender of Israel and a key Democratic leader, remains up in the air. Schumer has yet to take a position on the Iran deal.

“I believe he’ll do the right thing. The question is, will he go public and does he bring others along?” said Hoenlein.

Earlier, at the Council of Foreign Relations, Kerry said Israel would get the blame if Congress votes down the nuclear deal.

“I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed,” Kerry said.

That line of argument didn’t go over well with the Jewish leaders. “They [the Obama administration] can differ with that [Israel’s position] without isolating people or Israel,” said Hoenlein.

In his speech at the Foreign Relations group, Kerry also went after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he hasn’t offered a real alternative to a deal he has been denouncing for months.

“We’ve seen the Prime Minister draw a cartoon of a bomb at the UN and so on and so forth,” Kerry said. “But what’s happened? What has anyone done about it? Anybody got a plan to roll it back?”

During an interview earlier on NBC’s “Today” show, Kerry also warned Israel would be making a huge mistake if it took unilateral military action against Iran.

“That’d be an enormous mistake, a huge mistake with grave consequences for Israel and for the region, and I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said.