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Jewish and pro-Israel groups’ reactions pour in on Trump’s withdrawal from Iran deal

Mainstream Jewish organizations voiced both strong support and tepid approval for the decision.

U.S. President Donald Trump announcing America’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. Credit: Screenshot.
U.S. President Donald Trump announcing America’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. Credit: Screenshot.

Reactions from American Jewish and pro-Israel groups poured in following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday afternoon to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Trump said in his announcement from the White House. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Among mainstream Jewish organizations came both strong support and tepid approval for the decision.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder lauded Trump for his “unmistakable message to Iran that its threats will not be tolerated.”

“Iran is a rogue nation ruled by a regime that cannot be trusted to honor its word, and even more so with nuclear capabilities that would enable it to wreak havoc on the world and cause a catastrophic arms race in the region,” said Lauder.

B’nai B’rith International also commended Trump on his decision.

“B’nai B’rith is encouraged that the president recognized the deal’s many weaknesses. We urge our European partners to join the United States in pressuring Iran to curb its nuclear activity. The reimposition of sanctions would send a clear message that the existing agreement cannot stand, and an Iran with nuclear weapons will not be tolerated,” President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said in a statement.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said it hopes that Trump’s announcement will allow for an agreement “would ensure that Iran never obtains a nuclear-weapons capability that would augment its ability to create mayhem in the region through its support of terrorism.”

Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and executive vice chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein added: “We hope that a more comprehensive arrangement with stricter compliance rules, a prohibition against the development of long- and short-range ballistic missiles, any weaponization program, and, of course, human-rights violations will become a reality. Sanctions targeting banking and energy sectors of the Iranian economy should be imposed.”

Similarly, the American Jewish Committee, despite noting its past opposition to the agreement in 2015—which the Jewish group said did not contain provisions on Iran’s ballistic-missile development, destabilizing regional behavior, weakness in the inspection regime and dangerous sunset clauses—said it had hoped to see “the deal ‘fixed,’ not ‘nixed,’ at this stage of the game,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

“We can only hope that today’s action by the president, significant as it is, will not end the effort to find common ground,” said Harris. “The last thing anyone should want is a wedge driven between the U.S. and our European partners, as Iran would inevitably become an unintended beneficiary. And given Iran’s current and future threats to regional and global security, that should be an outcome no one in the U.S. or Europe wants.”

The Anti-Defamation League also took a more measured approach, neither praising or condemning the announcement.

“With or without the JCPOA, the administration, Congress and the international community must cooperate to reach an end that all desire: to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, its aggressive militarism across the region, its direct threats against Israel and other U.S. regional allies, and its unacceptable, systemic human-rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities, women, LGBTQ, activists and other groups inside Iran,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

In 2015, the ADL expressed “deep reservations” about the Iranian nuclear deal, calling its shortcomings “too great a risk to the U.S. and for our critical allies like Israel.”

However, Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of left-wing “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street, came out squarely opposed to Trump’s announcement. “It’s a very sad day when the United States abdicates leadership, reneges on its word and walks away from a deal that has successfully blocked all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb.”

Orthodox Jewish groups voiced support for Trump’s decision, with the National Council of Young Israel calling it “historic and heroic,” while the Orthodox Union said it will “support the president’s coming actions to bring true and lasting security to the Middle East and beyond.”

Christians United for Israel, with more than 4 million members and purportedly the largest pro-Israel group in the United States, also applauded the decision.

“This deal was flawed from the beginning, and largely backed by those far more focused on securing an agreement than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee. “No agreement based on Iran’s lies and the Obama Administration’s half-truths was going to withstand the test of time.”

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