Josh Block, CEO of the Israel Project, took an aggressively anti-Obama approach on a conference call billed as a conversation about what will happen after the congressional vote on the Iran deal.
In a call sponsored by the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, he described the deal as “enormously troubling” because by the end of the agreement, “Iran will have the world’s most advanced technology, massive nuclear structure, more sophisticated military, and they’ll have a lot more money. So we’ll end up in a situation where after giving Iran all the funds and legitimacy and new technology, they will be closer to a nuclear weapon than they are today.”
While he expects Congress to disapprove the bill and the president to veto the disapproval, he said there is still a possibility for Congress to override the veto, although it is not likely.
More realistic is that Obama will veto Congress’s vote of disapproval and move forward with the deal.
“That would send a strong message that he’s doing so on behalf of his administration, over the objections of the people,” said Block, a former congressional staffer and former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The Israel Project, a pro-Israel nonprofit, has been a fierce critic of the deal, calling it the “surrender in Vienna.”
Throughout the half-hour call, he repeatedly criticized the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy, calling it “so deeply flawed” on Israel, the Middle East, and Iran. He urged candidates on both sides of the aisle to “go back to the traditional foreign policy of this country.” He also suggested that if Congress were to override the veto and Iran came back to the table, a better deal would be reached “because the next administration will negotiate it. Not this one.”
Block said public opinion has shifted “overwhelmingly” against the deal, “particularly in swing states with 60 percent to 30 percent” polling against the deal. He added, “The more people learn, the more they are concerned.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released Aug. 24 said voters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania oppose the proposed nuclear pact with Iran by margins of more than 2-1. A Reuters poll taken Aug. 20-27 showed that 54 percent of Republicans oppose the agreement, up from 45 percent in July, while 46 percent of Democrats support the deal, down from 52 percent in July, with Democratic opposition holding steady at 16 percent.
Block said he would like to see Congress take action to strengthen sanctions, “to ensure the mechanisms to address Iran’s bad behavior will be in place” should the deal go through. Chief among these is reauthorizing sanctions set to expire next year.
He’d also like to see Congress pass legislation that would define how America would respond to any steps Iran takes after 15 years.
He also suggested providing additional support to Israel, although, he added, “No amount of additional support will offset the damage that will be done by this deal.” He proposed a 10-year memorandum of understanding on foreign aid, and for the United States to provide Israel with its old B-52 bombers “so that Israel can bomb Iran anytime on its own.”
Asked if he felt Israel would act on its own if the deal is passed, he responded, “Every day, Israel’s decision makers ask one question: Is tomorrow too late to take steps against Iran? When the answer is yes, they will take the steps they need.”
He does not, however, see the agreement as doing lasting damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The conference call was part of a series of calls sponsored or cosponsored by the federation, representing various opinions. Previous calls featured Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and current Princeton University professor; New Jersey’s Democratic senators, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker; Sharon Goldman, political director of AIPAC’s Northeast Region; and David Makovsky of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The federation’s board of trustees has not come out against the deal, although in a statement it said that “[o]ur leadership continues to express serious concerns about this deal,” and believes “this deal needs to be augmented” in various ways “before it will adequately address the security concerns of the United States and its allies.”