difference of opinion over the American and Israeli approaches to preventing
Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons was evident when Rep.
Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) briefed 18 Jewish community leaders Wednesday
at the Israeli Consulate in Chicago.
Though a representative of J Street and another from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) differed on the approach to Iran, there was strong agreement throughout the room on the importance of strong ties between Israel and the United States.
“(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and (United States Secretary of State John) Kerry talk every day,” Schneider said. He explained how Congress overwhelmingly supports for Israel when it can agree on little else. “Four hundred members of Congress gave the President those sanctions,” he added referring to a bill he helped shape in the House of Representatives.
While both the United States and Israel make it a matter of policy Iran should not be allowed to have nuclear weapon, there was some difference on approach. Mark Zivin, the leader of J Street in the Midwest, felt Iran needs some room to negotiate.
“They are Persians,” Zivin said of Iran. “They are a proud people with a 3,000 year old culture. We have to allow them an opportunity to save face.” Though Zivin supports sanctions and, reluctantly military action, he does not want to discount diplomacy.
Aipac's Tony Davis sees no change in the Iranian situation even though Iran elected a moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as its new president. “The supreme leader is still the supreme leader,” Banks said without mentioning a place for diplomacy.
Though Davis and Zivin may have a difference of opinion—Aipac is a grass roots group that supports a strong relationship between Israel and the United States and J Street describes itself as a pro Israel pro peace political organization—Schneider’s position is clear.
“The sanctions have had a crippling effect on the Iranian economy, but as Iran continues its nuclear program, we must be able to accelerate the pace and increase the intensity of sanctions to persuade the new Iranian government to abandon its efforts toward acquiring nuclear weapons capability," Schneider said.
Schneider also talked about the conditions of life in Israel, the strength of its economy, its relationship with its neighbors and the renewed peace process. He spoke about a sense of hope despite low expectations while he was in Israel. He talked to the group about that as well.
“Israel cannot be both a democracy and a Jewish country and rule over five million Arabs,” Schneider said. “We heard that over and over again from (Israeli President Shimon) Peres and Netanyahu.”
Talking about the broader Middle East, Schneider distinguished between existential threats like Iran, strategic concerns like Hezbollah with rockets pointed at Israel and tactical issues like Syria where a potential attack is unlikely.
Syria is still a worry. “The worst nightmare is the best possible solution,” Schneider said of the Syrian civil war.
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