Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoked the threat of a second Holocaust Tuesday, as he urged the American Jewish community to demand that their congressional representatives oppose the nuclear deal with Iran.
“It wasn’t that long ago that the Jewish people failed to speak out in the face of mortal threats,” Netanyahu said in a live-streamed address hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America. “This is a time to stand up and be counted: Oppose this dangerous deal.”
For now, the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement has divided the American and Israeli Jewish communities. While Israeli Jews overwhelmingly oppose the deal, a survey conducted by the L.A. Jewish Journal found that 53% of American Jews want Congress to approve the agreement, while only 35% hope they will reject it.
President Obama sought to solidify that support Tuesday afternoon by meeting privately with the leaders of several American Jewish groups at the White House.
One likely reason for American Jews’ current support of the deal is the community’s faith in the president who negotiated it. Obama won 69% of the Jewish vote in 2012, even as Netanyahu all but endorsed his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
In his address Tuesday, Netanyahu seemed to acknowledge the strength of Jewish support for the president, insisting that “this isn’t a partisan issue in Israel and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the United States,” while imploring American Jews to “judge the deal on its substance alone.”
The prime minister lambasted that substance, alleging that the deal “does not block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves the way for Iran to get the bomb.” Netanyahu argued that even if Iran fully complies with the deal, it will have enough nuclear infrastructure left in place when the deal expires in 15 years to assemble a full arsenal of atomic weapons. And if the Iranians decide to secretly cheat on the deal, Netanyahu claimed they could get a single nuclear weapon even sooner.
Netanyahu argued that Iran would have little trouble hiding its nuclear proliferation from inspectors, due to a stipulation in the agreement that requires the United Nations to give the Iranian regime 24 days’ notice before examining a suspected nuclear site. Supporters of the deal have argued that no sovereign state would allow international inspectors to survey its military sites without some notice, and that it would be prohibitively difficult for the Iranians to uproot a nuclear site in that amount of time. But Netanyahu argued that 24 days is excessive, allowing more than enough opportunity for the Iranians to move or conceal evidence of illicit uranium enrichment.
“That’s like the police giving a drug dealer two and a half weeks to clean out his lab,” Netanyahu said. “You can flush a lot of nuclear meth down the toilet in 24 days.”
Netanyahu also warned that by lifting sanctions on Iran, the deal would effectively channel money to Iranian sponsored terrorism, allowing the regime to create a “terrorist superpower.”
Supporters of the deal have often accused its opponents of wanting war – a claim made more credible by the fact that so many of the deal’s opponents, including Netanyahu, were vocal supporters of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. But Netanyahu called that claim “outrageous.”“Isrealis are going to be the ones who pay the highest price if there is war,” he said. “I don’t oppose this deal because I want war. I oppose this deal because I want to prevent war.”
Instead of military action, Netanyahu recommended heightening sanctions on Iran to force the regime to make greater concessions on its nuclear energy program and funding of terrorist organizations.
While Israeli politicians are largely united in opposition to the deal, several former members of the Israeli intelligence establishment have come out in support of the agreement.
Netanyahu concluded the broadcast by arguing that regardless of the deal’s impact on Israel, maintaining sanctions on the Iranian regime is in the interest of America’s own national security. Netanyahu pointed to the persistence of Ayatollah Khomeini’s anti-American rhetoric, even after the deal was signed, while claiming that Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is designed for use against the U.S.
“You’re the ‘great satan.’ We’re just the ‘little satan,’” Netanyahu said.