by Lynn Sweet
WASHINGTON — Stepping up outreach to the American Jewish community to sell the Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama on Friday will keynote a live webcast hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America and the member organizations of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
And the White House announced on Thursday that next week, Vice President Joe Biden will head to Miami to discuss the Iran agreement with Florida Jewish community leaders on September 3. This is just the latest push from the White House to woo American Jews.
Anyone can listen in to the Obama call, to take place at 2:10 p.m. ET. Registration is required at http://jewishfederations.org/president-obama. The link to the webcast will be sent out to registered listeners at 10 a.m. ET on Friday.
There is massive interest in the live webcast. Rebecca Dinar, a spokesman for the Jewish Federations of North America, told Moment on Thursday that so far, almost 7,000 people have registered and about 10,000 are expected to be online by the time the webcast at the White House starts on Friday.
The format is aimed at having a “conversation,” Dinar said.
The event will be moderated by Michael Siegal, the chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, and Stephen Greenberg, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. The organizations have been soliciting questions and so far, about 3,000 have been submitted, Dinar said.
It’s no secret that the Iran deal has sparked intense debate within the American Jewish community. The aim is for the questions to “represent a high diversity of opinions and points of view,” Dinar said.
The webcast comes as Congress is poised to take up the agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, when members return from summer break after Labor Day. The Senate will consider the deal first, followed by the House, with the votes to be taken by September 17, the end of the 60-day review period. “The Senate will immediately begin consideration of it when the Senate reconvenes on September 8th. This was agreed to by Senate Democrats in a consent agreement before the Senate left for August,” Ben Marter, a spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number-two Democratic leader in the Senate, said in a Thursday e-mail.
The White House is not expecting to win the first round of congressional votes, and if the House and Senate disapprove, Obama said he will veto the measure. The focus is on whether foes of the deal have the votes to override the veto. For Obama, that means 146 House votes and 34 in the Senate to keep his veto intact. So far, Obama has the public support of 29 Democratic senators.
There are 151 local Jewish Federations across the United States, and as of Thursday, 63 have weighed in with statements, Dinar said. Some of them are extremely nuanced. You can read them for yourself here.
Obama will be talking to a potentially skeptical audience. In a statement, the Jewish Federations said, “We are hopeful that diplomatic efforts will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and we appreciate the hard work President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Under Secretary of State Sherman have put into crafting this agreement.
“At the same time, we are concerned. Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, its human rights violations and its aggressive threats toward neighboring countries—including Israel—make the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran untenable.
“President Barack Obama and his administration have repeatedly said that any deal with Iran must shut down Iran’s uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon, cut off all four of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb, and track Iran’s nuclear activities with unprecedented transparency and robust inspections throughout its nuclear supply chain. We agree. We urge Congress to give this accord its utmost scrutiny. “