Wooing American Jews on the Iran Deal: A Timeline

By | Aug 21, 2015
Latest, Uncategorized

by Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON – Lobbying for and against the Iran nuclear deal is ramping up, with Congress heading to a vote next month. Moment talked with Matt Nosanchuk, the White House Jewish liaison, about the Obama administration’s efforts to brief the American Jewish community on the agreement.

“We’ve been engaged in a sustained effort of outreach and engagement with the American Jewish community for some months,” Nosanchuk said.

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The outreach kicked off with the April 2 announcement of a framework interim agreement between Iran and six nations, including the U.S. Negotiations continued and a comprehensive deal was announced on July 14.

“Our view is we really have made extensive efforts to inform the community, keep them up to date. That’s what they expect and that’s what we want to deliver,” Nosanchuk said.

Nosanchuk shared with Moment an overview of the sustained outreach to leaders of organizations supporting and opposing the deal.

“We have a responsibility to meet with constituencies who are supportive…of the administration and the president’s priorities and those who are skeptical, neutral or opposed,” he said.

The outreach since April has included a stream of conference calls and meetings. Below, a timeline of the efforts:

April 6:

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with about 20 Jewish leaders.

April 13:

Two meetings at the White House:

In the wake of the announcement of the April 2 interim agreement, leaders of major Jewish organizations meet with President Barack Obama, with Obama’s national security advisor Susan Rice joining in the discussion. In a second meeting, Obama meets with other Jewish leaders.

April 30:

Vice President Joe Biden keynotes the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Soref Symposium Gala.

May 4:

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough speaks at a retirement tribute in Washington to Anti-Defamation League National Director Emeritus Abraham H. Foxman (then Director).

May 22: 

Obama speaks at Adas Israel, a conservative congregation in Northwest Washington. The White House deliberately chose a conservative synagogue for the presidential address.

June 8:

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum 2015 in Washington.

June 22:

Rice speaks at a New York City tribute to the ADL’s Foxman, where Obama sent a taped video tribute.

July 2: 

Biden meets with Jewish former members of Congress in person at the White House and over the phone. The group includes former Reps. Carl Levin, Mel Levine, Henry Waxman, Jane Harman, Howard Berman and Robert Wexler.

July 14:

On the day the deal was finalized, the White House “wanted to move quickly,” tracking the statements different organizations were putting out or were drafting and offering a several briefings.

July 20:

Biden briefs on the Iran nuclear deal in a conference call with about 1,000 Jewish community leaders.

July 24:

Kerry discusses the agreement in New York with leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and, in another meeting, with leaders of the American Jewish Committee. Wendy Sherman, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs and a key player in the Iran talks, meets with the AJC later that week.

July 29:

The White House dispatches top officials to brief AIPAC members in Washington, even as that group is mobilizing lobbying drives to oppose the Iran deal and pouring millions of dollars into that effort. McDonough and Sherman are among the briefers.

July 31:

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz meets with 18 representatives of major Jewish organizations and stakeholders in the White House Roosevelt Room, including leaders who were cool or opposed to the deal.

After that meeting, Moniz met with reporters at the regular White House briefing, where he was asked if he thought he’d made any headway in selling the deal.

Moniz replied, “Well, first of all, it was a very good meeting, and a number of the Jewish leaders came in from across the country.  So, I mean, it showed I think right there a very, very strong interest in really having a chance to discuss the agreement in depth.

“Make progress? Again, I don’t like to make value judgments. I can just say that it was a very good discussion. Not surprising, these were people who were well-schooled in the agreement, but also had lots of clarifying questions to ask. I felt that we made real progress in terms of clarification of issues in terms of how this agreement was ultimately good for our security and for the security in the region,” Moniz said.

Aug. 4:

Obama and Biden meet with leaders of major Jewish organizations and key stakeholders in the Cabinet Room.

Afterwards, the White House said in a statement, “This meeting was the latest in a series that the President and senior administration officials have held with the Jewish community to underscore the importance of this historic deal and highlight the Administration’s continued and unprecedented support for our ally, Israel.”

Who was there, according to the White House:

  • Michael Kassen, AIPAC
  • Lee Rosenberg, AIPAC
  • Kenneth Bob, Ameinu
  • Jason Isaacson, American Jewish Committee
  • Marvin Nathan, Anti-Defamation League
  • Steve Greenberg, Conference of Presidents
  • Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents
  • Jerry Silverman, Jewish Federations of North America
  • Susan Turnbull, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  • Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street
  • Alexandra Stanton, J Street
  • Greg Rosenbaum, National Jewish Democratic Council
  • Nathan Diament, Orthodox Union
  • Rabbi William Gershon, Rabbinical Assembly
  • Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Reform Movement
  • The Honorable Robert Wexler, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace
  • John Ruskay, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace
  • Alisa Doctoroff, UJA-Federation of New York
  • Robert Singer, World Jewish Congress
  • Alan Solow, Chicago community leader
  • Gary Torgow, Michigan community leader
  • Andrew Weinstein, South Florida community leader
  • Fredrick Schaufeld, Washington, D.C. community leader

Aug. 6:

Nosanchuk, Moniz and Sherman brief about 30 Jewish leaders in suburban Detroit.

Aug. 7:

In Chicago, Moniz delivers address at a breakfast event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Later, Moniz and Nosanchuk lunches with about two dozen members of Chicago’s Jewish community. Both events took place at the Standard Club, an organization founded by members of Chicago’s Jewish community.

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