With apologies to Bostonians… the great New York catcher/manager Yogi Berra, who passed away this week, used to say that “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
With regard to the debate on the Iran nuclear deal, I’d offer that, “It’s all but over, but the work has not even barely begun.”
I must admit that I was a bit naïve this summer.
I honestly thought that reasonable people with differing political perspectives could have a serious conversation about the flaws in the Iran nuclear deal, identify ways to address them, and together, take corrective action before Congress voted on the agreement. That’s why we at JCRC worked to convey our concerns about the deal, reflecting questions articulated by a range of bipartisan experts, some of whom ultimately came down on each side of the deal.
But that didn’t happen.
The debate became as much about the winning of the argument as the merits of the deal itself. Our political environment didn’t allow for a substantive negotiation about how to move beyond a binary choice between accepting and rejecting this deal.
So now it’s all but over. We have an agreement that will, with virtual certainty, become a reality of the international diplomatic realm come mid-October.
But it also isn’t over. Not by a long shot.
We’ve got to pick up the pieces in an American-Jewish community that is in some ways deeply fractured; not necessarily because of this debate, but rather because of existing rifts that this debate illuminated and exacerbated. We’ve got to deal with a U.S.-Israel partnership that has been severely strained. And we’ve got the reality of this agreement, flaws and all.
As we head into the holiday of Sukkot, I’m reminded of the state of impermanence that defined our ancestors in the wilderness. Their first formative generation as a free Israelite nation was experienced in tents of wandering. Their shared identity was not as much one nation as many tribes headed in a common direction. They experienced second-guessing, divisions, revolts. All the while – in this state of unrootedness– they were laying down a system of laws that could only be enacted in a future state of stability.
We too – I certainly hope – are in an impermanent moment. Many question whether we are ‘A’ Jewish community, with a common vision and purpose. We are second guessing, we are focused on our divisions. We are acting in some ways as disparate tribes rather than as one People.
We have to make sure that this moment doesn’t lead to more such moments. We must focus our energies on efforts that unite us in our love and support of Israel even though we may not share the same aspirations for what her future holds. We can’t allow those who benefit from driving wedges among us to exacerbate our differences or act to foster a partisan divide in support for Israel.
And, we have to sustain our focus on the Iran deal; realizing the opportunity to rebuild our unity through this work. While fifteen years isn’t permanent, it is longer than the standard political attention span of our nation. If it works as promised, this deal will come – in most parts - to a conclusion. When it does, absent regime change in Iran, we’ll have challenging realities to confront.
Whether you were for it or against it, whether you had deep reservations or absolute certitude - all of us who share a deep held conviction that Iran can never be allowed to pose a nuclear threat now need to come together to ensure that this agreement works, and, if it doesn’t that there is room for an alternative approach to the threat. We’ve got to work together to support reasonable, bi-partisan efforts to strengthen effective implementation while building a consensus of support for the U.S.-Israel partnership in a shifting region.
We have the opportunity and the responsibility to make this moment impermanent. We can take steps now and in the years to come so that when we look back and remember this, we will think of it as our wilderness moment - when we once again began the hard work of forming a new and united People from our tribes, heading in the same direction, with common purpose.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,