The Week of the Speech

This past week was consumed by talk of the Speech delivered by Israel's Prime Minster Netanyahu to Congress.  As we enter Shabbat I want to draw your attention to two important issues—how two other speeches given this week can inform our thinking about "The" speech, as well as an op-ed that addresses an important policy issue in Massachusetts.

On Tuesday I joined fellow AIPAC delegates to watch the Prime Minister’s speech and weigh the questions of what it did or did not do for the US-Israel relationship and our understanding of the Iran nuclear talks.

As UN Ambassador Samantha Powers eloquently reminded AIPAC delegates in her speech on Monday, the U.S.-Israel partnership and our nations' support transcends political parties and any differences on the specific issue of these negotiations. Powers reminded us of the long and enduring alliance, and of all the ways that the U.S. continues to fight for Israel in hostile environments where anti-Semitism and demonization of Israel remains a reality.

Some of Netanyahu’s critics are saying that he said nothing new in Washington, but one member of Congress told me that there was a positive to the speech. In the past, deals on this issue with other countries didn't get the congressional scrutiny they deserved. Netanyahu ensured that this agreement would be on the radar of every member of congress and if advanced, would get the scrutiny it deserved.

As for the substance of any such deal, I encourage you to read a third speech delivered by Ambassador Susan Rice, national security advisor, on Monday night. Rice articulated the administration's view on the actual substance of negotiations.  Ambassador Rice deserves credit for being one of the few senior officials to appear at the conference. She honored the importance of AIPAC members’ voices in DC, and she made an argument that conflicted with some of the views of many in the room.

Important as well is the substantive position we were advocating about what a good deal looks like. The debate is not between support for negotiations and support for military conflict. We all share the goal of preventing a nuclear Iran, preferably through negotiations, but always while, as President Obama has said, leaving all other options on the table if it comes to that. When we met with our Congressional delegation this week, we talked substance, not politics, defining what constitutes a good deal— one that dismantles Iran's nuclear weapons capacity, has effective monitoring, a phased out sanctions regime, and doesn't let Iran race to the bomb after a sunset period.

In the coming weeks we're urging Congress to move on from the politics of this week and focus on the policy issues. That's their job now, to do the policy work. Ours will be to make sure that they do it, and to make sure they hear our voices in support of a good deal if possible, and no deal for now if it's not.

As for the op-ed I mentioned earlier:  As many of you know, CJP is leading an important community wide initiative on addressing Jewish poverty. Governor Baker introduced his budget this week, which included a proposal to increase Massachusetts's Earned Income Tax Credit to support working families climbing out of poverty. Please read this column by JVS' Jerry Rubin and myself published in this week's Jewish Advocate, discussing our support for the EITC and why our efforts to address Jewish poverty need to include a public policy advocacy effort.  I encourage you to share it widely.

Shabbat Shalom,
Jeremy