In late July, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish Council issued statements urging Congress to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's Nuclear Program.
"We encourage the president," the council said, "to heed the voices of those that are concerned over this agreement and to negotiate a better deal. If the president is right that this is the best deal that we can achieve at this time, and if he is nonetheless unwilling to walk away from it, then Congress should reject the agreement."
I disagree. I am sad to say that as a member and leader of this community for more than 30 years, The Associated and the Baltimore Jewish Council do not speak for me. In fact they do not speak for a majority of American Jews, as recent polling has shown.
Some claim that there are elements of this deal that could have been stronger. The same can be said of any negotiated agreement, whereby all sides come away with less than they want, but something they can live with. This agreement puts in place firm restrictions and multi-layered monitoring and inspections systems that achieve the ultimate aim of these negotiations: to effectively block Iran's every path to attaining nuclear weapons. This will enhance the security of the United States, Israel and the world.
Nuclear arms control experts; 29 American nuclear scientists, including five Nobel laureates; many American diplomats; and Israel's Peace and Security Association, representing hundreds of Israeli security experts who served in the Mossad, Shin Bet, Israel Defenses Forces and police, all have made clear that this deal offers the best option for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security service, and former Navy commander-in-chief, has said the agreement "is the best possible alternative from Israel's point of view, given the other available alternatives. … In the Middle East, 10 to 15 years is an eternity, and I don't believe that 10 or 15 years from now the world will stand by and watch Iran acquire a nuclear weapon."
"Without an agreement, Iran will be free to act as it wishes, whereas the sanctions regime against will crumble in any case," wrote Efraim Halevy, former Mossad director and the former head of the Israeli National Security Council. "If the nuclear issue is of cardinal existential importance, what is the point of canceling an agreement that distances Iran from the bomb?"
And there are many, many more who support the agreement, including more than 50 Israeli military leaders. Polls consistently show that the majority of American Jews support this deal and are actually even more supportive of it than Americans as a whole.
Americans, Jews and non-Jews, who care deeply about the state of Israel may, of course, disagree. However, the American public and our congressional representatives must recognize that strong, committed supporters of Israel in the American Jewish community and among its leadership support this agreement.
As a rabbi, Zionist and ohav m'dinat Yisrael — lover of the state of Israel — I support this agreement, even with its flaws. Should this negotiated agreement fail now as a result of a veto-proof congressional vote, no other agreement is realistically possible. Iranian nuclear development will go forward unmonitored. A military response will slow but not stop Iran's march to acquiring a nuclear bomb and Iranian retaliation would likely cause great harm to Americans and Israelis.
This agreement is the best alternative to that potentially catastrophic outcome. I support the diplomatic approach to this problem and I urge Congress to support the agreement.
Floyd L. Herman is rabbi emeritus of Har Sinai Congregation in Owings Mills; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.