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September 18, 2017 3:55 pm

Top American Jewish Leader: Iran Violating ‘Deeply Flawed’ Nuclear Deal, Stricter Sanctions Are Needed

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Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

The future of the Iran nuclear deal will be uppermost in the mind of one of the American Jewish community’s top leaders this week as he meets with officials from around the world on the sidelines of the 72nd UN General Assembly session in New York City.

With the Trump administration weighing its potential next steps vis-à-vis the July 2015 JCPOA, “no one should seriously think it’s a simple yes-or-no situation, regarding recertification, as many people seem inclined to believe,” Malcolm Hoenlein — the executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — told The Algemeiner.

“The administration has very serious decisions to make about recertification,” Hoenlein noted. “The deal, clearly, is deeply flawed. The question is how to most effectively address it while keeping bipartisan support.”

The Iranians, in Hoenlein’s view, are violating the agreement they reached with six world powers “in the spirit and the letter.”

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Apart from the question of whether to recertify the deal or not, which the Trump administration must do every three months, “I think there are also options for stricter sanctions that would have an impact,” Hoenlein said.

“If countries and companies have to make a choice between doing business with the US or doing business with Iran, the choice is very clear,” he continued. “We should reinstitute banking and oil sanctions.”

Iran was reportedly a top issue of discussion at Monday’s meeting between US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The prime minister visited this week in South America, where he saw that Iran is making inroads, something that we have warned about for a long time, and now some governments are finally paying attention to it and the danger it poses,” Hoelein stated.

He also believed Trump and Netanyahu would talk about how “the peace process can be moved forward in a meaningful and responsible way,” as well as “the expansion of the efforts Israel has made in outreach to various countries.”

“You’ve seen this year with the visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi, Chinese leaders, African heads of state and others [to Israel],” Hoenlein went on to say. “The predictions of Israel’s isolation in the world have certainly been countered by a different reality on the ground.”

Hoenlein himself has meetings scheduled this week with officials from all corners of the globe, including the Middle East, Africa, South America and Europe.

“It’s a very important opportunity,” he said of the annual UN General Assembly gathering. “We don’t have to travel far and we have a chance to put forth our agenda and the concerns we have. And often out of these meetings have come really important results and benefits.

Asked to assess the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to revive the long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Hoenlein replied, “I think it’s a sincere and careful approach to the complex issues of the Middle East, where they have tried to learn from some of the mistakes in the past. I think they’ve come to face the reality that it’s not easy to make a deal in the Middle East. It’s very complicated. I think they’ve demonstrated that they’re not looking to impose a solution, but are rather there to facilitate.”

Furthermore, he said, “I think the fact that the Americans continue to be involved is important, because otherwise other parties whose approach and interests may be very much at variance with Israel’s will jump in, like the Europeans and others. You can’t have a void, because it will be filled quickly.”

Regarding the relationship between the administration and American Jews, Hoenlein said, “Jason Greenblatt, David Friedman and Jared Kushner have been there consistently and they have been very open to the Jewish community, with which they are intimately familiar.”

Last month’s white supremacist-instigated violence in Charlottesville, Virginia “shook the country, more than most incidents, perhaps because it was so blatant,” Hoenlein said. “For many, the sight of swastikas openly displayed was shocking. People also got to see the fact that the synagogue wasn’t protected by police, an issue that has to be wrestled with.”

“We are seeing, across the country, the extreme left and the extreme right looking very much alike, and both are manifesting antisemitic and anti-Israel themes and activities,” he continued. “We take this extremely seriously. We hope that Charlottesville will be a wake-up call on a number of grounds. One, that Jewish institutions have to take security more seriously…[And] second, we have to look at the dynamics in American society that have given rise to these hate groups. They no longer wear sheets. They come out and publicly proclaim who they are and carry swastikas and yell antisemitic and racist slogans, threatening Jews and others. So we have to look at what is happening and who is inciting, financing and aiding these groups.”

“From history we know it’s not just what the haters do, it’s what we tolerate and allow them to do,” Hoenlein added. “We have to say no and demand that those in authority stand up against it. That means law enforcement, and political, religious and academic leaders. The moral voices from every sector of society have to declare that this is not acceptable.”

“Hate is hate,” Hoenlein said. “What I know is that we’re seeing hateful things coming from various sources and it can’t be tolerated. When extremes go far enough, from the left and the right, they look very much alike. We saw that during the election, and we’ve seen it since, including on campuses. All are unacceptable. Both are cancers that have to be excised or they metastasize in society.”

Looking toward the year ahead after this week’s Rosh Hashanah holiday, Hoenlein said, “I hope we’ll see a rescinding at the UN of the noxious [anti-Israel] resolutions that were passed by UNESCO. People have to take these things more seriously. I know people don’t take what happens at the UN seriously in general, and in particular at UN agencies. It’s a mistake. Our grandchildren will pay the price for it.”

Hoenlein also would like to see less divisiveness within the American Jewish community.

“The most important thing we have to refocus on is Jewish unity, not Jewish homogeneity, recognizing that we have to come together and to be sensitive at the same time to our differences,” he concluded. “We must remember the unity of the Jewish people was the one precondition that G-d set for every miracle that occurred to the Jewish people from Mount Sinai until today. And we’re seeing too much disunity, too much readiness to go on the attack and criticize, and not to think things through. So I hope that this year we will make progress on that ground as well. That achdut will be the hallmark of this year of anniversaries. We have great challenges and serious enemies, but together we can meet them — for us, for our children and the future generations.”

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