By David A. Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC)
As I noted earlier, there’s been much discussion among some American Jews about whether President Barack Obama “gets” our community. Monday’s widely-applauded White House meeting with top American Jewish community leaders helped shut down this discussion once and for all. One of the most oft-cited concerns of American Jews—the threat a nuclear Iran could pose to Israel and America alike—was addressed again squarely on Monday by Obama, albeit behind closed doors. On Wednesday, in the clearest possible terms, we heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton state as plainly as possible for all to hear: this administration will not let Iran go nuclear. And this administration is not a bunch of starry-eyed day-dreamers in their pursuit of engagement with Iran either.
“Iran does not have a right to nuclear military capacity, and we’re determined to prevent that,” Clinton said during her wide-ranging address on Wednesday. “Neither the President nor I have any illusions that dialogue with the Islamic Republic will guarantee success of any kind, and the prospects have certainly shifted in the weeks following the election,” she continued. “But we also understand the importance of offering to engage Iran and giving its leaders a clear choice; whether to join the international community as a responsible member or continue down a path to further isolation.”
Between Obama on Monday and Clinton’s lengthy and detailed address on Wednesday, we have multiple fresh reminders that this administration fully grasps the seriousness of the looming Iranian nuclear threat—and repeated clear assertions that the United States will not stand by and let this come to pass. And between these two critical reassurances, we’re reminded that this administration knows full well that they’re not simply going to open a dialogue with Iran, and then all will be fine and dandy. Again, they’ve made patently clear that they’re opening a window—a very narrow, time-limited window—for engagement, which will only make our hand that much stronger if and when we need to work with our allies to apply sanctions and turn to other means to prevent Iran from acquiring military nuclear capability.
American Jews—like many other Americans—are right to be nervous about Iran’s intentions here. Iran has a squirrelly track record, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ... well, not much more needs to be said about him and his Holocaust-denying, Israel-threatening ways. A nuclear-armed Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, and a clear and present danger to America as well. The American Jewish leaders who met with Obama on Monday widely applauded the president’s vision and comments regarding Iran, and Clinton’s address on Wednesday only puts more meat on the bone.
If anyone hasn’t gotten the message loud and clear from this administration—essentially “no nuclear Iran, not on our watch”—then they’re not listening.