Originally published in New York Post.
With President-elect Joe Biden just weeks away from moving into the White House, Jewish and pro-Israel groups are racing to nail down many of the gains from the Trump era — and are planning to aggressively lobby the new administration against any reversals.
Most of all, leading US-Israel machers are looking to keep the US out of a new deal with Iran, or short of that — influence a future deal that corrects for what they say were many of the mistakes of the original.
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal was formally known, was one of the signature foreign-policy actions of the Obama-Biden era. Proponents said it curbed Iranian nuclear ambitions, but critics have long accused it of being a giveaway.
Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact in 2018 and moved aggressively against Iran, reimposing past sanctions and even assassinating terror boss Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“We were not opposed to any deal with Iran,” David Harris, CEO of the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee, told The Post. “We were opposed to a deal which we thought showed US desperation for a deal and played a strong hand weakly. The deal then did not address ballistic missile development. It did not address support for regional terrorism. There were big holes in the inspection regimen and pretty quick sunset clauses.”
Biden has vowed to rejoin the Iran Deal, though subsequent developments and general bad blood since Trump’s withdrawal have made returning to the original considerably more difficult. On Friday Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was bumped off in an ambush just outside of Tehran in what the Iranians believe was an Israeli hit.
Pro-Israel groups are closely monitoring Biden’s cabinet picks as a signal of where his Mideast policies will go.
Mainstream Jewish leaders have been pleased so far, particularly with Biden’s choice of Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.
“We have worked closely with Tony over the years on multiple issues, from advancing peace and security for Israel to confronting Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the Middle East to combating Antisemitism and all forms of hate,” Jack Rosen, President of the American Jewish Congress, said in a congratulatory press statement.
Other staffers and insiders have drawn red flags.
Reema Dodin, Biden’s deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, publicly justified Palestinian suicide bombing while a student at Berkeley, telling a church in that they were “the last resort of a desperate people.” Karine Jean-Pierre, a top contender for press secretary, applauded Democratic candidates last year for skipping the historically bipartisan conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
President Trump showered Israel with unprecedented policy victories during his term. Among the biggest were the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the recognition of the Golan Heights, the territory Israel seized from Syria and annexed in 1981.
Smaller achievements have continued even into Trump’s lame-duck period, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing during a visit to Israel last week that the United States would classify the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as anti-Semitic. The international movement aims to isolate Israel economically to protest their policies regarding the Palestinians.
Biden is coming under growing pressure from his left flank to reverse Trump’s Israel policies.
“Sec. Pompeo has moved to suppress BDS, a peaceful protest movement protected by the 1st Amendment. I hope that Mr. Blinken and President-Elect Biden’s Administration will change course … & not target or suppress support of Palestinian human rights,” said House Squad member Rashida Tlaib in a Monday tweet.
The far-left anti-Israel advocacy organization IfNotNow is already petitioning the new administration to reverse “on Day 1” the new decrees made by Pompeo.
But moderate Dems say they expect Biden will resist such calls from progressives.
“The reality is that Joe Biden took on those forces in the primary and he won and we went to a Democratic national convention and some of those issues were debated and Joe Biden beat back all of those efforts,” Mark Mellman, CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, told The Post.
“The focus should not be on what we can reverse but how can we make progress,” he added. “We were in regular touch with the president-elect’s senior foreign policy advisors during the campaign and we remain in touch.”