Editorial: After Iran nuclear deal, strengthen U.S. bonds with Israel

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Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel, at the Sun-Times in 2014. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times Michael Schmidt

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President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran is a done deal. Republicans in Congress don’t have the votes to kill it. They should move on.

What matters now is that two nations with enormous mutual strategic interests and shared values — the United States and Israel — rededicate themselves to strengthening their historic bond. After two years of contentious debates, the American people appreciate more fully than ever the threat posed by Iran, the existential dangers confronting Israel, and the crucial security importance of America’s alliance with Israel, a nation Obama recently referred to as “family.”

Israeli leaders, for their part, would be wise to mend fences with Americans who don’t necessarily vote Republican. Our nation’s support for Israel has always been strongly bipartisan, until now. The Iran deal has been endorsed by almost every Democrat in the Senate, but not by a single Republican.


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That party-line vote was always a possibility, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not help matters when he insulted Obama by rolling into Washington last March, at the invitation of Republicans on Capitol Hill, and condemned the Iran deal before a joint session of Congress.

We would also hope that Israeli leaders do more to reach out to Americans — and in particular young Jewish Americans — whose support for Israel has always been as much about shared human values as global security interests. Toward that end, a renewed and sincere effort to negotiate a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict cannot be tabled forever.

For its part, the United States has an obligation, having assured Israel and the world that the Iran nuclear deal is a net good, to crack down on Iran at the first sign of noncompliance.

Israeli’s criticism of the deal “managed to create a lot of sensitivity” on the part of Americans, Israeli Consul General Roey Gilad said Wednesday in a meeting with members of the Sun-Times Editorial Board, and any cheating by Iran would “be met by such an outcry by the American people.”

Hillary Clinton took that appropriate hard line in a speech on Wednesday, when she said she would “not hesitate” to take military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Most of the other candidates for president would say the same. If not, they shouldn’t be president.

The Middle East is a more dangerous place than ever. When an Israeli looks around, Gilad said, he does not see other states so much as he sees terrorists groups, such as ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas. And an Israeli has no doubt, Gilad said, that Iranian leaders are sincere when they envision a world, within 25 years, in which Israel does not exist. Americans, according to polls, are also much more likely today to distrust Iran.

With the Iran nuclear deal all but signed and delivered, it is even more in the United States’ self-interest to assist in Israel’s long-term security, both militarily and strategically. Gilad said that begs for a new 10-year Memo of Understanding of strategic and military cooperation between the two nations, replacing a memo set to expire in 2017.

That is where the attention on Capitol Hill now should be focused, not in further attempts to undercut the Iran deal. Imposing new sanctions on Iran the minute Obama lifts the current sanctions, as some Republicans threaten to do, would only undermine our nation’s credibility.

When Iran tests the limits of this deal, as it will, it is essential that the other world powers that helped broker it — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany — be prepared to join the United States in any military or economic response.

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