Foxman Slams Kerry Remarks as White House Courts Jewish Leaders on Iran

After meeting with Susan Rice and other officials, select Jewish group expresses support for 'effective and transparent diplomatic solution' to standoff with Tehran.

ADL National Chairman Abe Foxman has slammed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “inappropriate” remarks rejecting “fear tactics” supposedly being employed in order to dissuade the Obama Administration from pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear impasse.

Reflecting assumptions that Kerry’s pointed remarks were aimed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foxman told Haaretz: “Those remarks were inappropriate. They were not conducive to the relationship between the two countries. If Kerry had any criticism of Israeli positions, he should have made them privately,” he said.

Foxman’s rebuke of Kerry came following an extraordinary White House meeting on Tuesday between senior Administration officials, led by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and a select group of Jewish leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, AIPAC, the Anti Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

In a statement issued following the meeting, Conference of Presidents Chairman Robert Sugarman and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said that the “off the record meeting” dealt with “issues of the highest priority for the U.S., for our community and for America's allies - halting Iran's nuclear weapons program.”

The statement went to note that the two sides “agreed to continue the consultation to enhance the prospect of achieving a transparent and effective diplomatic resolution.” The Jewish leaders also welcomed “the reaffirmation of the President's commitment to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capability and that all options remain viable to assure that end.”

In addition to Sugarman, Hoenlein and Foxman, other participants included former Conference Chairman Alan Solow, who is close to President Obama and the White House, as well as AIPAC leader Howard Kohr and Jason Isaacson, Director of Governmental and International Affairs at the American Jewish Committee.

Participants refused to divulge details of the meeting, though one described it as “an open discussion” and Foxman said it was meant to be a “tour d’horizon of what the Administration has done, what it is doing and what it plans to do in the future” in connection with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In a statement issued by Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council Spokesperson, the White House said: “Following on the recent P5+1 talks with Iran, and in advance of the next round of talks November 7-8, Senior Administration Officials today briefed the leaders of several Jewish organizations on our progress. The administration officials made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that our preference is to resolve the issue peacefully through diplomacy. The meeting was constructive and we look forward to continuing these discussions going forward.” 

The meeting comes as the Administrations steps up its efforts to persuade Congress not to increase sanctions against Iran in advance of the planned November 7 meeting in Geneva between U.S. and Iranian negotiators. Kerry and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will meet with senators and Congressmen from both parties, as well as members of the Senate Banking Committee, which is slated to discuss a markup of a bill passed by the House of Representatives in August which would dramatically tighten restriction and ultimately halt Iranian oil exports.

While U.S. lawmakers as well as Netanyahu have voiced support for stronger sanctions and skepticism of Tehran’s true intentions, Kerry blasted opponents of a diplomatic settlement telling a Washington gala dinner on Monday night “I suggest that the idea that the United States of America as a responsible nation to all of humankind would not explore that [diplomatic] possibility would be the height of irresponsibility and dangerous in itself, and we will not succumb to those fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise,” he said.

Although Kerry did not address Netanyahu specifically, and some sources maintain that the Israeli PM has given the U.S. Administration a yellow light, the very least, to pursue a negotiated solution, Foxman harbored no doubts about Kerry’s intended address. “Netanyahu has good reason to be wary and skeptical,” Foxman said, “and if Kerry has a problem with the PM’s warnings, he should take them up with him privately.”  

AFP