WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. President Barack Obama stressed on Tuesday that if the struggle waged by AIPAC and other organizations against the Iran nuclear agreement is not fought on the deal's merits, it may result in a schism within the Jewish community and harm U.S.-Israel relations, said Greg Rosenbaum, chairman of the national Jewish Democratic Council and one of the participants in the meeting.
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More than 20 leaders of organizations including AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, J Street and the Anti-Defamation League attended the nearly two-and-a-half hour-long meeting, held in the White House's Cabinet Room.
Besides Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes attended the meeting.
Rosenbaum told a delegation of Israeli political correspondents in Washington that Obama opened the meeting with a half-hour presentation where he presented the arguments of the deal's opponents and responded to each one individually.
"He presented a firm case and said there is no perfect deal," Rosenbaum said. "He told the opponents of the deal that they can try and poke holes in the deal. They might find small problems but the bottom line is that this deal is good for the national security of the U.S. and Israel."
According to Rosenbaum, Obama told attendees that when he entered the White House in 2008, he decided that halting Iran's nuclear program would be a top priority.
At the same time, Obama said that he decided to try avoiding war, but is not deterred from using force if it's his last resort. Obama told attendees that he was surprised to discover that despite talk of a military option against Iran, the Bush administration had not prepared any operational plans.
"I asked the Pentagon right at the beginning to prepare a plan for military strike in case we need it," Obama said.
The meeting grew particularly tense when Lee Rosenberg, a senior member of AIPAC and a personal friend of Obama's, protested as the president described the deal's opponents as a bunch of warmongers.
Malcolm Hoenlein and Steve Greenberg joined Rosenberg, calling the president's remarks offensive and warning that they could cast a stain on parts of the Jewish community.
Rosenbaum said that the American president stressed that a war with Iran would be a disaster for the United States, and even more so for Israel.
Obama noted that U.S. military action would not bring war against the United States, since such a move would be suicidal for the regime in Tehran. Iran's response, Obama said, would be in the form of terrorist attacks against Israel and the U.S., and Hezbollah rocket fire on Tel Aviv.
"In every scenario Israel would bear the brunt of a military strike," Obama said.
Rosenbaum himself commented during the meeting on the deal's opponents, saying he has received slurs over e-mail for backing the deal. "They call me Kapo," Rosenbaum told attendees.
According to Rosenbaum, Obama touched on this issue, telling AIPAC representatives and other opponents of the deal that it is their right to protest, but to do so on the deal's merits.
"If you can't fight the deal on the merits you will weaken the coherence of the Jewish community and harm the U.S.-Israel relationship. You can spend 20 or 50 million dollars on a campaign but you can't publish ads that say that if you are against the deal, you are a bad Jew or anti-Israel. Talk about the facts and not about what you think might help you convince people to oppose the deal."
Rosenbaum noted that Obama told the attendees that his dispute with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran is not personal has not damaged U.S.-Israeli security or intelligence cooperation.
According to Rosenbaum, the president brought up the cartoon bomb with the red line that Netanyahu presented a few years ago at the United Nations. Obama said that if the goal was to dismantle the bomb, the deal has achieved this.