Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Defends Support for Iran Deal, Blasts Rhetoric on Both Sides

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Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on Friday defended his decision to support the Iran nuclear deal, pushing back against criticism that he had favored party loyalty over objective of stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Nadler, who represents a large Liberal and Orthodox Jewish constituency in the largest Jewish district in the United States, endorsed the Iran nuclear deal after receiving a lengthy letter from President Barack Obama, which answered his concerns on the international accord, and after concluding that there was no better alternative. As expected, his endorsement of the deal was met with strong approval of liberal and progressive residents in his district, and an equal disapproval by members of the Orthodox Jewish community residing in the Brooklyn part of his district.

Councilman David Greenfield, a Democrat representing Borough Park and Midwood, accused Nadler of lying to the Orthodox Jewish community when he said he’s undecided. “I believed then and am certain now that his mind was made up. That’s dishonest!” Greenfield tweeted. Others went as far as suggesting that Nadler “supports the destruction of the state of Israel.”

In a phone interview with JP, Friday afternoon, Nadler insisted that while he was already leaning towards supporting the deal last week, he only made up his mind and came to a final conclusion at the beginning of this week.

“I was leaning in that direction last week, but I decided early this week. To me the whole question was how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb-a nuclear bomb is an existential threat to Israel- but we have only two choices: to vote to support the deal or not to support the deal, and the question became are the odds of averting a nuclear bomb in the Iranian hands better if you support the deal, or are they better if you oppose the deal,” Nadler explained. “And what I came to a conclusion was that the odds of getting a bomb were better without the deal than with it; that the deal would prevent the bomb much better than not.”

The final consideration that led to his endorsement of the deal, according to the Democratic congressman, was the belief that the only alternative to the current situation – continuing the U.S. sanctions regime while using the banking system to threaten other countries from doing business with Iran – was not a viable option and useful policy.

“If that worked that would be the only rational for opposing the deal, and I would vote against the deal” he said. But after speaking to U.S, Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, his deputy Adam Szubin, financial experts and banking people, “I concluded that this would lead to economic catastrophe, and that the threat was empty, because other countries wouldn’t really believe that we would do this.” He added that his conclusion was reached after realizing that the Obama administration  “was proclaiming form the roof tops that these would lead to economic catastrophe, and whether they are right or wrong, they believe it. They wouldn’t do it. And if they wouldn’t do it, that means that over the next 18 months that couldn’t be done. So, the only alternative which is doable, and supported by Israel and AIPAC, no longer existed.”

During the interview, the Jewish congressman called the comments made against him “poisonous” and “absurd.”

“Saying that someone who supports the deal is an enemy of Israel is absurd; saying that anyone – Senator Schumer or someone else – who opposes the deal is guilty of dual loyalty or treason is absurd,” Nadler told JP. “That kind of rhetoric poisons a rational debate and poisons politics. It is just wrong and has to be discouraged. You know, it’s ‘sinas chinam’ (gratuitous hatred) – we’ve had that before – it’s just sinas chinam.”

“The kind of rhetoric that talks about motives is poisonous,” he asserted. “Look, I am a politician. I don’t object to political motives, they are legitimate. But every so often, rarely, an issue comes along that is so important that affects lives – life and death – that you can’t allow political considerations to intrude On this one, I very deliberately and consciously sought to avert political thoughts. I had to make a decision on what I think is best in the interest of Israel and the interest of the United States.”

Nadler acknowledged that he’s hurt by the negative reaction to his decision, mostly due to the strong relationship he had established and maintained with the Orthodox Jewish community. “I am upset that they are upset with me, not only for political reasons but for emotional reasons,” he proclaimed. ” I don’t like, emotionally, when people say I’m being dishonest or that I don’t care about Israel. It’s not just politically, it’s emotionally wrenching. But I had to make a decision, and make it based on what I think will save lives; and I have to make it as rationally as I can.”

Now that he has made the decision, Nadler said, he will “worry about how he reconstructs his relationship with “people who are very angry and very upset” like a lot of the frum community in Borough Park.

Nadler said he spoke with Senator Chuck Schumer after reaching a decision and they agreed to disagree, stating that while he believes that Schumer is doing what he believes is the right thing, “I am doing what I think is the right thing. I define that right thing is what will safeguard Israel and the United States from the Iranian nuclear bomb.”

The senior House Representative acknowledged that a better deal could’ve been negotiated had he been at the table in Vienna. He also admitted that “Iran will cheat, especially on weaponization,” but is convinced that the U.S. and world powers “have adequate inspections provisions and verification measured to make sure Iran cannot cheat on developing fissionable materiel.”

Jacob Kornbluh is a political correspondent for

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