Moniz appeals to rabbis with backgrounder on Iran nuclear deal

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a top Iran nuclear deal negotiator, wrote a letter to rabbis ahead of High Holy Day services arguing the merits of the deal.

“I have sought to explain the nuclear dimensions of the JCPOA to many audiences, including Jewish leaders in Washington and around the country,” Moniz said in the Sept. 8 letter, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal reached by Iran and six major powers in July that exchanges sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions.

“My conversations confirm that, as with other communities, the American Jewish community does not share a consensus about the JCPOA but its members want accurate information to inform their discussions,” he said.

Moniz, a nuclear physicist, attached to the letter five documents, several authored by him, arguing in favor of the deal.

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“This deal makes the United States safer, and it makes Israel safer,” he said.

Jewish communities have been a focus of attempts by both sides to influence opinion on the deal; in addition to White House outreach, there has been massive outreach by Israel’s government and by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which both oppose the deal.

Rabbis are likely to deliver sermons related to the deal, and Obama, in his traditional pre-Rosh Hashanah call with rabbis on Thursday, likely will focus on the deal.

The deal is under consideration in Congress this week and next, although President Barack Obama has garnered the support of enough lawmakers to stop a Republican attempt to kill the deal before a Sept. 17 deadline.

The latest prominent Democrat to back the deal is Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives who is among the closest in the party to the pro-Israel community.

Hoyer, in endorsing the deal, was not enthusiastic about it. “This agreement is not one which I would have negotiated, nor one I think should have been agreed to, given the collective strength of the P5+1 compared to that of Iran,” he said in a statement, using the acronym for the six major powers.

He argued for enhancing the deal through cooperation with Israel and legislative measures that would ensure Iran is kept in check.

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