For the past several weeks, I have been following rabbinic discussion on the Iran Deal. Most of the voices have been firmly against the deal, and many of my colleagues have been preaching against it from the pulpit. This is my first Shabbat back from vacation, but I am reticent to devote a d’var Torah on the subject because I’m not sure that the Torah has a definite and conclusive opinion on such a complex political issue.
For me to express a rabbinic opinion on the Iran Deal would be to say that the Torah can definitively solve a complex political issues such as whether Iran is less likely to get – and use – a nuclear weapon with this deal or without it. Although many people and organizations have strong opinions, I don’t know that anyone can predict the future with certainty.
However, I do have a personal take on the issue, and I wanted to share it with you. Many of you will agree with me; some of you will not. Those of you who support the deal have significant support both in this country and in Israel among people who understand security issues far better than I do. Those of you who are opposed to the deal can find a copy of a sample letter that you might send to our senators to encourage them to vote against the deal.
My personal opinion is that it is a bad deal. For years I’ve been hearing that Iran is only a few years from getting nuclear weapon technology. It hasn’t happened yet, which just proves to me that the experts are all just guessing based on the best data at hand. One of these days, though, they are going to be right, and I don’t think this deal is the best way to prevent that from happening.
To the question, “What do you propose instead?”, I say the following:
I’d rather see the sanctions kept in place until an agreement is reached ensuring a non-nuclear Iran, but I’m not thrilled with using the threat of long term, regime changing, war because I don’t think that the current Iranian government could be replaced with anything much better. However, I’d love to see a few precisely targeted massive bunker-busting ground-penetrating bombs dropped on the nuclear sites to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, as Israel did to Iraq years ago, even though I freely admit that I don’t know if it is technologically possible to destroy the reactors that way.
There is also is the issue of the release of somewhere between $50 and $150 billion after sanctions are lifted. It greatly concerns me that think about how much mischief Iran will sow throughout the Middle East (and beyond) with that kind of money. A more gradual release of the money as Iran shows itself to be a responsible world citizen seems a more prudent course of action.
As responsible citizens of this country and as Jews concerned both about the security of the United States and Israel, it is a mitzvah to contact our elected representatives and share our thoughts with them.
The most important action you can take right now is to contact our Michigan Senators, both of whom have not yet taken positions on the deal. I will be urging them to reject it. Below are five points that I incorporated into my letters (from standwithus.com):
Senator Debbie Stabenow
3280 E. Beltline Court NE, Suite 400
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Phone: (616) 975-0052
Senator Gary Peters
124 West Allegan Street, Suite 1810
Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: (517) 377-1508
Here are five points that will strengthen the agreement, and we urge you to require these points in a new agreement:
- Demand the dismantling of centrifuges in all Iranian nuclear facilities. The proposed deal would disconnect and store centrifuges in an easily reversible manner, but it requires no dismantlement of centrifuges or any Iranian nuclear facility.
- Include anywhere, anytime, short-notice inspections. The current agreement gives Iran up to 24 days to deceive, delay, and hide.
- Release sanctions gradually as Iran demonstrates full cooperation, satisfying International Atomic Energy Agency concerns over the possible military dimensions of Tehran’s program. The current agreement gives $150 billion and lifts sanctions as soon as the agreement commences, rather than gradually in phases as Iran demonstrates sustained adherence to the agreement.
- Block Iran’s nuclear weapons quest for generations. The current agreement permits Iran to legally acquire nuclear weapons in 15 years. A child born today would live in a world where the greatest terror sponsors, who want to annihilate the United States, also have the most powerful weapons and delivery systems to achieve their goals.
- Prevent Iran from obtaining ballistic missiles and do not lift the arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council, which will allow Iran to provide additional arms for terrorism and proxy wars, which inflame the region and threaten our allies.
Don’t let Iran become a nuclear threat on your watch!
JFGR Statement on Iran Deal
In response to the recent agreement between the United States and Iran regarding nuclear proliferation the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids joins numerous other Federations throughout the country in expressing significant concerns regarding its content, and encourages the Administration, which worked admirably and tirelessly in pursuit of this deal, to negotiate a deal that requires Iran to dismantle its nuclear program before obtaining sanctions relief. While we are not nuclear experts, we must recognize that a sizable and diverse number of authorities have stated that, for a variety of reasons, this deal fails to meet the most basic objectives originally set forth to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
History has taught us that the safety and self-determination of the Jewish people cannot be left up to the goodwill and false promises of rogue nations. This agreement does not allow for “anytime” or “anywhere” inspections of nuclear facilities, and it does not require Iran to reveal its prior illicit nuclear program-a program that violated countless UN Security Council resolutions. It allows Iran to gain access to intercontinental ballistic missile technology, which equally threatens New York and Tel Aviv, as well as $150 billion of frozen assets before it even takes minimal steps towards compliance. Iran, which has repeatedly lied about its nuclear activities in the past, will now have time to disguise non-compliant activity before allowing international inspectors into nuclear sites.
The safety of Americans, Israelis, and our Middle Eastern allies would be threatened under this agreement, as Iran’s neighbors seek their own nuclear weapons and unleash a nuclear arms race in the worlds most volatile region. History has shown us that regimes that sponsor terror throughout the world and call for the destruction of the United States and Israel simply cannot be taken at face value to comply with any agreement. Iran must earn the world’s trust before the international community rewards them with economic relief and legitimacy on the world’s diplomatic stage.
Proponents of this deal claim that our choice is this deal or war. We feel that the alternative is a better deal that would not legitimize Iran as a threshold nuclear state nor accept temporary constraints. Nothing short of an outright dismantling of the nuclear infrastructure should be acceptable to the global community
We also note that not only do Iran’s neighbors oppose the deal but a broad spectrum of elected Israeli leaders as well, including both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Opposition leader Herzog. We look to these leaders as examples of rising above partisan politics on such a monumental issue. We recognize that there are diverse views within our community, but ultimately this issue must remain about policy, not politics, and allow us to demonstrate moral clarity, unity, and resolve when advocating for Israel, the United States, and Peace.
I really like that you, unlike many Jews I hear comments from about “the deal”, have clearly separated your personal opinion from the center of our spiritual core – The Torah and its teaching. There is already too much mixup of religion, spirituality, and life on earth, that have been in the center of extremism around the world.
As for your personal comment on dropping bunker-pentrating bombs, I wonder if you know for sure that there is no risk of the release of nuclear material to the environment. I also miss from the discussion the rest of the world security besides the rhetorical “United States and Israel.”
I also like your suggestions to the elected officials as they reevaluate this “deal”.
The question about the release of nuclear materials is a good one which I cannot answer. However, given that the facilities are deeply buried underground and given that the greatest concern of those of us who fear a nuclear Iran is that they will use such a weapon, the venting of some amount of nuclear material seems fair in exchange for greater regional and/or world security.
While a better deal is a nice idea, there seems to be good support for this one: