JCRC Update | August 28, 2015 | The State of Israel in light of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Over the last few weeks, the Jewish communal world has been set ablaze due to the vigorous debate over the proposed deal to limit the nuclear capabilities of Iran. It has been very interesting to see different national Jewish organizations make public statements and take sides for or against the deal. It has been even more fascinating to see local Jewish Federations around the country also issue statements for or against the deal. The debate has been strong, loud and consequential.

After reading the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran, my head was spinning. This agreement is, as it purports, comprehensive, and it goes into great detail about the new limits of the Iranian Nuclear deal. Different analysts and experts, on both sides of the political spectrum have equally weighed in.

There are compelling arguments for the deal and there are compelling arguments against the deal. This really is one of those cases where reasonable people can disagree, and they have. Because a nuclear armed Iran really does pose an existential threat to the State of Israel (and other countries in the region), passions are very high on both sides. Here are some of the arguments being made by supporters and detractors of the deal:

Those in support:
Before any sanctions relief, Iran must come clean about its past nuclear military activities. It is not in dispute (expect by maybe Iran), that research into nuclear weapons was conducted. Iran will have to disclose this information by October 15 or sanctions will remain.

This agreement lengthens the “breakout” time to a bomb, from what is currently three months to a year. The Western powers who negotiated the deal are quite confident that they will know if Iran makes a dash to the bomb, and the scientists who negotiated the deal support that as well.

Its actual ability to produce a nuclear weapon will be severely limited. There will be strict limitations on uranium produced, and its plutonium facility will be converted to non-military use. Additionally, its current stockpile of military grade uranium will, for the most part, be converted to non-military use.

Inspections will be vigorous and surveillance will be invasive. And while there might be a 24-day delay between a suspected problem and Iran having to allow inspections, nuclear material would still be present after any attempt to cover it up.

Those opposed to the deal:
The entire deal only lasts 15 years, and the limits on Uranium enrichment expire after 10 years. This is a huge concern because as sanctions are lifted, 15 years of robust economic activity will put Iran in a strong financial position where it might be able to withstand any economic retaliation should Iran go for the bomb.

Iran is untrustworthy. Its nuclear program has been covert, and it has yet to answer for its obvious past of nuclear weapon research. Furthermore, the deal applies to known nuclear facilities, not the ones we don’t know about (Iran’s Fordow nuclear enrichment facility was built under a mountain and only discovered by Western intelligence services in 2009). Iran is the leading state sponsor of terror, and it is a destabilizing force for the region.

The inspection regime is not comprehensive. There are no “anytime, anywhere” inspections, and access to some questionable sites could take as long as 24 days should Iran protest the intrusion. Also, so-called “snap-back” sanctions are difficult to reinitiate, and world powers might be reluctant to do so for relatively minor infractions.

And these are just a small sample of the pluses and minuses of the deal It has been a very difficult and contentious time in Jewish communities around the country, as debates rage and tears are shed over how to approach this deal. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville held an emergency meeting this past week, at which it was decided that there really is no consensus in our community to either support or oppose the deal, so our role will be that of educators, trying to present the arguments for and against without taking a side either way.

The deal is certainly no slam dunk as some would have us believe, but it is not the death knell of the Middle East as still others would have us believe. To paraphrase the Reform movement’s response to the agreement, Patriotic Americans and committed Zionists can strongly disagree over the effectiveness of this deal.

In its role as educator, the JCRC is convening three briefings. The first, which featured Sen. Mitch McConnell, was held Wednesday morning, August 30, as Community was going to press. The summary will be in the September 25 edition.

At the second, on Wednesday, September 2, at 6 p.m., Rep. John Yarmuth, will speak and answer questions about the JCPOA in the JCC’s auditorium. Due to limited space, reservations are requested. RSVP to pdeweese@jewishlouisville.org by Friday, August 28.

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