Republican Jewish Coalition

The RJC Weekly Newsletter

February 25, 2021

Your weekly look at the latest news, analysis, and RJC activities around the country.

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- Featured -

RJC Eagle

RJC in the News

Jacob Kornbluh writes at the Forward about the Jewish community’s response to President Joe Biden's Iran policy. He wants to bring the US back into the dangerous Obama-Biden Iran nuclear deal. Kornbluh reports:

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken’s latest moves and statements on Iran give the GOP an opportunity to move past its internal rift over [President Donald] Trump’s refusal to accept the election results and his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Brooks said the RJC wants to be “a leading voice in opposition, working with our congressional allies and partners and trying to educate the Jewish community, and hold the Biden administration accountable on these critical policy issues.”

…[Ari] Fleischer, a member of the RJC’s board of directors, said that Iran remains a “hot-button issue” for Jewish voters. He noted that the Republican share of the Jewish vote increased significantly in 2012, and said he believes that was based on frustrations with former President Barack Obama’s policy approach to the Middle East.

…“Republicans have been making inroads into the Jewish world for quite a long while,” Fleischer said, “and issues like this contribute to the Democratic erosion.”

• RJC Leader Stephen Odzer spoke recently about the RJC and its efforts in the Washington DC and in the Jewish community:

“The people at the Republican Jewish Coalition never stop working,” Stephen Odzer said. “The Jewish vote is critical to many republican victories, and volunteers understand that. That’s why our grassroots efforts can reach so widely and be so effective.”

Odzer explained that the Republican Jewish Coalition fights for the Jewish vote and has had incredible success this election season. The legislative affairs program guarantees that Jewish issues are understood on Capitol Hill.

Southern Jewish Life magazine reported on reactions in the Jewish community to the news that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) will not seek reelection in 2022:

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), another national group, had praise for Shelby as well.

“With the retirement of Sen. Shelby, the Jewish community in Alabama and nationwide will lose a reliable ally,” said RJC Legislative Director Noah Silverman.

“During the tenure of President [Barack] Obama, Sen. Shelby spoke out forcefully against the terrible nuclear deal with Iran and the decision to support an anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution,” Silverman added.

“And as a long-time senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Shelby played a key role in ensuring that US-Israel security assistance agreements were faithfully implemented, as well as providing homeland security grants to Jewish institutions.”

President Biden

Biden Iran Policy Raise Concerns

President Joe Biden is taking steps to undo President Donald Trump’s successes, particularly regarding Iran.

US News reports that the Biden administration announced late last week that “it is ready to meet with Iran, along with other signatories to the 2015 deal governing its nuclear program, opening the door to negotiations” with the totalitarian Iranian regime. The report continues:

Thursday's announcements shed light on how the Biden administration plans to move forward in dealing with Iran, following the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign that saw unyielding diplomatic, economic and at times military punishments against Tehran. It remains unclear whether the White House will simply attempt to return to the terms of the original deal – which Iran has pressed for, in return for sanctions relief – rather than seek negotiations to determine a new agreement.

The Washington Free Beacon notes:

The announcement was not well received by Republican foreign policy leaders in and outside of Congress who fear the Biden administration is on the path to providing Iran with sanctions relief and concessions in return for little or no shift in its nuclear program and support for terrorism.

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo told the Free Beacon that European nations "wanted to appease the Iranian theocracy for my entire time as secretary of state. We refused. The ayatollah understands only strength. I led a response to the Iranian threat that protected the American people from its terror and supported the Jewish state of Israel."

The Times of Israel reports on Israel’s response to the announcement:

“Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons and its position on the nuclear agreement has not changed,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “Israel believes that going back to the old agreement will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. Israel is in close contact with the United States on this matter.”

Mark Dubowitz and Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies caution that President Biden is squandering leverage that President Trump gained through his “maximum pressure” policy.

The Biden administration’s strategy for getting Iran to play ball clearly involves making upfront concessions to Tehran, including de-linking the nuclear and regional threats it poses.

…Biden’s approach draws directly from Obama’s playbook: turning a blind eye to regional aggression and offering economic relief to signal support for engagement to get back to the negotiating table. And it’s unfortunate, because the result is sure to be the same as before as well: an overly deferential and defective deal that offers Iran patient pathways to nuclear weapons because its restrictions eventually sunset, while handcuffing Washington from using its most powerful economic punishments and doing nothing to stop the improvement of the clerical regime’s warfighting abilities or that of its proxies.

Keep reading here.

RJC statement

The RJC Speaks Up

The RJC is deeply concerned about the Biden plan to return the US to the Iran nuclear deal. In a statement late last week, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

The Biden administration is reverting right back to the counter-productive policies of the Obama-Biden years.

Before taking a single step toward returning to negotiations with Iran, we should be insisting that Iran fulfill their existing international obligations. Iran must be transparent about their nuclear weapons program, cease their illegal ballistic missile program, end their funding of terrorism, and stop holding hostage innocent citizens of the US and our allies.

President Donald Trump rightfully pulled the US out of the terrible JCPOA and reimposed sanctions on Iran to curb its ability to develop nuclear weapons and support terrorism. It would be an historic mistake for the Biden administration to pursue an Iran policy based on weakness and concessions, rather than one based on the position of strength established by the Trump administration. We need a better deal, one that fixes the flaws in the JCPOA and ensures Iran’s compliance, not a return to the JCPOA. The Republican Jewish Coalition strongly opposes President Biden’s intention to return us to that incredibly dangerous deal.

The RJC also expressed our opposition to the Biden administration plan to return the US to the UN Human Rights Council. As the Jerusalem Post reported this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States will seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term. President Donald Trump took the US out of the Council to protest its virulent anti-Israel bias.

The RJC statement says:

The Republican Jewish Coalition strongly opposes the Biden administration’s plan to take the United States back into the United Nations Human Rights Council as a voting member.

The UNHRC makes a mockery of the cause of human rights. Its members include dictatorial governments like China, Cuba and Venezuela. At the same time, the Council devotes a ludicrous portion of its time and effort to criticizing democratic Israel and even maintains a permanent agenda item for Israel - the only country subject to such treatment.

The Obama administration brought the US into the UNHRC after President George W. Bush had kept us out. President Barack Obama's appointees claimed that our participation was a success because the ratio between anti-Israel resolutions and resolutions chastising other countries became slightly less lopsided, but it was still quite lopsided, and Israel remained on the Council's permanent agenda.

In his remarks to the Human Rights Council today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US will seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term and said, “We humbly ask for the support of all UN Member States in our bid to return to a seat in this body.”

We think the Trump administration was correct to end US participation in 2018 because the Council had resisted the administration's demands for reform and remained, in the words of then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, "a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."

The RJC calls on President Biden to uphold the previous US policy of refusing to participate in the activities of the UNHRC until it undergoes significant reforms.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking at the UN General Assembly in 2014.

Danger From Iran

News stories this week highlight the dangers of making concessions to Iran before the regime comes into compliance with its existing international obligations.

Rick Moran at PJMedia writes:

The South Korean government has agreed to unlock part of about $9 billion in frozen Iranian assets that were formerly unavailable because of US sanctions on Iran… Just coincidentally, Iran seized a South Korean tanker and its crew members last month. I’m sure the unblocking of the assets had nothing to do with Iran taking its ship and people hostage. As soon as South Korea agreed to talk about the blocked funds, the hostages were released.

Meanwhile, the Times of Israel reports that France has confirmed that Iran arrested a French national in May 2020 and has been holding him hostage since then. Iran has repeatedly arrested foreigners and dual nationals on false charges and held them for months or years. When these hostages have been released, it was in exchange for Iranians held abroad for crimes.

Naturalized American citizen Wang Xiyue writes in the Wall Street Journal about his experience as a prisoner of Iran for 40 months:

[T]he Iranian Ministry of Intelligence arrested me on false espionage charges in August 2016, shortly after the implementation of the JCPOA—during what appeared to be a period of rapprochement between the US and Iran. I was thrown into solitary confinement, forced to confess things my interrogator knew I had not done, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

My interrogator made clear that my sole “crime” was being an American. He told me I was to be used as a pawn in exchange for US-held Iranian prisoners and the release of frozen Iranian assets. (I was released in a 2019 prisoner swap.)

… The regime’s hostility toward the US isn’t reactive, but proactive, rooted in a fierce anti-Americanism enmeshed in its anti-imperialist ideology. As I witnessed firsthand, Tehran isn’t interested in normalizing relations with Washington. It survives and thrives on its self-perpetuated hostility against the West; a posture that has been integral to the regime’s identity.

… Diplomacy can’t succeed without leverage. Only by showing strength of will can President Biden hope for genuine progress in containing the Iranian threat to peace.

The RJC agrees with that assessment. Iran is a serious threat, and a weak US policy will not succeed in preventing the rise of a nuclear Iran. That is why the RJC is firmly opposed to the Biden plan to bring the US back into the Iran nuclear deal, as we stated last week.

- Short Takes -

Liberal US Jewish groups urge Biden to reverse Trump settlement label policy

A group of six prominent progressive Jewish groups in the US called on the Biden administration to revoke a Trump White House directive that requires all US exports from West Bank settlements to be labeled as “made in Israel”… The groups that signed on to the letter were Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

- Tweets -

Happy Purim!

Best wishes for joyful Purim from the Officers and Staff of the RJC!

- Events -

RJC members are invited to participate in a community event sponsored by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM):

The first-ever Combat Anti-Semitism Movement

Annual Global Summit

March 1, 1:00-3:15PM EST

You will hear from a diverse group of international leaders and grassroots activists as we celebrate the last year’s achievements and discuss challenges that lie ahead.

Speakers include Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Former US Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr, ISGAP Chairman Nathan Sharansky, and more.

Click here to register.

Learn more about CAM here.

RJC National Leadership Meeting Announcement

We've received many inquiries about when the next RJC Annual Leadership Meeting will take place. We are still evaluating our options for a national leadership meeting in Las Vegas in 2021, but with the continued threat of Covid, our usual timelines of March or April for that event are not possible. Currently, we are looking at dates in the late fall and we will keep you up to date as developments arise.

While RJC offices are closed and our staff are teleworking, you can reach us by email or by phone (please leave a voicemail message and your call will be returned). Contact information for our offices can be found on our web site. Please visit us online for the latest RJC news, to see details of upcoming events, and to donate to the RJC.

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