Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems
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In late summer, 2015, a number of red state Senate Democrats were in a position to help long-time friends and allies in the pro-Israel community by standing against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), President Obama’s now-scrapped Iran nuclear deal.

Democrat Sens. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (N.Y.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Senate Dem: Trump 'using immigrants as pawns' Bottom Line MORE (Md.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWe can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange MORE (N.J.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCain says he withdrew from Fed consideration because of 'pay cut' On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed MORE (W.Va.) joined every Republican senator in opposing the deal. Red state Democrats like Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampFormer senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Pro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyFormer senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes K Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Some in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor MORE (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate MORE (Mo.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) Tester20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Bipartisan senators want 'highest possible' funding for carbon capture technology MORE (Mont.) supported the deal. Swing state Democrats like Florida’s Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTrump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report Dem reps say they were denied access to immigrant detention center Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances MORE and Michigan’s Gary PetersGary Charles PetersGOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks GOP campaign group goes after Senate Dems over 'Medicare for all' MORE looked delegation after delegation of Jewish and pro-Israel constituents in the eye – people who, in many cases, had been with them from the beginning of their political careers – and did the bidding of the White House instead. Senators we thought were our friends – New York’s Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race Cory Booker releases 10 years of tax returns Buttigieg gets first congressional endorsement MORE, New Jersey’s Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker fundraises off Biden announcement The symbol of 'Wakanda' and black political vision The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' MORE, Pennsylvania’s Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyBiden racks up congressional endorsements The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' Dems accuse White House of caving to Trump's 'ego' on Russian meddling MORE, and too many others – proved to be anything but.

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What you’ll notice about that list of red state Democrats is that, with the exception of Tester, they all lost in this week’s election. Tester, meanwhile, barely won another term. It’s hard to say that the Iran deal didn’t factor into voters’ thinking. But it could have. And, in conjunction with the heroic efforts of partisan organizations like the Republican Jewish Coalition, the pro-Israel community should have made sure it did.

Since fall of 2015, too many in the pro-Israel community have chosen to forget about the fight over the JCPOA. Some in the community view calls to hold pro-Iran-deal Democrats accountable as nothing more than an effort to relitigate a painful chapter in our political history. Others believe, not without justification, that going after a group comprised entirely of Senate Democrats wouldn’t sit well with their own donors, who overwhelmingly are liberal. Still others believe that our organizations, despite the carefully cultivated image, have been merely influential as opposed to powerful – a big difference when it comes to the ability to exact retribution.

And so it’s in everybody’s temporary interests for the fight over JCPOA to be a distant memory. For the foregoing reasons, among others, pro-Israel organizations want it to be over. Pro-Iran-deal senators, too, want it to be over. Unfortunately, the next time there’s a big ask on an existential issue, JCPOA will still be there. Politicians will know there’s no downside to ignoring the pleas of an essentially toothless foreign policy lobby. We may all want to forget about it now, but when they decide it’s in their interests to remember it, remember it they will.

Which brings us back to the missed opportunity of this past week. Had the broader pro-Israel community chosen to oppose Heitkamp, Donnelly, McCaskill, Nelson and Tester, the political effects would have been to restore some semblance of political deterrence and, in so doing, put the 2015 fight behind us. Instead, what we had were board members and activists from major pro-Israel organizations donating to, and helping fundraise for, vulnerable Iran deal-supporting Democrats. It’s one thing to sit on our hands (as the community largely did in 2016); it’s quite another thing to embarrass ourselves by raising money for people who, on the most important vote we ever asked for, told us to go jump in the lake.

The 2020 political cycle began this week. As the pro-Israel community looks ahead, there will be more opportunities to oppose vulnerable Iran deal-supporting Democrat senators – Michigan’s Gary Peters and New Hampshire’s Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDems accuse White House of caving to Trump's 'ego' on Russian meddling 2020 Dems back repeal of controversial New Hampshire voting law New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law MORE stand out as obvious possibilities.

That there is little appetite among pro-Israel organizations to wade back into what was a bruising and ultimately unsuccessful fight is understandable. Thanks to the Trump administration, the deal is essentially undone. But, if they’re to be taken seriously as lobbying organizations and not merely event-planning travel agencies with associated think tanks, there will need to be a reckoning. We missed a golden opportunity in 2018. Let’s get it over with in 2020.

Jonathan Greenberg is senior vice president of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center and a former staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Follow him @JGreenbergSez.