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 SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (N.Y.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism The Secure Act makes critical reforms to our retirement system — let's pass it this year Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death MORE (Md.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSaagar Enjeti says Corbyn's defeat in UK election represents 'dire warning' for Democrats Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman MORE (N.J.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation MORE (W.Va.) joined every Republican senator in opposing the deal. Red state Democrats like Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world MORE (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle MSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' MORE (Mo.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? GOP braces for Democratic spending onslaught in battle for Senate MORE (Mont.) supported the deal. Swing state Democrats like Florida’s Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonLobbying world Bottom Line Bottom Line MORE and Michigan’s Gary PetersGary Charles PetersTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing GOP set for all-out battle over Michigan Senate seat 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 GillibrandAdvocacy groups decry Trump's 'anti-family policies' ahead of White House summit This bipartisan plan is the most progressive approach to paid parental leave Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' MORE, New Jersey’s Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate Booker cancels NH activities, campaign says he has the flu MORE, Pennsylvania’s Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe US needs to lead again on disability rights No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test New ObamaCare enrollment period faces Trump headwinds 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 ShaheenOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA Senate panel advances Turkey sanctions bill despite Trump objections 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.