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 SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' MORE (N.Y.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinProposed bipartisan kidney legislation takes on kidney disease epidemic in America Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars House votes to boost retirement savings MORE (Md.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (N.J.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinRepublicans, Trump Jr. signal support for embattled West Virginia governor Critics say Interior's top lawyer came 'close to perjury' during Hill testimony The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments MORE (W.Va.) joined every Republican senator in opposing the deal. Red state Democrats like Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampLobbying World Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA On The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world MORE (Mo.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Democrats aim to block defense money from being used on Trump border wall MORE (Mont.) supported the deal. Swing state Democrats like Florida’s Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemocrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups How Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA MORE and Michigan’s Gary PetersGary Charles PetersSenate panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats Democrats make U-turn on calling border a 'manufactured crisis' Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account 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 Gillibrand2020 Democrats vow to expand abortion access at Planned Parenthood event Gillibrand leads 'Happy Birthday' to Warren in South Carolina Overnight Health Care: Key Trump drug pricing proposal takes step forward | Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic loses bid for license | 2020 Democrats to take part in Saturday forum on abortion rights MORE, New Jersey’s Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Ghosts of 2016 primary haunt Democrats MORE, Pennsylvania’s Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Overnight Health Care: Biden infuriates abortion-rights groups with stance on Hyde Amendment | Trump tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research | Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump's mental health The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems, progressives preview anti-Biden offensive 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 ShaheenDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay 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.