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 SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (N.Y.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans 1,700 troops will support Trump 'Salute to America' celebrations July 4: Pentagon MORE (Md.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Thomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski Trump administration moves to formally withdraw US from WHO MORE (N.J.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Energy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline MORE (W.Va.) joined every Republican senator in opposing the deal. Red state Democrats like Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillTrump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns MORE (Mo.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterInternal poll shows tight battle in Montana House race Bipartisan Senate group offers bill to strengthen watchdog law after Trump firings Senate confirms Trump's watchdog for coronavirus funds MORE (Mont.) supported the deal. Swing state Democrats like Florida’s Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world MORE and Michigan’s Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHealth care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark Senate outlook slides for GOP 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 GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE, New Jersey’s Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE, Pennsylvania’s Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Biden hires top aides for Pennsylvania The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Cure Violence Global founder Gary Slutkin says violence and epidemics follow same patterns; Global death toll surpasses half a million 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 ShaheenRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report 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.