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 SchumerHouse Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Trump says he 'didn't need to' declare emergency but wanted 'faster' action MORE (N.Y.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Baseball legend Frank Robinson, first black manager in MLB, dies at 83 Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report MORE (Md.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (N.J.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Senate poised to confirm Trump’s attorney general pick MORE (W.Va.) joined every Republican senator in opposing the deal. Red state Democrats like Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government MORE (Mo.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (Mont.) supported the deal. Swing state Democrats like Florida’s Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson2020 party politics in Puerto Rico There is no winning without Latinos as part of your coalition Dem 2020 candidates court Puerto Rico as long nomination contest looms MORE and Michigan’s Gary PetersGary Charles PetersDems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers push to award Aretha Franklin the Congressional Gold Medal Congress sends bill renewing anti-terrorism program to Trump 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 GillibrandNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union Omar: Next president should declare national emergency on climate change ‘on day 1’ MORE, New Jersey’s Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union Former Virginia Gov McAuliffe writes book about confronting white nationalism MORE, Pennsylvania’s Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyGOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report GOP senators: Trump should not declare border emergency during State of the Union 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 slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Bipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt 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.