Playing politics with Israel and Iran in Illinois

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Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) continues to misrepresent former Rep. Brad Schneider’s (D-Ill.) positions on Iran and Israel. Although the most recent poll shows Schneider up by 9 percentage points, most experts expect this Illinois 10th district race between Dold and Schneider to be one of the closest in the country.

But it won’t be if voters realize what Dold is doing.

Schneider and Dold both opposed the Iran nuclear deal. Dold wrote an op-ed opposing the deal on July 14, 2015, the day the terms of the Iran deal were made public. Instead of giving the most important vote of his career the time and attention it deserved, instead of questioning experts and seeking answers from the administration, Dold rushed out with an op-ed that reads like it was written in advance of the deal’s release.

{mosads}Schneider took a different approach. He studied the issue and met with opponents and supporters of the deal. He published a thoughtful op-ed opposing the deal on Aug. 13, 2015. But once the United States entered into the deal, over Schneider’s objections, the reality changed. Opposing a deal not yet agreed to is very different from reneging on a deal that we and our allies entered into and that has already pushed Iran’s breakout time back from two-to-three months to over a year.

Schneider’s view is that since the deal is a reality, whether we were for it or against it, we should now unite on a bipartisan basis to maximize its likelihood of success. Ripping up the deal now, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proposes, would allow Iran to move forward with its program without inspections or sanctions and leave war as the only alternative.

Following reports that Schneider raised more money than Dold in the first quarter of 2016, Dold accused Schneider of “breaking his promise to oppose the disastrous agreement that gives Iran a green light to fund terrorism and build nuclear weapons.” Is it even possible to state more falsehoods in fewer words?

Schneider did not “promise” to oppose the Iran agreement. Schneider did oppose the Iran agreement. Maybe Dold thinks that the Iran agreement is like ObamaCare and that Congress should continue to attempt to repeal it, regardless of the consequences. Does Dold agree with Cruz that we should rip it up? If so, Dold should have the guts to say so.

Did Dold even read the Iran deal? If he did, he would have seen that the agreement does not anywhere give Iran “a green light to fund terrorism.” In fact, nothing in the agreement prohibits us from taking action against Iran’s funding of terrorism that we could have taken even had there been no agreement. And far from giving Iran a green light to build nuclear weapons, the agreement permanently bars Iran from building nuclear weapons.

So what explains Dold’s unfair attack on Schneider? The 10th district contains a large Jewish population. Dold knows that the only way a Republican can win more than his usual small share of Jewish votes is to convince Democratic voters that Israel should be an issue. That’s hard to do against Schneider. Schneider is a lifetime member of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). He has long been active in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities. Schneider visited Israel over a dozen times before running for Congress and worked for several months on a kibbutz.

In a Congress with fewer and fewer Jewish members, Schneider personifies the representation that a heavily Jewish district like his needs and deserves (ironically, Dold lives in Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s district, so he is already represented by a Jewish Democrat). Indeed, leaders of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago thanked Schneider for his leadership on Israel after his first term.

Dold never visited Israel until after he won the Republican primary for Congress in 2010, and he’s only been back twice since then. He is good on Israel issues, but unlike Schneider, Dold chose not to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Dold can’t match Schneider’s knowledge or commitment, so instead, he is trying to “swiftboat” Schneider by attacking him on his strength.

Schneider’s opposition to the Iran deal also showed voters who the real independent leader is in this race. Dold sometimes breaks with his party on high-profile issues where his vote is not needed and where he’ll make some headlines. But he continues to support the Republican leadership that prevents his votes from mattering.

By opposing the Iran deal, Schneider stood up to his president and his party on an issue where every vote mattered. Most Democrats supported the Iran deal. Schneider knew he’d lose endorsements by opposing the deal, and he did lose endorsements. He knew that many of his supporters (including me, a friend of almost 25 years) wanted him to support the deal. He knew that by opposing the deal, he increased the risk that he would lose the primary. But Schneider put the national interest, as he saw it, first. Agree or disagree with Schneider on the merits, that’s independent leadership that we’ve never seen Bob Dold.

Sadly, this is not the first time Dold has misrepresented Schneider’s record. In 2014, when Schneider was on the floor of the House passionately speaking out against Hamas and uniting Congress in support of Israel, Dold sent out a campaign fundraising email blast claiming that Schneider “has been silent and watched this happen.” In 2013, Dold falsely characterized Schneider’s position on Iran sanctions.

Illinois once had a great Republican leader who said that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Dold will learn that lesson in November.

Sheffey has long been active in the pro-Israel community and in Jewish communal life. He is a lifelong member of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and served on the board of CityPAC, a pro-Israel Chicago-based political action committee, for seven years, including two years as its president. He is also active in Democratic politics and served as an elected delegate to the 2012 Democratic Convention from Illinois. Click here to sign up for Sheffey’s weekly e-newsletter.

Tags Illinois Iran Iran deal Iran nuclear agreement Iran nuclear deal Israel Ted Cruz
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