(JNi.media) The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is staunchly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal and is lobbying Congress hard to reject it. Should it appear that Congress is unable to override a presidential veto on a resolution to reject the Iran deal, some AIPAC officials are contemplating a “nuclear option,” threatening to punish lawmakers who will side with the president on this issue.
“I think it is going to be an epic fight,” said J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. “The foreign policy fight of a generation.”
According to reports, J-Street is prepared to invest $2 million in a campaign to support the Iran deal.
AIPAC will convene a special conference on Tuesday, July 28 and Wednesday, July 29, in DC, to discuss lobbying Capitol Hill, according to an invitation obtained by JPUpdates.
In an email to top donors and members, AIPAC announced on Sunday that its Board of Directors and National Council will meet in Washington “for important meetings and lobbying appointments on Capitol Hill.”
“At such a pivotal moment for the United States, Israel and our allies around the world, your leadership has never been more vital,” the email stated. “In the coming weeks, AIPAC will mobilize the entirety of our institutional resources in order to articulate our concerns about the agreement and secure a broad bipartisan vote in Congress to oppose the deal.”
Alongside these measures, AIPAC officials have been debating using their doomsday weapon, namely to campaign to unseat congressional Democrats who will vote in favor of the Iran deal, according to Walla, citing an anonymous AIPAC source.
In the past, the pro-Israel lobby did not hesitate to take action against anti-Israel members of Congress, supporting candidates to compete against them come next election. A few members of Congress have learned the hard way a decade or so ago that AIPAC can be an unforgiving foe (Earl F. Hilliard, from Alabama, comes to mind).
Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry are briefing lawmakers and are trying to prevent Democrats from voting with Republicans who generally oppose the deal.
Israeli Ambassador to Ron Dermer is making his rounds, and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del) says he talked to Dermer three times. “He is a very informed and persuasive advocate for the Israeli perspective, and he is a persistent and thorough critic of the context of these negotiations, and made some very strong points,” Coons said.
In addition to AIPAC, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran has placed some hard-hitting ads in the media. Its spokesman, Patrick Dorton, said, “Democrats should be especially concerned, because the deal increases the chance of war, will spur a nuclear arms race, and rewards Iran, with its horrific human rights record.”
As most Republicans are expected to vote against, the deal, the struggle is over the hearts and minds of the Democrats on Capital Hill. A number of Democratic votes will be needed to override the veto promised by President Obama if the Republican majority rejects the bill.
In addition, how Democrats vote on the Iran deal will likely have far reaching consequences into the next election cycle, particularly for legislators like New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who has shown strong support for Israel in the past and represents a large Jewish population. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s agreement with the deal and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s support is likely to put some leftward pressure on Schumer, who is about to become the Democratic leader in the Senate.
A major bone of contention among legislators is that the UN Security Council is set to vote on whether to lift sanctions against Iran before Congress has had its 60 days to debate the agreement. Secretary of State Kerry balked at this when the deal was being hammered out, but was forced to concede on the insistence of Iran, Russia and European allies.