The PJ Tatler

WH Chief of Staff Tells Jewish Group Obama's Concern for Israel Drove Iran Deal Devotion

President Obama’s chief of staff insisted to a Jewish group on Tuesday that the commander in chief’s “commitment to Israel’s security” is “why he’s devoted so much time and energy to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Speaking to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly at the Washington Hitlon, Denis McDonough stressed that “as a young man without firm roots grappling with his own identity,” Obama “drew strength from the Jewish experience and the basic idea that everyone deserves a home.”

McDonough quipped that Obama is the “first Jewish president.”

“I guess that makes me his shamas.  I’ll admit, some of the policy debates I’ve been a part of are Talmudic,” he said.

“Now, I know that President Obama’s approach to Israel—more specifically, his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu—has been the source of endless commentary. It’s practically a cottage industry. It helps sell books… For President Obama, ensuring Israel’s security is not just another element of his foreign policy. It’s not a political issue. It’s a solemn commitment made by all those who sit in the Oval Office—Democrats and Republicans—going back to Harry Truman. It’s sacrosanct.”

The chief of staff went into the administration talking points about “unprecedented” security cooperation with Israel.

“The deal with Iran sparked intense debate within the American Jewish community,” McDonough acknowledged. The Jewish Federations of North America didn’t take a stand against the deal like many other Jewish groups, and he thanked them for that.

“I can report to you that we are now focused on fully implementing the deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he declared. “…When this deal is fully implemented, it will cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb.”

“…This nuclear deal, of course, does not remove our many other concerns about the Iranian government. Iran still unjustly holds journalist Jason Rezaian, Pastor Saeed Abedini, and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati. We continue to call on Iran to release these detained Americans and to work with us find Robert Levinson, who is still missing. And we are not going to stop working until we bring these Americans home to their families.”

McDonough vowed they’ll “continue to oppose other Iranian threats.”

“Iran destabilizes the region and supports terrorism. It supports Hamas and Hezbollah. Iranian leaders spew threats to Israel’s existence. It sends forces and arms to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. That’s why sanctions for Iran’s support for terrorism and human rights violations remain,” he said. “And it’s why the United States will continue to bolster the defenses of our allies and partners, including our ally Israel.”

“Our commitment to Israel’s long-term security is why we also remain unwavering in our support for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Attacks against innocent civilians—such as we’ve seen in recent weeks—are inexcusable, and they achieve nothing but more death, more heartbreak, more suspicion and more resentment—on both sides.”

McDonough said the “only real solution is a two-state solution, and to get there, action needs to be taken to prevent a one-state solution from taking root instead.”