Cracks Appear in Democratic-Jewish Alliance Over Iran Deal, Netanyahu

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Nuclear pact and White House spat with Israeli prime minister unnerve many Jewish leaders.

Many U.S. Jewish leaders are unnerved both by the new Iran nuclear agreement and the public falling out between President Barack Obama and his Israeli counterpart, developments that are creating a rift in the durable alliance between Jews and the Democratic Party in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

Worried that Iran might still develop a nuclear weapon despite the accord announced Thursday, the Jewish leaders say they feel torn between an Obama administration that has pressed hard for a deal and an Israeli government that has repeatedly warned that Iran is a grave threat to the Jewish state and can’t be trusted to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

A group of Jewish Democratic House members met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in his office last week and cautioned that for them to help “sell a very unpopular [Iran nuclear] deal to our constituents,” Mr. Obama must “increase his popularity with our constituents,” said a Democratic congressman involved in the meeting.

Republicans have begun making moves to try to capitalize on this unease, hoping to peel away Jewish votes and campaign contributions that have historically skewed Democratic.

The lawmakers who met with Mr. McDonough last week also urged that Mr. Obama soften his tone toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and avoid “getting into a daily argument with” him, one participant said.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.), who attended the meeting with Mr. McDonough, said in an interview: “I was extremely disturbed by some of the overheated rhetoric that came out of the administration following the [Israeli] election. I conveyed directly to the White House that it’s time to dial back the temperature and affirm and strengthen the U.S.-Israeli relationship.”

The White House on Friday referred to a news briefing last week by press secretary Josh Earnest, who cited past statements by Mr. Obama that his relationship with Mr. Netanyahu is “businesslike.” Mr. Earnest also said the U.S. will “keep an open line of communication” with Israeli leaders.

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