Former New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman came out in support of the agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. He was one of eleven Democratic former congressmen who signed a letter published in a New York Times ad on Thursday. In the ad, the signatories say that the agreement “halts the immediate threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.” Congressional rejection of the deal, they warned, would “put Iran back on the path to develop a nuclear weapon within two to three months.”
Other signatories included former Michigan Senator Carl Levin and former Representatives Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Elizabeth Holtzman of New York, Mel Levine of California, and Robert Wexler of Florida.
“Military options remain on the table should Iran violate the agreement, while rejecting this deal would weaken the deterrent value of America’s military option,” the letter said. “We championed the U.S.-Israel alliance as members of the House and Senate, and we all strongly support this agreement because it will enhance the security of the U.S., the State of Israel and the entire world.”
Mr. Rothman told the Jewish Standard that “this accord gives the U.S., Israel, and the world the best chance to keep Iran from a nuclear weapon and to preserve our diplomatic and military options.
“We are in a much better position with the deal than without it, should Iran try to cheat on its existing promises or to attempt to break out to a nuclear weapon capability,” he said.
The deadline for the Congressional vote on the deal is mid-September. According to the Washington Post’s count of senators who have declared themselves for or against the deal, every single one of the 11 unknown or undecided senators — among them New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker — would have to come out against the deal to override the president’s anticipated veto.
On Wednesday, 190 former U.S. generals signed a letter opposing the agreement. The generals said the agreement “will enable Iran to become far more dangerous, render the Mideast still more unstable and introduce new threats to American interests as well as our allies,” according to the Washington Post. The deal, according to the letter, “provides Iran with a legitimate path” to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The letter’s signers include Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, President George W. Bush’s deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, as well as Leon A. Edney, vice chief of naval operations under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“Removing sanctions on Iran and releasing billions of dollars to its regime over the next ten years is inimical to the security of Israel and the Middle East,” the letter said. The generals wrote that the agreement “would threaten the national security and vital interests of the United States and, therefore, should be disapproved by the Congress.”
Mr. Rothman said he signed the pro-deal letter “after a great deal of thought, research, and discussion with not only my former colleagues but experts and those on both sides of the issue. I felt it was critically important for America and Israel that this agreement be approved.”
Mr. Rothman said he took into account the opposition to the deal from the pro-Israel community, including AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, Norpac, and the board of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
“These are groups and individuals I consider good friends,” he said. “I’ve been involved as an activist, if not a leader, in the pro-Israel community since I got out of high school, including my time as chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Northern New Jersey, as a co-founder of Norpac, and as a strong advocate for U.S.-Israel relations and Israel’s qualitative and quantitative military superiority during my 16 years in the U.S. Congress.
“On this subject, though, a number of us strongly disagree about what is necessary for what is most vital to the U.S. and Israel’s national security,” he said.
The New York Times advertisement was paid for by the No Nukes for Iran Project, an organization headed by former Congressman Wexler, who retired in 2010 after 13 years in Congress to lead the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.
JTA Wire Service contributed to this story