U.S. Vice President Joe Biden recently tried to reassure Jewish leaders in south Florida that the nuclear deal with Iran would be a vital step toward making Israel and the world a safer place, Reuters reported on Saturday.
According to the news agency, the meeting took place last Thursday while Biden was on a two-day trip to the political swing state of Florida as he explores a potential 2016 White House run.
The Vice President told a roundtable of more than 30 Jewish leaders he was confident the deal would halt Iran's capability to develop a nuclear bomb.
"If we can take the nuclear bomb off the table, it's better to deal with those bad guys than if we are dealing with those bad guys and the nuclear bomb is on the table," he was quoted as having said at the meeting held in the district of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which has one of the largest Jewish populations of any U.S. congressional district.
Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, has not yet staked out a position on the deal, but she had invited Biden to the meeting and introduced him to the group, according to the Reuters report.
"I am not afraid to make this decision. I am never afraid to stand alone when necessary, to stand on principle," she said.
In July, Biden and a team of senior White House officials attempted to placate the American Jewish community’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear deal, in an hour-long conference call with leaders and rabbis.
In that call, Biden spent nearly an hour trying to convince top Jewish leaders to support the nuclear accord and promised them that if Iran ever violates the deal, the United States is still prepared to carry out a military strike against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites.
At the same time, Biden also conceded that the United States needed to sign off on Iran’s inherent right to operate a “peaceful” nuclear program in order to finalize the deal.
Thursday’s meeting in Florida came a day after President Barack Obama secured enough votes in the Senate to safeguard the deal between Iran and world powers.
Congress has until September 17 to accept or reject the deal. Republicans object to the deal, but most Democrats have expressed support for the deal, with the exception of three so far: New York's Chuck Schumer, New Jersey's Bob Menendez and Maryland’s Ben Cardin, who announced on Friday he would vote against.
More than a hundred protesters gathered outside Thursday’s meeting as Biden entered, holding signs reading: "Nuke the deal before they nuke us," and "We need a better deal", according to Reuters.
Critics have argued the deal provides too much sanctions relief and sets weak standards for ensuring compliance.
Biden disputed both points, saying, "This is a good deal. It will make us and Israel safer, not weaker."
Reporters were ushered out of the meeting before Biden engaged in a question-and-answer session with the community leaders, who included both supporters and opponents of the deal, according to Reuters.
While some American Jewish organizations welcomed the Iran agreement, such as the leftist J Street which launched a multi-million dollar campaign to advocate for the nuclear deal, some organizations have expressed concerns over it.
Among those groups is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the U.S., which was quick to voice concerns over the deal, noting that initial reports suggested it would "fail to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon."