President Barack Obama on Friday addressed Jewish communities throughout North America about the deal between Iran and world powers.
In the webcast, co-hosted by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Obama made remarks about the deal before taking questions from Jews around North America.
In his remarks before the question and answer session, Obama once again explained why the deal is a good one in his opinion.
“When I ran for office I made a series of promises, one of them was that Iran would not get a nuclear weapon and that I would do everything in my power to preserve the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States and ensure Israel’s security,” he said.
The president also said one of his promises was that he would not hesitate to use force against Iran if necessary, but would “always first try to use a diplomatic approach” because many times “diplomacy is more effective”
The Iran deal “accomplishes each of those promises and commitments I made when I ran for office,” he stressed.
At the core of the deal, said Obama, is that it “blocks every way, every pathway that Iran might take in order to obtain a nuclear weapon.” The deal makes sure that the centrifuges in Natanz are removed, makes sure Iran can’t immediately use more advanced centrifuges, has the Fordow facility being converted to a research facility with no centrifuges that can be used to create nuclear weapons, and reconfigures the Arak heavy water facility.
The deal also includes “unprecedented inspections, and the capacity to snap back all the sanctions in the event Iran cheats,” he continued.
“For the first ten years, we’ve severely constrained any nuclear program, peaceful or militarized. After ten years, they can obtain some centrifuges but will continue to be monitored,” he stressed.
Obama also said that “the vast majority of experts on nuclear proliferation have endorsed this deal” and added that “the world is more or less united – with some significant exceptions such as the state of Israel – around the deal.”
He stressed that “We don’t trust Iran. Iran is antagonistic to the United States. It has called for Israel’s destruction. It is an unsavory regime. But this deal doesn't involve trust, it relies on our ability to catch them if they cheat and act vigorously if they do."
“We’re not giving anything away in this deal in terms of our capacity to respond if they cheat,” said Obama, adding that sanctions and the military option can still be applied in 15 years.
The relationship between the United States and Israel “isn’t political” and is “not based on alliances of convenience,” he stressed.
“It is something that grows out of family ties and bonds that stretch back generations, and shared values and shared commitments. Like all families sometimes there will be disagreements, I understand that. But we’ve repeatedly had times where the administration and the Israeli government had disagreements. That doesn’t affect the core commitments we have for each other.”
“As soon as this debate is over, my hope is that Israel will join discussions on how to continue to improve and enhance Israel’s security in a very troubled neighborhood. Commitment to Israel is sacrosanct, non-partisan. It always has been, it always will be. We’re all pro-Israel. And we have to make sure that we don’t impugn people’s motives,” he continued.
Asked about the heated rhetoric between opponents and supporters of the deal, Obama suggested that those who reject the deal use rhetoric that is more heated than those support it.
“When Jerry Nadler, who is consistently in favor of Israel, is attacked in ways that are appalling – that is the kind of stuff that I think people have to be deeply concerned about,” he said. “Those who support the deal are trying to stay focused on the logical conclusions and facts. At no point have I ever suggested is that somebody is a warmonger. What I have said – and this I won’t apologize for – is that if this deal is rejected, then there have to be alternatives. There has to be a better way to accomplish our goal. Critics have suggested that doesn’t have military actions. We could impose unilateral sanctions. But unilateral sanctions were in place before I came into office and that didn’t help because we didn’t have global cooperation. My administration cobbled together that global cooperation.”
“If now we reject the opinion of the world community,” he warned, “it is unlikely that they would maintain those sanctions. There won’t be many tools left in the toolkit. It’s not to suggest that opponents of this deal want war. It’s a sober analysis of what options we have.”
Asked whether there is “distance” between the United States and Israel and how can the relationship be re-energized, Obama replied, “It will happen pretty quickly, because we have a shared interest not just to prevent [Iran] from acquiring nuclear weapons but also to prevent them from giving weapons to Hezbollah.”
“We agree on Iran more than we disagree,” he added. “We’ve been in discussions with the Israeli government for months now about the importance of working together to enhance security cooperation, think about next generations of missile defense, improve intelligence, how to counteract Iranian proxies in the region. Those conversations will move rapidly and smoothly.”
Asked whether America will continue to help Israel maintain its strategic and qualitative military edge in the region, Obama emphatically answered, “Yes.”
"If we determine that Iran has violated this agreement we are in a position to reimpose all of the multilateral sanctions,” he stressed, adding, "We're still going to have all the tools in our toolbox to go after nefarious activities by Iran in the region."
"Nothing in this agreement prevents us from continuing to push back forcefully against terrorist activity," said the President.
"The fact is this is our best way to make sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. That should be our number one priority."
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)