WASHINGTON (JTA) – U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden defended the Iran nuclear deal in a call with the organized Jewish community that drew a thousand listeners.
Biden, considered the closest Obama administration official to the Jewish community, said Monday that he has fielded much skepticism among Jews since the major powers and Iran reached a sanctions relief-for nuclear restrictions deal last week.
“What’s the deal here, Joe?” has been a repeated question, Biden said.
Biden noted his long history of closeness to Israel and the Jewish community.
“Please do not doubt my commitment to Israel,” he said.
The U.S. Congress has two months to consider whether it should disapprove of the deal, which would kill it. Opponents and backers of the deal have launched major campaigns for Jewish public opinion, cognizant of its influence on how lawmakers may vote in a case that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cast as an existential one for Israel.
Biden launched into a detailed, hour-long rebuttal to some of the objections he’s encountered, saying, for instance, that the mechanism that would snap back sanctions should Iran violate the agreement would be immediate for the first 10 years and would not require months of work.
He also downplayed concerns about delays of up to 24 days in inspectors’ access to suspect sites, noting that the detectable half-life following nuclear activity lasts for centuries.
“The idea that they can evade verification is not possible,” the vice-president said.
The White House endeavoured to get as many community lay leaders and professionals to call in, urging Jewish organizations to spread word of the call.
Because of the length of Biden’s talk, he did not take questions. Colin Kahl, Biden’s national security adviser, who is in Israel accompanying Defense Secretary Ash Carter, did field some questions after Biden left the call.