WASHINGTON — AIPAC's president told activists on Monday that the lobbying group has taken the "high road" in its battle with the White House over the Iran deal and pushed back against a New York Times article detailing the fight.
"Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article about AIPAC’s relationship with President Obama and his administration. With significant media attention on this story and on AIPAC, I want to provide you with some context and reiterate our overall approach to this campaign," AIPAC president Robert Cohen wrote in an email blast to activists on Monday afternoon, obtained by BuzzFeed News. Cohen wrote that "The article reflects multiple inaccuracies stemming from claims by the administration."
"Throughout this campaign, AIPAC — along with our affiliated organization Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran — has taken the high road," Cohen wrote. "I ask that you join us in advancing this critical effort by keeping the debate about the policy, not the personalities."
Though Cohen stresses in the email that "the article’s proposition of a 'rupture' in the relationship between the president and AIPAC is an exaggeration promulgated by traditional and social media," the email is the latest salvo in a deeply tense standoff between President Obama and the powerful lobbying group, which opposes the Iran deal. Last week in a meeting with Jewish leaders, Obama accused AIPAC of spreading inaccurate information on the fact-sheets the group sends around Capitol Hill, and criticized the group for not giving administration officials more time to make their case last month, when hundreds of AIPAC activists came to Washington to lobby against the deal. Obama has also said, in a phone call to progressive groups and in a speech at American University, that many of the same people who are now opposing the Iran deal supported the Iraq War.
AIPAC has launched a massive mobilization against the deal, including launching a new group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, which is expected to spend $20 million on ads opposing the deal.
The full email from Cohen to activists is below:
Over the weekend, The New York Times published an article about AIPAC’s relationship with President Obama and his administration. With significant media attention on this story and on AIPAC, I want to provide you with some context and reiterate our overall approach to this campaign.
The article reflects multiple inaccuracies stemming from claims by the administration:
AIPAC’s Credibility: Our facts are well-substantiated and accurate. AIPAC stands behind the credibility of our analysis — which the facts explicitly support, and which cites the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for ease of reference.
CNFI Advertisement: AIPAC’s partner organization, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran (CNFI), has run one television advertisement. This ad does not single out the president in any way. On its website, CNFI provides supporting citations for the assertions made in its ad.
AIPAC’s Willingness to Engage the Administration: For the AIPAC National Fly-In on July 28-29, the White House requested to speak to our group and we accepted. Because the administration did not have a venue that could accommodate our 700 participants for a mutually desired discussion, the White House asked to send its representatives to AIPAC’s venue. We agreed and offered the administration 30 minutes to use in any manner — which the White House likewise accepted. The administration representatives chose to speak for 45 minutes and not use any of their time for questions. AIPAC treated these speakers with great courtesy and respect.
AIPAC’s Role in the Iraq War: Leading up to the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, AIPAC took no position whatsoever, nor did we lobby on the issue.
The article highlights the great lengths to which proponents are going to make the public case for the deal with Iran.
With nearly unlimited access to Congress, national media and international leaders, the administration is leading a massive lobbying effort to win broad approval of the deal — with assistance from congressional supporters of the agreement.
In this context, our lobbying campaign is appropriate, legitimate and measured. It exemplifies the meaning of petitioning our government to address our concerns.
The article is evidence of AIPAC’s central role in creating and maintaining a vigorous debate.
It underscores AIPAC’s vital work to help members of Congress understand the loopholes in this dangerous deal, and to press them to oppose it.
We should all take pride in the significant impact of our work to shape the national debate and impact the congressional response to this bad deal.
This campaign is at the heart of AIPAC’s mission — “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of Israel and the United States.”
As AIPAC’s Spokesman Marshall Wittmann is quoted, “This critical national security debate is certainly not about an organization, but rather about a deal which we believe will fail to block an Iranian nuclear weapon and will fuel terrorism. We hope that all those who are engaged in this debate will avoid questioning motives and employing any ad hominem attacks.”
Finally, the article’s proposition of a “rupture” in the relationship between the president and AIPAC is an exaggeration promulgated by traditional and social media. In the piece itself, the White House correctly downplays current strains as a “policy difference.”
Throughout this campaign, AIPAC — along with our affiliated organization Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran — has taken the high road. I ask that you join us in advancing this critical effort by keeping the debate about the policy, not the personalities.
We are encouraged by recent statements by prominent members of Congress who have publicly announced their opposition to the deal. This would not be possible without your persistent and passionate activism.
Thank you for your hard work at this pivotal moment, and please continue to engage your senators and representatives at home.
Robert A. Cohen