The female peace activist group Code Pink is urging supporters to contact the offices of 13 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives heading to Israel next week.
Why? To tell them to support the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel strongly opposes.
Those lawmakers include Mark Takai of Hawaii.
Code Pink, known for its vocal disruptions of congressional hearings, seeks to “end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs,” according to its website.
In a press release Tuesday, the group asks supporters to call the 13 reps and read from this script:
I’m calling because I heard that the Congressman/woman is going on a trip to Israel in August on an all-expense trip to Israel paid for by AIPAC, a lobby group determined to stop the Iran nuclear deal. AIPAC helped lead the US into the war on Iraq, costing countless lives and billions of dollars, and now it wants war on Iran. I believe what Secretary of State Kerry has stated: that this deal is good for the United States, it’s good for Iran, it’s good for Israel, and it’s good for the world. I urge the Congressperson to reject AIPAC’s pro-war stand and to instead support the Iran nuclear deal!!!
In a statement responding to Civil Beat’s inquiry about the Israel trip and Iran deal, Takai said Friday:
“With the continued, intense focus on our nation’s foreign policy challenges in the Middle East, this trip will serve as a venue to communicate with our partners and allies on how to improve long-term security in the region. Throughout this trip, I look forward to engaging on many issues that are at the forefront in Congress, including the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, cooperation from our partners in the Gulf region, and how to best build a security architecture that ensures a lasting peace in the region.
“While I continue to be a staunch advocate for a long-term rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, it’s clear that this can only come with ensuring cooperation from partners and allies in other parts of the world. That starts with making sure that members of our government are educated on the issues being confronted from all sides. I look forward to a productive and informative trip that I hope will result in new perspectives for all participating members.”
“AIPAC helped lead the US into the war on Iraq, costing countless lives and billions of dollars, and now it wants war on Iran.” — Code Pink
AIPAC, which stands for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, says its mission is “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of Israel and the United States,” according to its website.
AIPAC often pays for members of Congress to visit Israel. During the August recess of 2013, for example, freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and then Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, both of Hawaii, went on an AIPAC-supported congressional junket.
Over the past 14 years, AIPAC’s nonprofit American Israel Education Foundation has spent more than $9.4 million on congressional travel, according to a report in National Journal.
What’s different this time, however, is that the trip comes during the 60-day period in which Congress is reviewing the proposed deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
While the Republican-controlled House and Senate may have enough votes to reject the deal, President Barack Obama is said to have enough votes to sustain a veto.
A veto-override vote could be close, however. A two-thirds majority is necessary in both House.
While Takai and Hawaii’s other delegates have been cautious in their response to the Iran deal, saying that they are eager to review it, Roll Call reported in May that Takai was among 150 Democrats sending a letter to Obama stating that they support a “framework” for a nuclear deal.
The letter begins:
“As negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program continue, we urge you to stay on course, building on the recently announced political framework and continuing to work toward a strong and verifiable agreement between the P5+1 countries and Iran that will prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.”
The letter was sent well before the Iran deal was announced earlier this month.
The deal, if successful, would be the most significant foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama administration and a historic agreement between the U.S. and a nation once identified as a member of the “axis of evil” by then-President George W. Bush.
Of the 150 Democrats who sent the letter to Obama, 145 can vote, which would be just enough to sustain the president’s veto.
Aggressive lobbying from both sides of the Iran deal has been underway for some time, and lawmakers are increasingly being pressed for their views.
On Wednesday, Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs committees, told the Center for Strategic International Studies “that she has lingering concerns surrounding the Iran nuclear deal.”
Gabbard, says Talk Radio News Service, says she is personally taking a “cautious and critical approach” to her examination of the deal.
According to The Hill, House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will take part in the Democratic trip to Israel, which begins Monday. The visit is expected to include a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a vehement critic of the Iran deal.
“I look forward to engaging on many issues that are at the forefront in Congress, including the Iran Nuclear Deal.” — Rep. Mark Takai
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will lead the GOP visit beginning Aug. 8.
“Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the Iran deal, is expected to make his case directly to lawmakers,” says The Hill. “But they’ll also get an opportunity to meet with other high-ranking government and security officials, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.”
In March, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress to plead his case against Iran. Takai was among those who chose to attend the controversial speech, as it came at the behest of House Speaker John Boehner and without the knowledge of the White House.
“Though I have had significant concerns regarding the highly-politicized nature of this speech, hearing from the Head of State of one of our closest security allies is an important duty of Congress, whether we agree with their views or not,” Takai said in a statement after the speech.
He added, “I remain committed to supporting the Administration’s goal of a diplomatic resolution with the Iranian regime, and will work in my capacity as a Member of Congress to ensure that this happens.”