- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2015

President Obama tried to reassure American Jews Friday that a tentative nuclear deal with Iran will prevent Tehran from developing weapons of mass destruction, saying his personal legacy is tied to the talks.

“This deal will have my name on it,” Mr. Obama told the Adas Israel congregation in Washington. “Nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise. I’m interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran’s paths to a nuclear weapon.”

The proposed agreement has worsened tensions between Mr. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes the deal will not stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb soon. Negotiators are trying to reach a final deal with Iran before a June 30 deadline; the president is not scheduled to meet with Mr. Netanyahu before then.

Opponents of the deal say lifting economic sanctions would give Tehran billions of dollars to further support terrorism and other destabilizing actions in the region. Mr. Obama said the debate between the U.S. and Israel is healthy, and that his administration will always protect Israel.

“I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached,” the president said. “We’re working hard. [But] the people of Israel must always know, America has its back and America will always have its back. No U.S. president, no administration, has done more to ensure that Israel can protect itself than this one.”

He added, “That does not mean that there will not be, or should not be, periodic disagreements between our two governments.”

The president wore a yarmulke at the synagogue and received thunderous applause several times. Rabbi Gil Steinlauf introduced Mr. Obama as a “champion of freedom and justice. … And a great friend of the Jewish people.”

The president said the U.S. and Israel also must keep working on a solution to a Palestinian state, saying “I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I feel will lead to long-term security.”

“And I believe that’s two states for two people — Israel and Palestine living side by side,” Mr. Obama said. “Palestinians have a right to be free people on their land as well. That’s not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners. The neighborhood is dangerous. But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility, of bridging divides.”

Speaking during Jewish American Heritage month, the president also called on the public to confront anti-Semitism “wherever it exists.”

“In recent years ,we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism,” Mr. Obama said. “This is not some passing fad. When we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed and it will spread.”

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