Today American citizens are exercising a cherished American right. Many members of AIPAC are flying into D.C. to lobby their members of Congress to vote against the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran. I applaud them. They are engaging in an activity at the heart of America’s greatness: the right of any citizen to directly speak to and to try to persuade their representatives.
From both my former profession as a lobbyist in California and from my many years as a pro-Israel activist, I have known some members of Congress for many years. Even though I could not be there in person, I decided to join my fellow American citizens in lobbying members of Congress. I thought I could provide a personal perspective of an American now living in Israel, someone with a foot in each country.
And so I wrote personal letters to a few Democratic Congressional members and I asked my colleagues in the U.S. to deliver the letters when they visit the members. Of course, like any professional, I ignored much of the advice I gave clients for 30 years: be brief, stick to the talking points. I did follow some of my advice: I am polite, and I am clear about what I am asking for: A NO vote.
With some brief introductory, personal sentences omitted, here’s my letter:
My wife Dana and I have the privilege of being citizens of both the United States and Israel, and we live part of each year in Sacramento and Jerusalem. I am writing to you from Jerusalem, where I can tell you that the Iranian nuclear deal is on the minds of many if not most people.
Firstly, I would like to say just how much we appreciate your longtime friendship with, and support of, the Jewish community and Israel. You have been a true and loyal friend, and I know your feelings are heartfelt. I know that asking you to vote against a major foreign policy initiative of President Obama is a huge request, and I know that you will very seriously consider the impact of the agreement on the safety and the future of Israelis and Americans.
I know several associates of mine who are your constituents will be visiting with you or your staff to explain their opposition to the agreement. I know from my communications with them that I share the reasons they will express for opposing the agreement. I wanted to add or emphasize a few points that are especially concerning or upsetting to me, perhaps because of the perspective I have gained from living a good part of the last five years in Israel.
Ironically, my first major concern has little or nothing to do with Israel, Iran, or nuclear arms. It is a concern borne out of my being a lawyer and out of having watched the erosion of Congressional power vis-à-vis Presidential power over the last 45 years. It has to do with the Constitution and checks-and-balances.