Ratcheting up his disagreement with the Obama administration over Iran sanctions, Sen. Charles Schumer on Sunday warned a Jewish audience in Brooklyn that that country’s nuclear ambitions remain “the greatest threat to Israel in our time.”
At the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush breakfast Schumer, joined by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, made no mention of the Obama administration’s deal with Tehran to ease some economic sanctions in return for reduced enrichment of uranium below weapons grade during a six-month trial period.
“We must do everything we can, and I know Congressman Nadler joins me in this, we must do everything we can in any way possible to avoid a nuclear Iran,” he told the crowd at Kol Yakov Hall. “And we will be leading the charge to make sure that the Iranians know that they will not go nuclear or face the most severe of consequences.”
In a brief interview after his remarks Schumer told The Jewish Week that the deal was a mistake. “I thought they shouldn’t have given in and reduced the sanctions,” he said. “But now, the view of the administration in Israel, the Netanyahu government and all of us is we have to see what happens with the negotiations. If they don’t come to much we’re going to tighten sanctions and do what it takes to prevent a nuclear Iran.
“We have a whole new proposal that we have on the table,” he said, referring to the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, backed in the Senate by 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans and introduced earlier this year in response to the State Department-brokered deal, which some members of Congress say has no teeth.
“It’s a question of watching and waiting. Congress is monitoring … to make sure the Iranian economy continues to decline.” Schumer would not comment further on the matter.
The senior Democrat, whose political roots are in Flatbush, was the highest ranking official at the COJO breakfast, which also drew City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Brooklyn Borough President Scott Stringer. Public service awards were given to those officials as well as Brooklyn’s new Democratic committee chairman, Frank Seddio and Simcha Felder, a state senator. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli also attended and delivered greetings.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito were slated to attend but canceled because of scheduling conflicts, organizers said. De Blasio was given the COJO’s Distinguished Public Leadership Award.
Avi Fink, the mayor’s deputy director of intergovernmental affairs accepted on his behalf. Councilman Chaim Deutsch accepted an Outstanding Legislator Award for Mark-Viverito.