JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to rally U.S. Jews on Tuesday against the Iranian nuclear deal championed by President Barack Obama and facing review by Congress, saying it risked a catastrophic Middle East war.
In a webcast organized by Jewish groups in North America, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s arguments that the July 14 deal was not enough to curb Iranian nuclear projects with bomb-making potential while bringing Tehran a windfall in sanctions relief that could help fund destabilizing regional conflicts.
With surveys showing American Jewish opinion mixed on a dispute that has strained the U.S.-Israeli alliance, Netanyahu cast his opposition to the Iran deal as non-partisan. He also pushed back against the Obama administration’s counter-argument that the deal was the only way to avoid eventual war with Iran.
“I don’t oppose this deal because I want war. I oppose this deal because I want to prevent war. And this deal will bring war,” he said. “This is a time to stand up and be counted. Oppose this dangerous deal.”
Organizers said 10,000 people - not taking into account expected group audiences - had signed up to view the webcast.
That might translate into grassroots pressure on U.S. lawmakers weighing ratification of the deal by Sept. 17.
Should Congress vote against the deal, the United States might lose out while the five other big-power signatories re-engage with Iran, including in lucrative trade deals.
Netanyahu sought to play down this concern, saying international firms would think twice about entering Iranian markets if it meant losing bigger U.S. business opportunities.
Having infuriated the Obama administration by speaking against Iran in Congress in March at the invitation of the Democratic president’s Republican rivals, Netanyahu cast himself as the emissary of an Israeli public that, polls show, mostly shares his misgivings about the deal with Iran.
Editing by Louise Ireland