By Briana Vannozzi
They met behind closed doors. There was no changing his mind today, but top New Jersey Jewish leaders spoke theirs with United States Senator Cory Booker.
“We have now just taken off at least for 15 plus years their chance of a nuclear threat and that is a valuable thing for us to achieve and its ultimately why I’m going to vote for this deal,” Booker said.
Prominent faces of the Jewish community trickled in for the meeting, personally contacted by Booker’s office.
“We do not think this was a good agreement. We think there could have been a better agreement. We have real questions as to the credibility of stating if there was a military option on the table. We don’t believe that the administration really presented that there was a military option on the table, but we got a deal with what’s out there right now,” Levinson said.
Senator Booker put out a lengthy essay on his decision. He said he met with military experts, multiple secretaries of states from different administrations and heard from thousands of New Jersey residents.
“There was so much more in terms of security for Israel, security for the United States, security for the region in supporting this deal or not. Not doing it, I think, opens us up to greater peril, greater risk and as we’ve seen a pathway to a nuclear weapon for a terrorist regime,” Booker said.
Political observers said this last-minute meeting was a way to shore up his Jewish supporters — whom Booker has cultivated strong ties with over the years. He denied those political stakes.
“No matter what your views are I can look people in the eyes and say that I studied this issue thoroughly. I gave great thought and deliberation and ultimately I made the decision that I believe most ensures the safety and security of the United States and those who love Israel as well,” Booker said.
“We respect his decision. We wish it would have gone the other way, but we could respectfully agree to disagree and now we have to look forward,” said Avi Schnall, Agudath Israel.
Most of the leaders left feeling confident in Booker’s promise to advocate for Israel. Ultimately, they agree to disagree.
When asked if it’s the lesser of two evils Jacob Toporek, Executive Director of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, said, “I do agree that it is a choice between two bad plans. Personally speaking I think its probably the better choice, but in terms of the Jewish community I think there are a lot of concerns and we have to be mindful of those concerns.”
Noticeably absent, his longtime friend and mentor Rabbi Shmuley Boteach — who held a press conference with Governor Christie earlier this month calling out Booker. Today the senator negated suggestions that President Obama put the pressure on.
“There’s been times where I’ve gone along with the President. There’s been times where I’ve gone against the president. I’ve had calls from him on numerous issues. I make my own decisions. This was definitely one where the administration cajoling was not the impactful element,” he said.
The leaders here today they’ll work with the deal moving forward, but will continue their opposition until the vote is taken and the last breath is heard.