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Joseph Kennedy says he’ll support Iran nuclear deal

Representative Joseph Kennedy III announced his support for the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Representative Joseph Kennedy III announced his support for the nuclear agreement with Iran.(Gretchen Ertl/Associated Press/File 2012)

US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, whose congressional district includes one of the heaviest concentrations of Jewish voters in the Northeast, on Monday endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, an issue that has sharply divided the national Jewish community.

Kennedy, however, will likely dodge the angry backlash that has engulfed some members of Congress who have embraced President Obama’s initiative, according to local community leaders and political analysts.

Those observers say that the Jewish communities of Brookline and Newton, which make up roughly one-third of Kennedy’s district, are heavily liberal and, even if they disagree with his decision, will be respectful of his conclusions about the controversial agreement. Congress will vote on the deal this month.

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“Overall, there is general respect for the thoughtful way that Joe Kennedy approaches issues,’’ said state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, a former Brookline selectwoman. “There are factions who will be extremely disturbed by the vote, but at the end, while he may lose some votes, I don’t think it will be consequential.’’

Goldberg said she remains undecided about the agreement.

Kennedy, who is known for his love of getting deep into the weeds of complicated issues, was clearly aware of the political volatility of the issue. In a brief interview after announcing his decision, he noted the virulent reaction that his Democratic colleague Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York City has faced from constituents, including personal attacks questioning his loyalty to Israel.

“I think there will be some people who are disappointed and some grateful for my decision,’’ Kennedy said.

Asked about the potential backlash, Kennedy said: “There is nothing I can do about that, other than to let my constituents know that I take this issue very seriously . . . and that I consider their voices very valuable.’’

Some in the community who talked with Kennedy agreed that his process of reaching out to his Jewish constituents and explaining his position has softened the potential for serious political problems.

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Alan Solomont, Obama’s former ambassador to Spain and a leading Jewish philanthropist in the Boston area, said the local Jewish community leadership is committed to keeping the debate civil.

“I don’t think we have in our community the same kind of voices who are going to react in ways that are inappropriate and unproductive,’’ Solomont, who supports the agreement, said.

“Our community realizes that there are legitimate differences and that the rhetoric has gotten out of hand and we should move on,’’ Solomont said. “I think they will realize Joe Kennedy gave a lot of thought to this issue and people will respect that.”

In his statement, Kennedy acknowledged the criticisms of the deal, but said he became convinced after weeks of intense review of the document, interviews with specialists, and briefings by the White House that the deal is “rooted in science and anchored by verification.”

“Critics of the agreement have voiced valid concerns about the risks inherent in this deal. I share many of them. But the ultimate question before us is how to put the United States in the strongest possible position to stop a nuclear Iran. I believe opposing this deal outright leaves us with a weaker hand than executing it with vigorous enforcement, a clear-eyed acknowledgment of its shortcomings, and a commitment to improving it in the months to come,” he said.

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“After several weeks of analysis, briefings, and extensive conversations with constituents, I support this deal not because it is perfect or without risk. I support this deal because it is rooted in science and anchored by verification. I support it because it decreases the odds we will need to use military force in Iran and strengthens our position to do so if we ever must. I support this deal because it is the best means before us today to keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands.”

Kennedy joins a majority of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation in supporting the deal. None of the Massachusetts members have opposed it; several are still weighing the agreement.


Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com.