WASHINGTON - Rep. Steve Israel, the highest ranking Jewish Democrat in the House, said Tuesday he opposes the Iran nuclear deal and will work to defeat it in next month's vote in Congress.
Israel made his announcement that he was coming out against the deal at the same time as two other prominent Jewish Democrats, Reps. Nita Lowey of Westchester and Ted Deutch of Florida.
"I'm going to vote against the Iran deal," said Israel, of Huntington, a supporter of the state of Israel and a member of the House Democratic leadership.
"I tried very hard to get to 'yes.' But at the end of the day, despite some positive elements in the deal, the totality compelled me to oppose it," Israel said in a telephone interview.
Lowey and Deutch also said they think the deal falls short of what it needs to be.
"In my judgment, sufficient safeguards are not in place to address the risks associated with the agreement," Lowey said in a statement.
Deutch wrote in an op-ed in the Sun-Sentinel, a Florida newspaper: "Too many issues I have long raised as essential to any nuclear deal with Iran are not adequately addressed in this agreement."
All three are breaking with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who endorsed the agreement and called it "a diplomatic masterpiece."
Their opposition was long expected by top House Democrats and the White House, which had no comment.
A senior Democratic aide in the House said, "We remain confident that should this reach a veto override situation, enough House Democrats will be there to sustain the president's veto."
Israel, Lowey and Deutch had said repeatedly they were skeptical of the deal between six nations led by the United States and Iran to curb Tehran's nuclear development in return for easing sanctions.
Israel's announcement came the day after Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said she opposes the Iran deal. Now four of the five House members from Long Island will vote no next month. Only Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) has not declared his position.
Israel said he spoke to President Barack Obama for 25 minutes last week and read the deal's classified annex and went to classified briefings.
Israel listed three key problems with the deal: Iran's likelihood of exploiting ambiguities in the deal and not facing punitive measures for doing so; the pathways created by the arms embargo repeal for increasing arms stockpiles for Hezbollah and Hamas fighters near Israel's borders; and the size, sophistication, speed and legitimacy of Iran's enrichment capacity in the next 15 years.
He said he has no idea what will happen if the deal fails.
"The alternative is as imperfect as the deal is," he said. "I can't cast my vote based on hypotheticals. I have to base my vote on what's in my heart."