Democratic congressional candidate Tim Canova on Sunday defended his harsh criticism of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s support for the Iran nuclear deal despite confusion about his stance on the agreement.
“Her vote has been condemned by an awful lot of folks. I think she wasn’t looking out for Israel’s security,” Canova said during a Sunday morning televised debate on CBS4-CBSMiami. “As head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), she held up a letter that supported that agreement; she stopped it from going out. She is the one who waffled and played hamlet for weeks.”
In turn, Wasserman Schultz said her opponent has been “mealy-mouthed” and “anything but certain” when it comes to his positions on Israel.
As first reported by Jewish Insider, in a campaign leaflet distributed to voters in the district, Canova questioned whether Wasserman Schultz can “really be trusted to protect Israel’s security in the future” after she voted against the Iran nuclear deal. Canova, who is backed by former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, tied himself to top Democrats who voted against the Iran nuclear deal, including two local House members who have endorsed his challenger, the incumbent Congresswoman. “When called upon to protect Israel some legislators step up,” the pamphlet reads, quoting excerpts from statements issued by Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel and Senator Chuck Schumer against the Iran deal. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz waffled back and forth before voting for the Iran nuclear deal, choosing party and personal political ambition over principle. Tim Canova sides with Deutch, Schumer, and Frankel.”
Jewish Democrats pushed back against Canova’s attacks by pointing out that he flip-flopped on the issue in recent weeks. During an event at the Sunny Isles Beach Democratic Club earlier this month, Canova said he can’t tell if he would’ve voted for or against the nuclear deal since he wasn’t a member of Congress at the time. He added, “I don’t want to get into a big debate about Iran. I will say that now that the agreement has been adopted, I’m for it. I don’t believe in tearing it up. It should be enforced, it should be strictly implemented.”
Pressed on the issue by the debate moderator, Canova said the question whether he would have voted for or against the Iran deal was hypothetical since he was not presented with classified information that would have persuaded him to support the international accord. But he reiterated his criticism of the deal, saying his position is the same as dozens of Democratic lawmakers who voted against the deal.
Wasserman Schultz, instead of defending her vote in favor of the nuclear deal, pointed to the Democratic Party’s 2016 pro-Israel platform, and accused Canova of “waffling” on Israel. “Israel needs certainty,” she asserted. “Israel needs somebody like I have been, who has stood resolutely with her.”
The two candidates also sparred over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. military assistance to Israel.
On his website, Canova calls for “a general disarmament for the entire region that includes nuclear, missile, and conventional arms reductions,” raising the question whether that would apply on Israel as well. The issue was raised by Wasserman Schultz, charging that Canova “supports the disarmament of Israel.”
But Canova insisted that he never singled out Israel in his plan to disarm the Middle East, saying he was specifically speaking about Saudi Arabia and Iran. “I will state categorically right here that I was not referring to Israel,” he said. “I am a strong defender of the state of Israel. I have been actually critical of the Iran nuclear agreement for the specific reason that it doesn’t help Israeli security.”