Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was repeatedly heckled and booed before a pro-Israel audience Sunday as he tried to make the case that the Obama administration has succeeded in curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
The unpleasant exchange prompted an Israeli government minister to give Lew a “warm hug” of encouragement.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post’s annual conference in New York, Lew said that Tehran has frozen and “rolled back parts of its nuclear program while we continue to negotiate on a longer term deal.”
Israeli media posted video of an excerpt during which Lew was interrupted at nearly every sentence.
“At that time, some denounced the interim understanding, known as the Joint Plan of Action. Some said Iran would cheat, that our sanctions would fall apart, [interruption] and that this program would allow Iran to move closer to acquiring a nuclear weapon [interruption]. But none of that came to pass [interruption]. Iran remains under enormous economic pressure. It has halted and scaled back key elements of its nuclear program [interruption]. And we have gained unprecedented insight into Iran’s nuclear activities [interruption].”
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was at the conference, told Israel’s Army Radio Monday that he gave Lew a “warm hug” to show him he is considered a friend of Israel.
“I hope I was able to minimize the damage,” Steinitz said. “I gave him a warm hug and we talked about the incident. I hope I was able to some extent to repair the incident. Lew will remain a friend of Israel despite these unpleasant things. We need friends.”