Jewish groups offered praise for Sen. Robert Menendez’s advocacy for Israel and against a nuclear Iran as the New Jersey Democrat faced a federal indictment on public corruption charges.
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury in Newark indicted Menendez, who has championed intensified sanctions against Iran over the objections of the White House, for allegedly doing political favors for a friend and political contributor in exchange for gifts.
Menendez denies the charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, which were levied after a two-year investigation. The friend — Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based ophthalmologist and businessman — also was charged.
The NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, in a statement on behalf of the state’s nine federations, said it received the news of Menendez’s indictment with “deep sorrow.”
“Senator Menendez has been a passionate spokesperson for the U.S.-Israel relationship, a guardian of Israel’s security interests and, as has been shown over and again, he has been the foremost proponent in the U.S. Senate for opposition to a nuclear armed Iran,” said the association, in a statement. “At the same time, Senator Menendez has responded affirmatively on so many levels to the pleas of the most vulnerable in our society who seek equity, and to the calls for justice from citizens who have suffered abuse of their human rights and dignity.”
The statement warned against a rush to judgment, saying the “merits of the allegations against the Senator will take their own course.”
Menendez is a lead sponsor of a bill that adds sanctions on Iran should it walk away from negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program. Obama has said new sanctions would be detrimental to the talks, which are taking place in Switzerland.
Menendez spoke last month at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference.
“Bob Menendez’s leadership on the U.S.-Israel relationship is extraordinary,” former AIPAC President Lonny Kaplan of Princeton wrote Wednesday in the New Jersey Jewish News. “He is the embodiment of a profile in courage, a leader who stands up for principled ideals, and does not waver, no matter the intensity of the opposition to his views.”
The American Jewish Committee also praised his efforts on the Iran issue, saying in a statement that “unless and until the government proves its case, the Senator is presumed to be innocent. We, therefore, intend to continue to work with him closely, as we have throughout his tenure. His leadership on pressing policy issues is too important to be silenced on anything less than proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”