Saying it was incumbent on the world to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Sen. Robert Menendez called on his colleagues to quickly enact a bipartisan bill that would place further sanctions on that country.
Speaking Oct. 29 during the 100th anniversary celebration of Freehold Jewish Center Congregation Agudath Achim, Menendez said he was one of 75 cosponsors of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Sanctions Consolidation Act, S. 1048.
“Perhaps never in the 63-year history of the State of Israel has the threat from outside forces been so real, so dangerous, and yet so undefined and changeable as it is today,” said Menendez. “If we stand together for Israel, Israel cannot be isolated or delegitimized, and it will continue to thrive as a sovereign Jewish state.”
In introducing the Democratic senator, Rabbi Dr. Tal Sessler, an Israeli native, called Menendez “a great friend to the Jewish people, a great friend of the State of Israel, and a great American leader.”
In an impassioned speech, Menendez criticized efforts to delegitimize Israel by world leaders, in the media, and on college campuses and said the American-Israel alliance remains strong despite setbacks and missteps.
“In the delegitimizer’s world, anti-Israel fervor is somehow justified on the grounds of social justice,” said Menendez. The suffering of the “downtrodden” Palestinian people is often highlighted, while the pain of Israelis subjected to terrorist attacks is downplayed.
“We hear talk of the annihilation of Israel,” said Menendez. “We see maps that exclude the State of Israel. But such talk and such maps seem too often to get a pass. Israel gets vilified for defending itself — vilified for its very existence. Its history and the truth get ignored, and the media play along with the narrative.”
Menendez talked about his own support for Israel over a 20-year career as a congressman and senator.
He declared that despite some missteps, there is “no daylight between the United States and Israel” and the alliance between the two countries remains strong. “Let me be clear, the United States is not simply an ally of the Israeli people, it’s an ally of Israel’s democratic ideals,” said the senator. “It’s an ally of its history, of its aspirations for peace and prosperity, its can-do spirit, and amazing resilience in the face of threats from all sides.”
Menendez said his belief that American and Israeli interests were intertwined is so strong that after President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech in June 2009, he felt compelled to take to the Senate floor to remind colleagues that “while the Holocaust may be a defining moment in the history of the Jewish people, it is not the reason for Israel’s right to exist. That reason goes back millennia to Abraham laying Sarah’s remains to rest in the Holy Land.”
Menendez also criticized the Palestinians’ unilateral push for statehood. He said he contacted leaders throughout the Western hemisphere to coalesce opposition to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s unilateral attempt — which the senator labeled “misguided”— to gain UN recognition while avoiding peace negotiations with Israel.
Such a resolution would “not help bring peace to the Palestinian people, it will not help restart peace negotiations with Israel, and it will not bring any political advantage to the Palestinian Authority.”
“The day after the resolution, should there be one, nothing will have changed, including America’s unwavering support for Israel during this period of political turbulence in the Middle East,” said Menendez, adding that the only lasting peace will come from negotiations.