Sen. Robert Menendez made it clear that “there is no light between the United States and Israel,” but said he is “deeply concerned” by the Obama administration’s willingness to talk with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.
“They have said they would like to give this two-headed dragon a chance to proceed and judge it by its actions,” he said, during his keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee Metro New Jersey Region, held June 8 at Congregation Ohr Shalom-Summit JCC. “I say this can have only a very, very short window.”
American law, he stressed, prohibits funding of a Palestinian government that includes a designated terrorist organization.
The Democrat drew a wave of applause with his condemnation of the new unity government formed by Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian people would have to choose, he said, between “a marriage with Hamas, and the hard work of negotiating” a two-state solution based on recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was equally emphatic about negations between United States and its allies and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. “In this tinderbox of a world,” he said, “it is not in the national interest of the U.S.” that Iran develop the infrastructure needed to support a nuclear weapons capability.
“No deal is better than a bad deal at the end of the day,” he said. A good deal, he added, would permit verification that Iran’s illicit nuclear activities have been dismantled and that sets such activity back many years.
Menendez said he wasn’t tailoring his message to a Jewish audience. “I actually prefer to talk about this with non-Jews,” he said. Drawing another roar of approval, he stated, “We must have Israel’s back in the fight against efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state.” That legitimacy is based not on the Shoa, he said, but on “several thousand years of existence” in the region.
Stepping up to speak as Menendez departed, AJC executive director David Harris described the senator as “a very courageous friend” and one who deserves special thanks from the Jewish community.
“Write and thank him,” Harris said. “As he has Israel’s back, we have his back.”
Harris announced that AJC is creating a new office to deal with anti-Semitism in Europe, and described AJC-sponsored trips to the Mideast for college students facing anti-Israel activity on campus.
Genesia Kamen, taking over the reins as president of the AJC Metro NJ region from Amy Reisen Freundlich, urged those present to step up their involvement with the organization.
“Our support and involvement allows AJC to impact key opinion leaders and policymakers in the U.S. and abroad on the issues of deep concern to all of us — from combating anti-Semitism and supporting Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, to championing human rights and strengthening inter-religious ties,” Kamen said. “If we don’t stand up and speak out, we will never be heard.”