Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) told an audience of several hundred Jews in Lawrenceville there is “no doubt in my mind” that President Barack Obama is “certainly committed to the State of Israel.”
Speaking at Adath Israel Congregation Oct. 18, at the 2010 campaign kickoff of United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, the senator reassured listeners that “at the end of the day, I believe he is as committed as any other president was.”
Menendez said Obama “decided on a course, which was to try to create the view in the Arab world that in fact the United States could be an honest broker, and to try to create capital in an effort to get the peace process moving.”
Menendez did acknowledge that the president’s conciliatory address to the Arab world in Cairo last June “caused some people to have some angst.” The senator himself appeared to criticize Obama’s Cairo speech in remarks earlier this year.
Menendez’ statement came during a question period following a half-hour address in the Conservative synagogue’s’ sanctuary, in which the senator reiterated strong support of Israel’s right to self-defense and concerns about Iran’s nuclear potential.
He said he hoped to stave off Israel’s condemnation by the United Nations Security Council and, possibly, the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the Gaza conflict last winter. He pledged to “use my position as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the chair of the subcommittee of all our foreign assistance abroad to do everything I can to make sure the United States asserts its power at the United Nations.”
He said, “If we want the peace process to move forward, we must allow Israel to defend itself and to take risks for peace. But you can’t do that when rockets are showering into your homes and communities.”
Questioned about a possible timetable for Mideast peace talks, the senator offered a subtle rebuke to the policies of the George W. Bush administration. “I am not one who advocates a time definite” in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Menendez said. “But I am of the belief that the lack of engagement to some degree over the last several years allowed a set of circumstances to fester.”
Menendez labeled Hamas and Hizbullah “the head of the snake, but the tail extends much further. The weapons Hamas and Hizbullah use come from Iran. The money they receive comes from Iran. The propaganda calling for Israel’s destructions comes from Iran.”
Reacting to the speech, federation president Lisa Smukler told NJ Jewish News that Menendez “is as passionate about Israel as we are, and he understands the Jewish community. He was so well-spoken and brilliant.”
“We knew coming in that the senator was a strong supporter of Israel,” said PMB Women’s Campaign president Stacey Wasserman, “but I think he reinforced his commitment to Jews in America, especially in our community.
“We have a senator who stands with us on something that is very important to us.”