Robert Menendez, New Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair: “No Daylight Between US, Israel On My Watch”

March 13, 2013 12:01 am 0 comments

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2013 Policy Conference on March 5. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

WASHINGTON, DC - For U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), closing remarks at the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference publicly marked the start of a new phase in his relationship with the Jewish community.

Menendez, the new chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, follows current Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden in that post. “There will never be any daylight between the United States and Israel on my watch,” he told the AIPAC crowd. “Never. Not on my watch.”

JNS.org spoke privately with Menendez in the halls of the Washington Convention Center following his address. The senator said he hopes that the upcoming trip of President Barack Obama to Israel, coupled with Kerry’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, “can reignite an effort where we can get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table with Israel, which is the only way in which we will have peace.”

“It has to be a negotiated [peace settlement]—you can’t do it at the United Nations,” Menendez told JNS.org, referring to the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bids at the UN the last two years. “You have to do it between the two parties. Israel has expressed its willingness to negotiate without preconditions.”

“We look to [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas as the elected leadership of the Palestinian people and we would hope that if he came to the negotiating table in good faith, that would spark an aspiration that exists among the Palestinian people, hope among the Palestinian people,” Menendez said. “If we move forward in good faith, then there might be the wherewithal to strengthen his role so that we in fact can move more towards our ultimate goal, which is a two-state solution with peaceful, secure boundaries and above all, security for the State of Israel.”

Asked by JNS.org if he sees anyone else capable of leading the PA should Abbas leave or lose that role one day, Menendez responded, “I don’t think it’s really for the United States to look towards whom the Palestinian Authority and its people choose as its leader. We stand ready to work with anyone who is willing to follow the path to peace, who is willing to enter into a negotiated settlement with the government of Israel, and to seek to live side by side peacefully and fulfill the hopes and dreams and aspirations of their people. Whoever that is, we look forward to working with him. Right now, that’s President Abbas, and that’s with whom we work.”

JNS.org asked Menendez if his public support for the Jewish community and for Israel in any way has conflicted with his work in diverse New Jersey communities such as Paterson, a city that is home to the second-largest Muslim population in the U.S. as well as a mosque, the Islamic Center of Passaic County, whose leader, Mohammad Qatanani, is allegedly a member of Hamas.

The Senator responded by expressing his admiration for the “incredibly hard working people” of New Jersey’s Muslim community.

“They have helped rebuild some of our oldest communities,” Menendez said. “They have a strong faith and family focus. My experience has been that they are making contributions in those communities in New Jersey in which they reside.”

Menendez, in partnership with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), has co-authored a new resolution that calls on the U.S. to “stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the government of Israel in defense of its territory, people, and existence.” The resolution is expected to pass in the House and Senate.

Soon after submission of the Graham-Menendez resolution, U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) put forth a bill that would create a unique, legally acknowledged designation of Israel as a “major strategic ally” for the U.S.

Delegates at AIPAC’s 2013 Policy Conference, preparing to go to Capitol Hill to lobby their House Representatives and Senators following the end of the conference on March 5, were invigorated by the words of Menendez, the three-day conference’s final notable speaker. The newly appointed Senate foreign relations chair was making his first major public appearance after returning from a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Menendez told the crowd, including the 500-member delegation from New Jersey that he acknowledged, that America would “protect and defend our fundamental promise to stand with Israel and the Israeli people in a strong and lasting alliance.” He called the Jewish state “an enlightened society,” promising the availability of America’s “military strength where necessary.”

U.S. aid to Egypt should be contingent upon Egypt upholding its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Menendez said.

“American security assistance to Egypt cannot be a blank check,” he said.

Drawing a standing ovation from the AIPAC crowd, Menendez affirmed the biblical Jewish connection to the land of Israel.

“There can be no denying the Jewish people’s legitimate right to live in peace and security in a homeland to which they have a connection for thousands of years,” he said.

As far as the Iranian nuclear threat goes, Menendez said, “Containment is not an option for the United States.”

“Our clear intention must be to prevent Iran from ever reaching nuclear capacity,” he said.

“We will not and cannot talk for talking’s sake,” Menendez said of the diplomacy track for Iran. “We cannot allow the negotiations to become just a stalling tactic for Iran to buy time.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.