America’s Most Courageous Senator
A few weeks ago I wrote of sitting in the second row at the Davos lecture of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. I related my revulsion at watching one of the world’s most skilled fabricators being given a hero’s welcome as a moderate, even as the Iranian government has publicly executed 600 people in the last twelve months alone, from religious leaders to political dissidents, mostly hanging them from cranes in public squares.
The world continues to give Rouhani a pass and the United States has already released $8 billion in previously frozen assets that will be used to prop up an evil regime that brutalizes its own people.
But amidst this ignoble capitulation which imperils the safety of both the United States and Israel, there is one man who has almost singlehandedly stood up to Iran. He is Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey.
Menendez is that rare leader of courage, prepared to be castigated by the head of his own party who also happens to be the leader of the free world, in the pursuit of his convictions. Noone has shown the courage to stand up for Israel against the White House’s opposition to the new sanctions bill against Iran like Menendez and he has emerged as the single greatest supporter of Israel in the United States Senate. Period.
Watching Menendez stare down the White House for the past few months, I have been blown away by a leader seemingly made of steel, unbendable and indestructible. No matter how much President Obama has tried to break him on carrying forward with his Iran sanctions bill, Menendez has refused to yield.
Lately it’s been open season on Israel. The past few weeks have seen a nasty display of anti-Israel diatribes on virtually every front with the permission to go after Israel coming passively from the Obama Administration. From Secretary of State John Kerry we have heard that if Israel doesn’t embrace a peace agreement that would have them cede East Jerusalem and all of the West Bank, there will be a second Intifada, new boycotts against Israel, and the Jewish state’s increased isolation. Talk about negotiating with a gun to your head!
From National Security Advisor Susan Rice – the American official who put party politics ahead of genocide prevention in Rwanda in 1994 – we have even heard that Israeli criticism of John Kerry is “unacceptable,” thereby denying a fellow democracy, not to mention an ally, its very freedom of speech. And all this has been child’s play compared to the avalanche of Israel hatred that has poured forth from academic boycotts like the ASA and Oxfam’s attempts to maligning a proud Jewish actress named Scarlett Johansson because she refused to abandon an Israeli company that employs 500 Palestinians in the West Bank.
Through all this Israel has had one stalwart public supporter who has bucked the trend, not only to put forth legislation, along with Senator Mark Kirk, that would stop the murderous mullahs from continuing uranium enrichment, but to stand with Israel against a President whom in the State of Union sounded like he was more concerned about Congress than Iran.
That man is Senator Robert Menendez.
I have heard from insiders that beyond what is known in the public sphere Menendez has been a bulldog for Israel behind the scenes as well. Ever since the White House’s full court press against the Senators, especially Democratic, who have co-sponsored the legislation to increase sanctions against Iran, a great many have gone silent. Not so Menendez who has fought back like a lion.
Last Thursday he made a strong argument as to why the White House’s policy on Iran is so misguided, stating, “Iran is insisting on keeping core elements of its programs – enrichment, the Arak heavy-water reactor, the underground Fordow facility, and the Parchin military complex. And, while they may be subject to safeguards — so they can satisfy the international community in the short-run – if they are allowed to retain their core infrastructure, they could quickly revive their program sometime in the future… Bottom line: They dismantle nothing. We gut the sanctions.”
Last November Menendez directly accused the White House of fear-mongering in their attempts to derail his anti-Iran legislation. “What I don’t appreciate is when I hear remarks out of the White House spokesman that … if we’re pursuing sanctions we’re marching the country off to war. I think that’s way over the top, I think that’s fear-mongering.”
As for President Obama’s promise to veto any new legislation, Menendez said, “The legislation is not the problem. Congress is not the problem. Iran is the problem. We need to worry about Iran, not the Congress.”
It would seem surprising that a Democratic Senator would have to remind an American President that a regime whose leader recently called Jewish Zionists “rabid dogs” and who once again predicted Israel’s annihilation, is the enemy, rather than the U.S. Congress. But this is the bizarre time in which we live, a time where the American Secretary of State goes to Israel on a near-weekly basis threatening the end of the world if Israel does not make peace with the Palestinians while not once visiting Damascus where 150,000 innocent people have already died.
In a time when Israel is facing renewed pressure and global calls for boycotts from an anti-Semitic BDS movement, it’s an incredible relief to know that Israel has stalwart friends. Menendez is the absolute best we have and the Jewish community ought to show its public and sincere gratitude.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, and will shortly publish “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging G-d in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” His website is www.shmuley.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.