US Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) speaks about immigration reform at a news conference on Capitol Hill.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
My senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, has the right to be presumed innocent regarding the allegations being leveled against him by Federal authorities. Moreover, as a senator he has the right to the gratitude and appreciation of the American Jewish community for being Israel’s courageous friend.
There is perhaps no senator more stalwart than Menendez on holding tyrants accountable and on national security. Watching Menendez stand up to those who would appease Iran is like watching an American lion, tall and proud, often alone and condemned, but never bending. Willing to break with his party and President Barack Obama on issues of conscience, he has stood up recently for the human rights of the people of Cuba. Most important, he stood up for the American and Israeli people against the White House’s rush to conclude a deal with Iran that would compromise the security of both nations.
The White House has already released $8 billion in previously frozen Iranian assets to a government which its own State Department lists as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. But standing as a bulwark against this capitulation has been Menendez who, more than any other senator and certainly more than any other Democrat, has courageously stared Iran down.
Menendez fits the profile of the senators JFK included in Profiles in Courage; a leader prepared to be castigated by his own party in the pursuit of his convictions and the public interest. Of the White House’s defense of its proposed accord with Iran, Menendez famously said, “I have to be honest with you. The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”
Watching Menendez stand tall against the White House and his critics for the past two years leaves one with the impression that here is leader made of steel.
The administration has sought to break his opposition to the Iran deal, so critical to the legacy of a president with few foreign policy triumphs. Menendez has refused to yield.
Now comes the news of the corruption charges being brought by the Justice Department, just four days after Menendez delivered one of the most powerful speeches in memory on Israel’s behalf. The next few weeks will determine a great deal about the Jewish community and how it is perceived when it comes to its friends. Will we stand by our stalwart backers as they have stood by us, or will we wilt? Will people rush to judgment about Menendez before formal charges have even been leveled, or will they stand behind a breathtakingly strong friend? It is no secret that of late I have been critical of public officials I believe have let Israel down. But criticism is only one side of the coin. Praise and support must be the other.
Israel faces an existential threat from the Iranian mullahs, whose irrational, fanatical hatred of the Jews knows no bounds. Two pieces of legislation have been proposed in the Senate to counter the threat.
Kirk-Menendez would increase sanctions against Iran should no nuclear deal be signed. Graham-Menendez- Corker would require Senate approval for any White House deal. The leading Democrat supporting both pieces of legislation is, of course, Robert Menendez.
Beyond my sentiments as an American and as a Jew, I am inspired by Menendez’s audacity to speak truth to power. Few of us can appreciate the position of a senator whom CNN calls “The White House’s Least Favorite Dem.” I have often found myself taking lonely positions based on my convictions that were condemned by the mainstream. Actions like those of Senator Menendez are what inspire me.
Above all Menendez has been remarkable in focusing on the important issue at hand – Iran – while the administration has tried to make it about a speech by the Israeli prime minister or some other distraction.
“Congress is not the problem. Iran is the problem,” Menendez forcefully said. “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 calls Jewish Zionists “rabid dogs” and who recently tweeted about the need to completely annihilate Israel is the enemy.
At truly strange and dangerous times like these it is imperative that the Jewish community remember, stand by and speak up for its true and trusted friends.
The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom
The Washington Post call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books. His website is www.shmuley.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.