A true friend of Israel, unfairly maligned

NJ Jewish News by Lonny Kaplan April 1, 2015

As a long time pro-Israel activist and a New Jersey resident, it was a personal highlight for me to introduce my senator and keynote speaker Bob Menendez to a jam-packed room of 16,000 members of the pro-Israel community at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual Policy Conference last month.

This year’s gathering, held in Washington, DC, came at a pivotal moment for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and in the midst of ongoing negotiations between the United States, our international negotiating partners, and Iran regarding their illicit nuclear weapons program.

The implications of these talks on the national security concerns of the United States, Israel, and our allies could not be more consequential. We are truly living in historic times, fraught with fast-moving changes that are unparalleled in my lifetime.

While I remain deeply concerned by a potentially bad deal with Iran, based upon news reports I am reading, I am heartened to know that Sen. Menendez is playing such a critical role in Congress on this issue, fulfilling his duties with a seriousness of purpose and with deep-seated conviction.

When Bob warns that if an agreement is reached that lacks robust safeguards and inspections and Iran could still sneak out gradually over time and advance their nuclear program, we should all heed his serious concerns. When Bob argues that the goalposts have moved during these negotiations, that we no longer are advocating for the dismantlement of Iran’s program, but simply its reconfiguration, we should be outraged.

At the AIPAC gathering, Bob was welcomed with numerous standing ovations, wildly received by the overflowing audience and lauded for his bravery, integrity, and knowledge of these issues.

Bob Menendez’s leadership on the U.S.-Israel relationship is extraordinary. He is the embodiment of a profile in courage, a leader who stands up for principled ideals, and does not waver, no matter the intensity of the opposition to his views.

Who could forget when Bob electrified the AIPAC assembly, in a speech brimming with passion and heart, when he said: “I am not intimidated by anyone — not Israel’s political enemies and not by my political friends when I believe they’re wrong.”

Nobody in Congress understands the Iran issue better than Bob, who has been following this issue for decades. Israel knows no better friend than our senior senator from New Jersey.

That is why it is so deeply troubling, as Sen. Menendez has reached the apex of his career and is playing such a prominent role in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy, that a steady stream of anonymous leaks meant to slander him is trickling out. It is shocking, if not reprehensible, that a sitting U.S. senator is being defamed in the media by anonymous sources.

Bob is the ultimate fighter, principled to his core, who always speaks out against injustice wherever it occurs. He is the bulwark against a bad nuclear deal with Iran, deeply respected by Democrats and Republicans in Congress for his wisdom and dedication to standing up for our national security interests, defending our allies, and opposing our foes.

I’m fortunate to call him a friend, and New Jersey is lucky to call him our senator. He deserves our unified support.

Leonard “Lonny” Kaplan is past president of the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, past chairman of the New Jersey Israel Commission, past president of AIPAC, and past member of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission.