June 9, 2014 -- Summit, New Jersey -- “Palestinians must choose between peace with Israel as a Jewish state and a marriage with Hamas, a terrorist organization,” Senator Robert Menendez declared at the AJC New Jersey Region Annual Meeting. The “marriage will have severe consequences.”
Last week's agreement between the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas to form a “unity” government has been condemned by the Israeli government. But the U.S. and many other nations have declared that they want to give the new Palestinian government a chance.
Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vowed that he will review aid to a Palestinian government which shares power with Hamas. "U.S. law is explicit on this. We will not provide assistance to a Palestinian government in which Hamas has a role and exercises 'undue influence.'"
He also questioned the wisdom of Washington's decision to give "this two-headed dragon" a chance, based on "the empty assurances of one man, President Abbas," that it will recognize Israel, avoid violence, and respect previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
"I say this can only have a very short window,” said Menendez. "Whatever its alleged role, Hamas will wield power and influence, and Hamas, under our law, is a terrorist organization opposed to a two-state agreement and supported by Iran."
The Senator praised the long-standing and close U.S.-Israel relationship as vital to American national and global security interests.
“For 22 years, I have cast my vote in Congress in support of Israel because of our shared values, shared idealism, and shared belief in self-reliance,” said Menendez. “It is in our national interest to continue our strong, unwavering relationship with Israel, the one true democracy in a sea of autocracy” in the Middle East, our "one reliable ally in the region," and a nation whose history dates back not decades, but "thousands of years to the time of Abraham and Sarah."
Menendez, who has led Senate efforts to impose sanctions on Iran, also expressed serious concerns about the possible outcome of talks with Iran. The Administration is holding bilateral negotiations with Tehran this week in an effort to advance the process between the P5+1 and Iran, ahead of a July 20 deadline.
“I prefer to have no deal than a bad deal,” said Menendez. A good deal "verifiably dismantles" Iran’s nuclear program, "sets it back for many years," and has "a robust, intrusive inspections regime" in light of Iran's long record "of deceit and cheating."
Menendez pointed out that only Congress can remove some of the sanctions on Iran. “I will hold the deal subject to a robust review by Congress," he said.
"It was no surprise that Senator Menendez received a sustained standing ovation from the large audience," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who spoke immediately afterward. "He has a clear understanding of the global situation, is unafraid to speak out, and is widely regarded as a dedicated and proven friend of the U.S.-Israel relationship."
Amy Reisen Freundlich, who completed her term last night as president of AJC Metro New Jersey Region, introduced Senator Menendez. Genesia Kamen was installed as the new president.