Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at a troubled time for America, Israel, the Senate and AIPAC. He is at the center of the storm — the most influential Democrat in Congress on Israel and Iran, the lawmaker most aggravating to the White House on Iran sanctions and the man who holds up the wobbly facade of bipartisanship on which AIPAC has based its political strategy for decades.
He is also the man at odds with the president from his own party. He brought the delegates to their feet with the reminder that he “has stood with you and against so many in my own party.” And he implicitly criticized President Obama when he argued, “The international community seems to want any deal more than it wants a good deal.” The bulk of his speech was a full-throated defense of additional sanctions, which the White House adamantly opposes. He parroted his support for the diplomatic process but reiterated that “it must be continually reinforced.” Like speakers yesterday, he vowed that Congress would be there as a guarantor of a final deal that would remove the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb.
In vowing to do “everything” he could, Menendez still left open the questions of the day: Why has he been unable to move the Senate majority leader? When will the issue be forced?
Menendez repeated a warning he recently gave on the Senate floor that it will “be too late” to enact sanctions six months from now. That reality hangs over AIPAC, the Iran and P5+1 talks, and Congress: Iran by achieving partial relaxation of sanctions and by biding time to continue missile development and advanced centrifuge research is quickly becoming the nuclear-capable state Menendez vows to prevent.