Senator Menendez Presents Political Strategy for Middle East Relations and Reaffirms Support for Israel | JNS

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (DN.J.) said on Thursday that relations between the United States and Israel were more important than anyone the day after it became clear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would probably not continue in his post.

Menendez spoke in a videotaped introduction during the last session of the Israel Political Forum’s first virtual leadership policy summit.

“Our relationship is rooted in shared democratic values ​​and a common interest in promoting peace and stability for Israel, its neighbors and the entire region by protecting and defending a Jewish and democratic state where everyone can live in freedom and dignity, ”he said.

Menendez said he still deeply believes that negotiating a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is the most viable option for long-term stability in the region and that America should continue to play a role. role to facilitate this outcome.

Still, he warned the United States and other nations against any attempt to force this outcome and warned against small factions trying to capitalize on violence.

“Sadly, the latest wave of tragic violence has reminded us that, no matter how small their faction, actors who do not actively want this outcome are willing to use varying degrees of violence to advance their own agenda and achieve a lasting outcome. and peaceful. all the more difficult, ”he said. “But let me be clear: in the face of a terrorist organization engaged in the destruction of Israel, ready to indiscriminately attack civilians and put others directly at risk, Israel has every right to defend itself and to defend itself. its population, period.

Menendez, who has long been a staunch supporter of Israel, criticized the actions of the Jewish state during the recent Gaza conflict, when he said he was “deeply troubled” by the Israeli strike on the media tower in Gaza that housed the offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.

Nonetheless, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Democratic senator has an influential role to play as the Biden administration continues its efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip, reestablish ties with the Palestinian Authority and negotiate. with world powers and Iran on returning to the nuclear deal. Israel and its supporters in Washington are concerned about the actions taken by the Biden administration, especially against Iran. Menendez opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“Means of empowering those who work for cooperation”

Menendez presented a three-pronged strategy that he believes can overcome the elements on the way.

The first, he said, was to repel all efforts to use the US-Israel relationship for partisan political ends.

He singled out those who called for stopping, slowing down or conditioning aid to Israel as Hamas in the Gaza Strip launched thousands of rockets at civilian areas and elicited a military response from Israel, as well as those who called on the United States to suspend aid. to the Palestinians that Congress had authorized and appropriated in full compliance with the Taylor Force Act and all other applicable laws – an action, he said, that gives nations a less important entry point to negotiate peace.

The United States, he said, should also oppose Israel’s delegitimization on the world stage, including preventing the BDS movement from “infiltrating unrelated conversations.”

His second recommendation was that the United States engage more productively with the Palestinians, contrary to what he called the Trump administration’s “cut-off” on engagement. Including Palestinians at the negotiating table is more likely to achieve results such as ending the martyr payment system – known as “pay for murder” which financially rewards terrorists and their families – as well as reform the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The senator also said that the United States must continue to strengthen the new alliances formed under the Abrahamic Accords, namely the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Yet, he added, these alliances should not be rewarded with sales of advanced US weapons systems that could potentially threaten Israel’s qualitative military advantage and US national security unless the sales are “satisfied. to all measures of the national security interests of the United States that we establish when considering arms sales. “

Finally, Menendez said America must be a reliable and honest friend of Israel, but must find nuances to speak the truth while supporting it when under attack.

“Right now, we need to find ways to empower those who continue to work for cooperation and a two-state solution,” he said. “While the big decision concerns the fate of Israelis and Palestinians will be motivated by high-profile political acts of courage, the people who make those choices will be motivated by the people they represent. So now let’s focus on building those voices that want to work for peace, who want to work for prosperity – those people who are ready to do the hard work.

US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem, July 2, 2019. Photo Flash90.

Bipartite column on Iran’s nuclear capabilities

While Menendez did not speak about Iran during his speech at the IPF, he and his Republican colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina co-wrote a editorial in The Washington Post that day, advising the Biden administration to pursue a different strategy than joining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Senators wrote that if Iran was genuinely interested in abandoning its ambition to build a nuclear weapon and pursuing nuclear enrichment capabilities solely for power generation, then it should have no problem agreeing to receive nuclear weapons. nuclear materials from a nuclear fuel bank established by the International Atomic Energy Agency. When Tehran accepts the arrangement, the United States should also agree to more sanctions relief.

According to Graham and Menendez, the ability for all countries to access nuclear fuel for commercial energy with international oversight would prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

“If Iranian leaders are serious about a peaceful nuclear program, then they should welcome the establishment of a nuclear fuel bank for the Persian Gulf region,” Menendez and Graham wrote. “The IAEA has already established a nuclear fuel bank which any member can access in the event of disruption of existing fuel agreements. This could be extended to ensure that any Gulf state can power its commercial nuclear reactors from an IAEA fuel bank on condition that it renounces the enrichment and reprocessing of domestic uranium. “

They concluded that “a regional nuclear fuel bank could provide a reliable, affordable and transparent source of nuclear fuel for any state seeking a peaceful commercial nuclear program. This approach could multilateralize the nuclear issue and stop a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. “

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