When President Barack Obama named Senator John Kerry as his Secretary of State, he opened the door for a new chair to assume control of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: New Jersey's Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.
Menendez (above) replaced Senator Kerry as chairman on February 1, 2013. On March 5, the new chairman spoke to the annual AIPAC policy council in Washington.
His talk concluded with this ringing promise: "You have my hand in friendship and the power of my office. Shalom."
He is keeping that promise. This week, speaking with the "power" of his office, he took a strong position against President Obama's effort to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.
When word went out from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.S. Congress, that this was the time to stand with Israel, Senator Menendez was ready with his op-ed.
Menendez wrote in USA Today, "We cannot substitute wild-eyed hope for clear-eyed pragmatism given Iran's record of deception."
In demeaning Iran's "so-called charm offensive," the Senator used a phrase initially voiced by Benjamin Netanyahu.
"A so-called Iranian charm offensive is simultaneously matched by an actual offensive to cross the nuclear weapons threshold. It is incompatible for Iran to pursue true diplomacy while installing any new centrifuges, including advanced centrifuge technology, and developing a heavy water reactor in Arak in defiance of the international community, most vocally this weekend by France."
This week on the eve of another round of talks with Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Britain, China, France, Russia and the US, plus Germany, Senator Menendez chose sides.
His op-ed drew a predictable response, published on the web site of the Iranian news agency, Press TV:
"'The US Congress has recently been seeking to approve a bill to increase sanctions against Iran. It has been decided that the negotiations be suspended if the bill gets through the US Congress,' said Mohammad Hassan Asafari who sits on the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Majlis.
"The Iranian lawmaker made the remarks after a meeting in which Iran's nuclear negotiating team briefed the parliamentary committee on two rounds of nuclear talks with the [P5 plus one] nations.
"The US Senate Banking Committee is mulling over whether to move ahead with a new anti-Iran sanctions bill it had delayed before the latest round of talks between Iran and the group of six world powers which was held in the Swiss city of Geneva on November 7-10."
An Act Blue fund-raising appeal for Menendez emphasized the senator's devotion to Israel:
"Senator Menendez's work in the Senate parallels the issues of concern of the American Jewish community. Menendez recognizes the political, economic, and strategic significance of the US-Israeli alliance, and has been vocal in his support of the relationship. He is truly a friend to Israel and New Jersey's Jews."
The senator is now acting on that friendship. He is also standing by his speech to AIPAC. The closing minutes of those remarks are here: