Sen. Bob Menendez takes joy in being on the wrong side of Tehran, and he's not afraid of being at odds with his own party's White House.
"When it comes to defending the U.S.-Israel relationship, I am not intimidated by anyone—not Israel's political enemies and not by my political friends when I believe they're wrong," Menendez declared to an energized crowd at the AIPAC policy conference Monday evening.
A call to action for his fellow members of Congress, Menendez vowed never to back down from a brawl to defend the U.S. and Israel's "sacrosanct" and "untouchable" relationship.
"As long as I have an ounce of fight left in me, as long as I have a vote and a say and a chance to protect the interest of Israel, the region, and the national security interests of the United States—Iran will never have a pathway to a weapon," Menendez says. "It will never threaten Israel or its neighbors, and it will never be in a position to start a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East. Not on my watch."
Menendez's speech marked a crescendo in a long and—at times—tense relationship with the Obama administration. As the White House seeks to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, Menendez has been the leading Democrat questioning the process. While President Obama has demanded cooperation from Congress, the Foreign Relations Committee's top Democrat sponsored legislation in December that aimed to bog Iran down with more economic sanctions. His intent was to put more pressure on the country to cooperate with the United States, but the White House claimed it undermined its months-long discussions.