As the controversy surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress about the global threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran has risen to fever pitch, many Democratic members of Congress have come forth and publicly declared their intention to either attend the highly publicized speech, or, alternatively, skip the Israeli Prime Minister’s address. One notable exception from the chorus of prominent lawmakers who have opined about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is Senator Cory Booker.
In light of his profound affinity for Israel and the Jewish community, Senator Booker’s silence thus far regarding Netanyahu’s highly politicized address was particularly noteworthy and led to speculation whether or not the high-profile lawmaker would attend the speech. Complicating matters is the fact that Booker is the only senator in the Congressional Black Caucus, which has seen a number of its members declare their intent to boycott Netanyahu’s speech.
Senator Booker ended his silence this week. In an exclusive statement to JLNJ, the Senator said he will attend Netanyahu’s address to Congress and explained his rationale for doing so.
“I am deeply troubled by the politicization of America’s vital relationship with Israel, and the disregard for longstanding diplomatic protocol displayed by House Republican leadership,” said Senator Booker. “This is an affront to our president, to members of congress, and a betrayal of the long-held American principle that when it comes to national security, politics ends at the water’s edge. I am committed to upholding that principle—when America’s and Israel’s security is on the line, and we’re dealing with a situation as dire and complex as Iranian nuclear negotiations, I will listen to all sides, and will not miss an opportunity to hear from the prime minister of one of America’s closest and most important allies.”
Citing the importance of the US-Israel connection, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, a leading advocate for strengthening the United States’ bond with Israel, noted that he will attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address, despite his displeasure with the manner in which it came about. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and a staunch defender of the State of Israel, exhorted his Democratic colleagues to attend the speech and not allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the US-Israel relationship.
Senator Booker’s deep connections to the Jewish community are well known and he is widely recognized as a strong supporter of the State of Israel. “The Jewish community is extraordinarily important,” Senator Booker said in a 2014 interview. In 2013 he said, “I have a very strong desire that we do everything for the continuance of, and the establishment of, a real secure Jewish state of Israel. That’s very, very important to me and drives a lot of my thinking about foreign policy in terms of the Middle East situation.”