Alfonse D’Amato
Alfonse D’Amato
Alfonse D’Amato

By Larry Gordon

The question posed in the above headline was asked on most of these last few days, as reports filtered out of Washington and Geneva that an agreement was close to being reached that would decrease sanctions on Iran. Those who have heard Senator Chuck Schumer–a product of the New York Jewish community and a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people–speak at functions have heard how he eloquently expresses the idea that his name describes who he really is. According to his explanation, he is a “Shomer,” a guardian of Israel.

So why wasn’t Chuck Schumer outspoken last week, standing up there and telling President Obama directly that this is the absolute wrong time to decrease or even freeze sanctions in place? As Iran feels squeezed and pressured to come to the negotiating table, it would have been nice to hear the protector of Israel question such a reduction in sanctions.

Leading senators like Foreign Relations Committee head Bob Menendez (D‑NJ) had no problem advocating on ABC News on Sunday for increased sanctions. But Senator Schumer was nowhere to be found, apparently fearful of applying too much pressure on the president, who now, more than ever, is desperate for any kind of diplomatic or political victory to distract from his serious problems here at home.

To address important issues like this is why Chuck Schumer was elected. Why hasn’t he spoken up and spoken out in Israel’s defense? Let’s not even discuss at this point the fashion in which, apparently at Mr. Obama’s behest, Secretary of State John Kerry is urging–or, shall we say, threatening–Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to capitulate to the unworkable and ridiculous Arab demands for so-called peace with Israel.

Let’s stick with Iran for now. Supporting Barack Obama and his illogical and unthinking positions that weaken America and our allies is not a position that a man like Chuck Schumer should be taking. Schumer should have spoken out vociferously against lessening sanctions, but instead he remained silent, thereby providing support for the president.

But don’t think this is just about Israel or the way in which the American Jewish community supports Israel–which in its own right is troubling to many in the Obama administration. Aligned with Israel against allowing Iran to develop nuclear technology are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Jordan–just to name a few. So while Mr. Schumer might be concerned that he will be accused of improperly supporting Israel simply because he is a Jew, that is obviously not a valid concern.

So we are waiting for our senator to speak out and take a stand. We are waiting for Chuck to stand up and boldly speak out as the Obama administration repeatedly attempts to diplomatically abuse Israel. I reached out to the senator’s Washington office late Monday for comment, and was offered the following statement on the negotiations with Iran: “I’m going to be briefed by Vice President Biden this afternoon, so I’m withholding final judgment until then. But from what I’ve heard of the potential agreement, my initial reaction is to be dubious. I think we are giving Iran much more than we get in return, and so while I’m withholding final judgment until I get briefed by the administration, my initial reaction was dubious. A rare moment in foreign policy where at least, if you know what’s in the papers, I agreed with the French.” I sent a follow-up question as to the senator’s position on Tuesday and Wednesday but did not receive a response.

According to news reports emanating from Geneva last weekend, it was the French who stood up to the desire to race to announce that an agreement had been reached with the Iranians. According to those familiar with the details of the process and who saw the draft agreement, it was a one-sided document that left European and Middle Eastern leaders very unhappy. But if France hadn’t spoken up on Saturday night, the document might have been signed–all so President Obama could declare a foreign-policy victory where so many presidents had failed over the last 30 years. The Obama administration would have liked to use the vitally important issue of sanctions against Iran to distract the critics from scandals and problems with the IRS, the Benghazi attacks, and Obamacare, but the Europeans were more concerned with international security than with Obama’s domestic public-relations headaches. The point to consider in the second Obama administration is the ease with which defeat and rejection are packaged as a victory and accomplishment to be celebrated.

So where was Senator Schumer? According to a press release issued by his office on November 11, the senator was busy urging the government not to allow the automobile industry to delay the requirement that all new autos be equipped with rearview cameras, so that drivers will have a better view of what is going on behind them when they are backing up.

There is no question that this is important and will indeed save lives, but, at the same time, why didn’t Senator Schumer feel it important to urge his buddies John Kerry and Barack Obama–perhaps through a similar press release or news conference–to be leery of Iranian deception?

Back on November 1, Senator Schumer met personally with Secretary of State Kerry to urge the State Department not to return Judaica artifacts discovered by American forces in Iraq back in 2004. According to the senator’s press release, the State Department had already decided to return 2,700 Judaica books, documents, and parts of Torah scrolls to the Iraqis instead of handing them over to members of the Iraqi Jewish community–their rightful owners–who were expelled from Iraq decades ago.

So Senator Schumer actually met with Secretary Kerry prior to the Secretary of State’s departure for Israel, where he excoriated Prime Minister Netanyahu for continued rightful and legal building in settlement communities in Israel. Kerry called settlement “illegitimate,” and while it is unclear what that really means, it is clearly not complimentary. Why didn’t the senator see fit to talk to Mr. Kerry about not laying the blame for failure in Geneva in Israel’s lap, and ask Kerry to refrain from warning Israel about a third violent intifada, as if it were warranted under the present circumstances?

Again, a senator–regardless of where he is from–has the right to pursue the issues that are important to him, but shouldn’t he focus on the concerns of a large number of his constituents? On the other hand, I’m sure there are many Jews in New York who are critical of Israeli policy in the current government and–from a safe distance, anyway–would like to see a peace treaty signed between Palestinians and Israelis. This group, and perhaps many others, would also like to see the Iranian nuclear-bomb threat dealt with in a calm and effective diplomatic fashion.

And that is all fine and good, but the Iranians–like the Palestinians–are experts in dealing in deception and double-talk.

A Washington Post deputy editor said on Sunday that, if none of Secretary of State John Kerry’s dreams come true, he “will be remembered as a self-deceiving bumbler.” My belief is that Kerry feels that he is living in the shadow of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who accomplished seriously little during her four years at the State Department. Kerry apparently feels he can achieve a mass public forgetfulness that Hillary was ever a Secretary of State if he can ring up an agreement with Iran and a peace deal–in both cases no matter how bad or shaky–between Israelis and Palestinians. Kerry, like Obama, is so all over the place, he’s like a kid in a candy store who cannot figure out what to grab first: the gum, the chocolates, or the lollypops.

In 1981, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear facilities in Osirak, Israel was roundly condemned for its actions. Back then, there were six Jews serving in the Senate (Howard Metzenbaum, Edward Zorinsky, Rudy Boschwitz, Carl Levin, Warren Rudman, and Arlen Specter), with not even one standing up to defend the Israeli action. The one senator who did stand up and speak out for Israel at the time was New York Senator Al D’Amato. This is the man who Chuck Schumer said had to be replaced, and whom Schumer beat to get his Senate seat.

But this is serious business that needs to be approached with greater seriousness and without consideration of how it will impact on the president’s favorability rating (which, as you know, is plummeting). And that is where our senator–Chuck Schumer–needs to come into the picture. Schumer is in Washington to look after and represent our interests–not those of the distracted president and secretary of state. v

Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome



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