WASHINGTON – On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's high-profile address to Congress, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz turned up the temperature in his condemnation of President Obama's handling of Iran, underscoring its threat to Israel.
“There is one threat on the face of the planet right now that poses a meaningful possibility of once again exterminating 6 million Jews, and that is a nuclear Iran,” Cruz said Monday on Capitol Hill.
Cruz made the comments as a participant on a panel featuring author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.
The event had an unmistakable political charge, thanks to the controversy surrounding Netanyahu's speech.
Many in the audience wore credentials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which was holding a pro-Israeli event in Washington, and they booed down anti-war event crashers.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, watched the panel from the front row of a standing-room-only crowd. The Nevada billionaires are staunch Israel supporters.
The potential stakes for Cruz, a likely presidential contender, could be tens of millions of dollars in the form of Adelson Super PAC support. The Adelsons spent big on preferred candidates in the 2012 GOP primary. Combined, they donated $93 million to conservative groups that year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In his remarks, Cruz railed on Obama and his administration over its handling of Iranian nuclear arms negotiations, equating Israeli security with that of the American homeland.
“I had the opportunity earlier today to visit briefly with the prime minister,” Cruz said. “And the message I conveyed to him was simple: I said, ‘Your remarks tomorrow are important to Israel, but they’re every bit as important to the United States of America.’”
Boteach, who unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for Congress in 2012, called Cruz “an honorary Jew.”
In his introductory remarks, Boteach apologized for a print advertisement that ran in The New York Times depicting National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s image next to human skulls and described her as having “a blind spot” to Jewish and Rwandan genocide.
“I personally want to offer an apology to anyone who was offended by our organization’s ad about National Security Adviser Susan Rice, including Ms. Rice herself,” Boteach said.
"We believe in Jewish values, and our disagreement with Ms. Rice is strictly over policy,” he added. “And if it was construed by some as a personal attack, that was certainly and absolutely not its intent.”
Cruz also took aim at congressional Democrats during the panel discussion.
“There is a simple reality right now, which is that in Congress, the number of congressional Democrats willing to stand up to this administration on Iran is vanishingly small,” he said. “For this gathering today, to be here with a Nobel Laureate and world hero like Elie Wiesel, we invited over a dozen Democrats."
“There’s not a congressional Democrat sitting here being part of this discussion, and that was not for lack of invitation — it was because the answer was no," he added.