Eric Cantor, who is about to become the second-highest-ranking member of the House of Representatives and its first Jewish majority leader, said President Barack Obama has failed to address both Israel’s strategic needs and Iran’s “atrocious violations of human rights.”
Speaking Dec. 12 in a packed Buttenwieser Hall at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y, the five-term Virginia Republican replied that “there was a seeming lack of priority placed on this question” when asked about the president’s approach to Iran’s human rights abuses and possible development of nuclear weapons.
He criticized Obama’s Cairo speech to the Muslim world in 2009. “The inherent message was that Israel is to blame. I thought it was very dangerous,” he told moderator Thane Rosenbaum, a lawyer and novelist.
Speaking of the “religious connection the Jewish people have to the Land of Israel,” the congressman said, “There is something about this administration’s policy that misses that point. It dismisses the strategic nature of the partnership. We have got to be there for our ally.”
He said an American demand for a moratorium on Jewish homebuilding in the West Bank and east Jerusalem “sends a signal that we in this country are not going to be the equal arbiter of the situation when one side demonstrates a commitment to peace over and over again and one side cannot and won’t deliver.”
Cantor praised newly elected members of Congress from the Tea Party for “playing a tremendously important role. Republicans picked up 67 seats in the House.”
Asked whether he worried that those isolationist members might oppose foreign aid to Israel as well as other nations, he said many Americans oppose foreign aid, “but I find it convincing to make the case for U.S. investment in Israel.”
Cantor was criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike last month when he floated separating Israel’s aid package from the total foreign aid package.
“Will Israel do better with a Republican majority in the House?” asked Rosenbaum.
“There has been a shift in attitude toward Israel over the last two years,” Cantor replied. “It has been a shift that many worry about. The strong bond will hopefully be a guide to the way the new Republican House will adjust itself toward a dialogue on foreign policy.”
Asked about Argentina’s recent recognition of an independent Palestinian state, following Brazil’s lead, Cantor responded angrily.
“I want this administration to speak out as loudly as it can that it will veto any attempt to put [a similar] resolution through the UN Security Council,” he said.
Such declarations of unilateral Palestinian statehood are “a warning signal. This is not going to stop,” he said. “The Palestinians have been on a mission to declare an independent state without Israel’s acquiescence. We know the anti-Israelism that is out there is the newest iteration of anti-Semitism. The Palestinian state and its backers must accept the right of a Jewish state in the Middle East.”