Obama may not have much to say about Israel right now, but AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee – 2nd most influential lobbying group in the U.S. after the NRA) is about to send “some 60 US congressmen, nearly 15 percent of the 435-member House of Representatives” to Israel over the next two weeks. The highest-profile American visitor will be the anomalous Eric Cantor, a 46-year-old representative from Virginia who is the only Jewish Republican in the House and also the minority whip (2nd in command after Minority Leader John Boehner). Cantor did an in-depth interview with The Jerusalem Post that was printed today, and he is certainly concerned with Obama’s stance on Israel.
You were quoted in November as saying that a strong US-Israel relationship was a top priority for you, and that you would be outspoken if US President Barack Obama “did anything to harm those ties.” Has he?
“I’m very concerned about some of the reports indicating some disagreement and pressure being put on Israel regarding construction in the settlement areas, as well as Jerusalem in particular. I feel that any kind of emphasis on the issue of natural growth in the settlements is a distraction from the real urgent crisis in the region, which is the nuclearization of Iran.”
Sidestep of settlement issue numero uno. AIPAC really loves to talk about Iran and how dangerous it is. Sure, it’s hostile towards Israel, but I feel like AIPAC never talks about anything else. I’m bored already (yawn).
A little ways down:
So are you saying there is support on the Hill for natural growth in the settlements?
“I think that the whole issue of the status of the settlement blocks is something to be resolved in future agreements; it is not something we should begin pressuring Israel on now, when there really have not been adequate steps taken by the Arab states and the Palestinians.”
Settlement sidestep numero deux. I think AIPAC (and Cantor) just really need to say what they think: that the settlements have a right to exist, that Israelis have the right to build and expand them. It’s no secret that AIPAC leans to the right on Israel’s political spectrum, but it seems that no one EVER wants to deal with the settlements. Every single U.S. president has dropped the ball on this one, and as I said in an earlier post, Netanyahu and his pro-settlement sentiment are popular among Israelis. It’s never “the right time” to pressure Israel on anything. But hey, I can’t blame them. No one said making peace in the Middle East would be easy. At this point in the interview, I am still bored (yawn) and have not read anything of substance.
So, Eric Cantor, I really hope you have interesting stuff to say while you’re actually in Israel. I really don’t need to hear for the umpteenth time that it’s not the right time to broach the settlement issue.
In related news, I still have my press badge. Perhaps this will help me out lots in the not-so-distant future. I’ll have just arrived in Israel, so I won’t exactly have time to stalk Congressmen, but I will have my camera at the ready just in case!
Also, I’m pretty sure I have a little something in the ol’ Times-Pic tomorrow. I’ll post a link if it’s in there! And don’t forget to check out A.Good Journalism for links to my clips from this summer and internships past!