Inconsistent on Israel? Prominent Jewish Republican calls for clarity from Trump

Former House majority leader Cantor tells 'Post' he will "continue to support the Republican candidate.”

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August 14, 2016 17:21
3 minute read.
Eric Cantor

Eric Cantor. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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NEW YORK – Donald Trump needs to show the same sort of consistency in his expressions of support for Israel as he does in his ferocious opposition to Islamic State, Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader, told The Jerusalem Post this weekend.

In the interview, Cantor – once one of the highest-ranking Republicans in Congress and the only Jewish member of his caucus, before losing his seat in a 2014 primary challenge – left nothing to the imagination: He is unhappy with his nation’s choices for president between Trump, the Republican nominee, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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He called both Trump and Clinton “very imperfect.” But “this is a race between two candidates now,” he said, “and I will continue to support the Republican candidate.”

Whether Trump is a reliable ally for Israel is of concern to Cantor, who throughout his career in Congress maintained a steady track record on votes that deepened American commitments to the Jewish state. Asked whether he trusted a President Trump to maintain a newly minted, decade-long US defense package to Israel estimated to be worth $36 billion-$40b., Cantor equivocated, saying that Trump’s unpredictability – especially in dealing with America’s oldest allies – gave him real pause.

“He has been very inconsistent in many of the things that he has said,” Cantor replied. “I want to see that clarity as far as Israel is concerned – an America that has its back and is leading.

I want to see him say that.

“There’s definitely a clear position that he’s taken against ISIS,” he added, offering an example of where he thought the candidate has remained consistent throughout the campaign.

Particularly frustrating Cantor is his conviction that Republicans are missing an opportunity to peel away American Jewish voters, who he thinks are anxious with the way in which the Obama administration has handled relations with Israel. There was, indeed, a statistical drop in Jewish support for Barack Obama between his 2008 and 2012 elections.

“I do think that over the last eight years, the American Jewish community has seen a president that at times has been openly hostile to the leader of the Jewish state, and has certainly at times crossed a line in its negotiations with the Iran deal,” Cantor said. “So I do believe this year presents an opportunity for the Republican Party to make some gains.”


But pressed whether he was referring to the Republican Party generally – as in state and local races, as opposed to the presidential nominee on the top of ballot – he acknowledged an opportunity that might have otherwise been ripe may fast turn rotten.

“This election is worrisome just because of that – the choice is not a good one,” he said.

Despite his deep reservations over Trump, Cantor – who is now working at a New York-based investment bank, Moelis & Company, as its vice chairman – offered no praise for his Democratic rival.

“It’s optimistic to think Hillary is going to be four more years of the same on Israel, because it could get worse,” Cantor said. While he did not cite examples of how Clinton had harmed the US-Israel relationship, he accused her of being susceptible to the winds of political change: “You have a Democratic Party platform that’s clearly going to have an impact on Hillary,” he said.

A group of 50 GOP national security officials last week declared opposition to Trump, calling him a threat to homeland security, and warned that if elected he would be the most reckless president in the US history. Several of those officials told the Post that his lack of predictability, and his willingness to dispense with century-old alliances, should be cause for alarm in Israel and among the American Jewish establishment that works in support of the state.

One thing that seems to have pleased Cantor: Trump’s consistent stance against the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran last year.

He offered harsh words for the Obama administration’s approach to the negotiations – “there wasn’t transparency with our best ally in the region,” he charged – and said there was obvious connectivity between a $400 million Hague tribunal settlement reached between the US and Iran, and Tehran’s release of four American political prisoners. Both events occurred on the same January day earlier this year.

“The best thing for Israel is a strong America that will stand up to that,” Cantor said, “vis-à-vis [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, vis-à-vis [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, vis-à-vis Iran.”

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