US House Majority Leader Cantor: Israel's security is paramount

Republican leader's 28-member congressional delegation meets Peres; says prisoner release shows PM is ready for peace.

Peres greets US Congressman Cantor 370 (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershon / GPO)
Peres greets US Congressman Cantor 370
(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershon / GPO)
Republicans do not support any agreement that would put Israel in a compromising position because its security is paramount, Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the US House of Representatives told Israeli reporters on Tuesday.
Cantor, who was elected to his position in the 112th and 113th Congresses, arrived in Israel on Sunday as the head of a 28 member delegation.
Prior to meeting with President Shimon Peres who addressed the delegation at his official residence, Cantor told reporters that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had made a bold and very difficult decision by releasing Palestinian terrorists “with a lot of blood on their hands.”
In doing so, Israel has demonstrated a willingness for peace, but it was important for Israel to secure itself and secure its citizenry, said Cantor, who made the distinction between regular prisoners and terrorists with blood on their hands.
The delegation includes first time visitors, who in the few days that they have been here, Cantor told Peres, have seen the many challenges and the existential threat confronting Israel, while simultaneously noting “the incredible quality of life that has flourished here.”
Peres said that it was very encouraging for the delegation to be in Israel at this time. He was aware of the differences between Democrats and Republicans he said “but not when it comes to Israel” which since the very beginning has enjoyed the support of both parties. He could not remember any US President – whether Democrat or Republican – who did not give his support to Israel.
“I know when it’s really necessary, Democrats and Republicans come together,” said Peres and cited the tough stance taken by Congress on sanctions against Iran. The latest decisions related to Iran have come out “clear, loud and strong” he said.
Turning to the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Peres declared that the situation was not easy. It is hard to get rid of the difficult past and to enter into a complicated future, he said, but was convinced that the time had come to do so.
An impetus for change in Peres’s perception is that Arabs are tired of wars that they can’t win and fearful of the effects of terrorism. Peres termed terrorism as one of the most divisive of elements, underscoring that terrorists are not united and have no real policy or ideology.
There are five terrorist groups in Gaza killing each other and the population around them he said, because they are constantly disagreeing amongst themselves.
Notwithstanding upheavals in the Arab world, change has not really happened, said Peres, but the need for change is becoming clear, and this is one of the reasons that he is more optimistic about the outcome of the peace talks than he was in the past.