Eric Cantor, the House Republican leader and highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress, told an off-the-record gathering of pro-Israel supporters that other Middle Eastern countries share Israel’s distress over Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Speaking in Teaneck Feb. 11 to members of the pro-Israel NORPAC, Cantor described a bipartisan congressional mission he led to the Middle East that included meetings with regional leaders.
They included Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, said NORPAC president Ben Chouake a day after the meeting.
“He told us that what these people have been concerned about consistently is the problem of Iran, that Iran is expansionist, and that America has to stick by its word in containing it, and preventing it from becoming a nuclear power. Everybody thinks that would be a disaster,” said Chouake.
Chouake said one of the Virginia congressman’s key concerns was Turkey, once a close ally of Israel that “has moved dramatically eastward.”
“That is a concern, especially because of Turkey’s membership in NATO,” said Chouake.”
“We also discussed whether Turkey should be receiving AWACS planes” with the latest airborne warning and control systems at a time “when Turkey is actively threatening to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza with Turkish warships. Turkey has become a whole can of worms, and the entire region has undergone a gigantic metamorphosis,” Chouake said.
In Cantor’s view, Chouake said, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan, “has taken a much more aggressive stance against Israel and a much less friendly stance toward America.”
Speaking about Iran, the House leader reportedly said that the United States must keep the pressure to stop “an expansionist nation that is committed to genocide.”
“You would have expected that because he is the Republican majority leader, he would have bashed President [Barack] Obama. Not at all,” said the NORPAC leader.
Chouake, a Republican, described the GOP leader as “a very talented public servant, a very attractive candidate. He is a prolific fund-raiser and someone who is tireless in terms of his efforts. He is a good Jew. He wants to do the right thing for the country and the world.”
The meeting was held at the home of Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union.
The bipartisan NORPAC, which supports House and Senate candidates deemed favorable to Israel, raised $25,000 in contributions for Cantor.
Robert Weiner is a staff writer for the New Jersey Jewish News.