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Eric Cantor to the Forward: Administration Is ‘Bullying Israel’

The lone Jewish Republican in Congress is taking the Obama administration to task over its latest spat with the Israeli government.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor phoned White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on March 15 — asking him to convey to his bosses the message that it is time to ease pressure on Israel.

“The administration needs to reduce the level of its rhetoric,” Cantor said in an interview with the Forward, “I don’t think that the notion of us telling Israel what is best for its security is a good one.”

Cantor and several other Republican lawmakers have criticized the administration’s tough stance on Israel in light of the dispute over the Jewish state’s approval of another 1,600 homes in contested East Jerusalem. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, have also said that the Obama administration was wrong in pressuring Israel.

Cantor said in the interview that he believed that behind the administration’s approach stood an attempt to “curry some favor in the Arab world by bullying our ally.” He added that the administration should ask itself how this policy advances America’s national security interests.

The House Minority Whip said that Israel’s announcement of its new building plans in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, which took place during the visit of Vice President Joe Biden, was “wrong and ill-timed. ” But Cantor stressed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the incident personally and publicly. “From the moment he did that, it is puzzling for me why the administration is continuing to pressure Israel,” Cantor said.

He also added that the U.S. should distinguish between Jewish building in East Jerusalem and settlement expansion in the West Bank, because the understandings reached by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush made clear that Jewish neighborhoods surrounding Jerusalem would not be part of a future Palestinian state.

“It is very troubling for me that this administration wants to treat Jerusalem the same way it treats areas in dispute,” Cantor said.

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