Rep. Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia is poised to assume the majority leader post. Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish, has been one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Congress and has been vocally critical of the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure Israel into making concessions in talks with Palestinians. Last spring, after a US-Israel diplomatic spat over settlement construction, Cantor told Politico that playing “hardball” with Israel is dangerous to US security.
Another key player will be Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) of Florida. Her district spans parts of Miami, Key Biscayne, and Miami Beach and includes a large, powerful Jewish constituency. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is poised to become the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman. Foreign Policy’s The Cable writes that she is likely to try to block US efforts to further pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for concessions.
In a Foreign Policy blog post, Marc Lynch speculates that even before the Republicans assume their House majority and current congressmen take on leadership positions, their assumed support could boost Netanyahu’s resolve to push back on requests for concessions. Columnist Akiva Elder for the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, reiterates that point:
“In Benjamin Netanyahu’s circles, many are hoping that a weak Obama will be good for Israel. They assume that a president who has had his wings clipped in the middle of his first term will devote the second half of his term to fighting for reelection.”