Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Did the Pro-Israel Lobby Contribute to Eric Cantor’s Defeat?

The recently defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor enjoyed plenty of support from the Israel lobby, but an increasing tendency by some 'pro-Israel' activists to support the Tea Party may have contributed to Cantor's upset by a Tea Party primary challenger.

LobeLog

News sites throughout the US — and Israel — are still displaying shock over the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a Tea Party challenger in Virginia’s June 11 primary. The GOP leader was widely expected to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives within the next 3 years; hardly anyone predicted his loss to the political newcomer, Dave Brat. Cantor is the first Majority Leader since 1899 to fail renomination by his party.

Cantor’s defeat will have widespread repercussions for US domestic politics, epitomizing the growing fissure in the Republican party between mainstream center-right Republicans and the Tea Party. Cantor himself danced awkwardly between the two, blurring their boundary. But nothing in Cantor’s stated positions or House votes on social and economic issues distinguishes him from other conservative Republicans.

Cantor was the sole Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives during his 7 terms in office, putting him on the very short list of the Jewish members of Congress who have found a political home within the GOP. There are currently no other Republican Jews in the Senate, so Cantor’s departure from the House will mean that there won’t be a single Jewish Republican in either chamber of Congress. In the113th Congress, 21 Democrats in the House and 11 in the Senate are Jewish, as is 1 Independent senator. This will be rather awkward for the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which has not only been arguing for three decades that American Jews are abandoning their traditional loyalty to the Democratic party and increasingly identifying as Republican, but also that Jewish interests are better served by Republicans. Cantor was the RJC’s poster boy.

Indeed, here’s what RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks had to say shortly after Cantor’s resounding defeat:

We are disappointed that our friend Eric Cantor lost his primary race tonight, but we are proud of his many, many accomplishments in Congress…Eric has been an important pro-Israel voice in the House and a leader on security issues, including Iran sanctions. We deeply appreciate his efforts to keep our country secure and to support our allies around the world.

 

Although support for pro-Israel and anti-Iran legislation has been overwhelmingly bipartisan, Cantor has played a unique role on the GOP side of the aisle. Alexander Burns of Politico points out:

[W]ith Cantor’s defeat, there’s no longer a point man to help organize trips to Israel for junior GOP lawmakers, as Cantor routinely did. Jewish nonprofits and advocacy groups have no other natural person in leadership to look to for a sympathetic ear. No other Republican lawmaker can claim to have precisely the same relationship with gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a primary benefactor of both the Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

 

Cantor reportedly spent more than $5 million on his re-election campaign, while his opponent, an Economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, spent only $122,000. With big bucks backing him, Cantor seemed to have little to fear from a political novice supported by the Tea Party. “Brat’s campaign portrayed Cantor as a creature of Washington and an ally of special interests, particularly those representing the financial industry,” writes Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Cantor’s top three campaign contributors for the 2014 cycle were the Blackstone Group, Scoggin Capital Management, and Goldman Sachs.

The New Jersey based pro-Israel political action group NORPAC was also among the major contributors to Cantor’s campaign committee, though Cohn seems to have overlooked this. Ranking #9 on Cantor’s list of top donors, NORPAC had bundled $24,560 from pro-Cantor contributors in the 2014 election cycle, about $2000 less than Goldman Sachs’ $26,600.

AIPAC, the much larger and better known pro-Israel lobbying group, does not donate to candidates or bundle campaign contributions. But the campaign contributions of AIPAC’s presidents and individual activists can be documented, and they can serve as a bellwether of AIPAC’s organizational support. Until recently, AIPAC presidents personally contributed mostly to pro-Israel Democrats running in national elections, Jewish or not, and to the small number of Jewish Republicans then in the House and Senate. While AIPAC has tended to favor incumbents, it has also supported the challengers of candidates running for re-election whose positions were deemed insufficiently supportive of Israel. Since joining AIPAC ‘s Board roughly a decade ago, Michael Kassen has been extending his own campaign contributions to some of the most conservative Republican members of Congress — including Ed Royce, Virginia Foxx, and Ted Cruz— whose domestic policies are sharply at odds with those held by center-to-liberal Jewish Americans. Kassen became president of the organization in 2012 and AIPAC’s Chairman of the Board in 2014.

In a twist of irony, by contributing to the Tea Party’s increasing hold on Congress — as long as candidates’ stated support for Israel was loud and clear — pro-Israel donors like Kassen may have inadvertently contributed to a political climate conducive to the defeat of their single greatest success story, Eric Cantor.

Marsha B. Cohen is an analyst specializing in Israeli-Iranian relations and US foreign policy towards Iran and Israel.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Haim Saban is a media mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party known for his hardline stance on Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.


Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and is widely considered to be a future presidential candidate.


Brian Hook is the director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is the head of the Iran Action Group.


Josh Rogin is a journalist known for his support for neoconservative policies and views.


Laurence Silberman, a senior justice on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was a mentor to controversial Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and has been a vocal supporter of right-wing foreign and domestic agendas, including the campaign to support the invasion of Iraq.


The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, advocates regime change in Iran and has strong connections with a wide range of top political figures in the U.S.


Eli Lake is a columnist for Bloomberg View who has a lengthy record of advocating for aggressive U.S. foreign policies towards the Middle East.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The tragic end of Jamal Khashoggi should serve as a reminder that it’s time for the United States to move on and leave the motley crew of undesirable Middle Eastern partners, from Israel to Saudi Arabia, to their collective fate. They deserve each other.


Jobs should not be an excuse to arm a murderous regime that not only appears to be behind the assassination of a U.S. resident and respected commentator but is also responsible for thousands of civilian casualties in Yemen—the majority killed with U.S-supplied bombs, combat aircraft, and tactical assistance.


The contradictions in Donald Trump’s foreign policy create opportunities for both rivals and long-standing (if irritated) US allies to challenge American influence. But Trump’s immediate priority is political survival, and his actions in the international arena are of little concern to his domestic supporters.


While the notion that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic is decades old, it has been bolstered in recent years, by the campaign to add to the definition of anti-Semitism any criticism that singles Israel out and doesn’t apply the same standard to other countries. The bottom line is that this entire effort is designed not to combat anti-Semitism but to silence criticism. 


Short-term thinking, expedience, and a lack of strategic caution has led Washington to train, fund, and support group after group that have turned their guns on American soldiers and civilians.


Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


RightWeb
share