WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Republican Congress would seek to remove funding for Israel from the foreign operations budget, a GOP leader said.
U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican whip and the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, told JTA that a GOP-led House would seek to defund nations that do not share U.S. interests, even if it meant rejecting the president’s foreign operations budget.
Cantor, of Virginia, said he wants to protect funding for Israel should that situation arise.
"Part of the dilemma is that Israel has been put in the overall foreign aid looping," he said when asked about the increasing tendency of Republicans in recent years to vote against foreign operations appropriations. "I’m hoping we can see some kind of separation in terms of tax dollars going to Israel."
Cantor’s statement was a sign that the Republican leadership was ready to defer to the party’s right wing on this matter. Some on the GOP right have suggested including Israel aid in the defense budget, and a number of Tea Party-backed candidates have said they would vote against what is known in Congress as "foreign ops."
However, until now at least, the GOP leadership has backed deferring to the executive branch when it comes to foreign spending, albeit after it has completed budgetary negotiations with the Congress.
The GOP looks set to win at least the House in the upcoming Nov. 2 elections, partly because of the recent surge in conservative activism.
The pro-Israel community has always backed the president’s final foreign aid budget as a whole and strongly resisted proposals to separate funding for Israel for a number of reasons.
Among them, pro-Israel activists see aid for Israel as inextricably bound with the broader interest of countering isolationism; elevating Israel above other nations might be counterproductive in an American electorate still made up of diverse ethnic groups; and such a designation would make Israel more beholden to U.S. policy and erode its independence.
Pro-Israel officials before the interview with Cantor had told JTA that the priority in January would be making the case to newly elected Republicans for backing a holistic foreign assistance package.