Head to Head / Congressman Eric Cantor, Is Netanyahu's Speech in D.C. an Opportunity for Israel?

Congressman Cantor calls on U.S. to oppose Hamas-Fatah unity; 'Israel's security goes hand in hand with U.S. security in the Middle East'.

Next week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give a speech before both houses of the U.S. Congress. Some say he should present a bold peace initiative. Along those lines, several administration officials have said that while now is a time of uncertainty in the Middle East, it is also a time of opportunity.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican from Virginia, do you see an opportunity here?

Eric Cantor

The events in the Middle East have certainly been challenging lately, and I think it's important for the U.S. to take a stand in strong opposition to the alliance of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Most Americans are firmly against supporting with taxpayer dollars an entity that denies Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and, in fact, would use terrorist ways to further their end. So we are looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu to the House of Representatives, and looking forward to find further ways that we can strengthen our friendship with Israel. It is an extremely important strategic ally in the Middle East.

Other U.S. allies - like Turkey, whose prime minister has said he sees Hamas as a political party, not a terror organization - argue that the only way to peace is through Palestinian unity. Is there any other alternative?

There is no shift of opinion as far as where the American public is concerned, and we, as the U.S. Congress, feel very strongly that Hamas has demonstrated its terrorist ways and see no ability to have Hamas be a part of any peaceful solution in the Middle East. We hope that the Palestinian Authority is able to regain some sense of where it can see itself get back on track, as far as principles laid out by the Quartet, in terms of coming to the negotiating table, with direct talks with Israelis. But as long as there are terrorists involved - obviously, the U.S. would not support any engagement with a terrorist organization.

It seems that the Palestinians have lost their faith in the U.S. as a fair broker, strengthening the claim of those who accuse Israel of becoming a liability to U.S. interests.

Israel's security goes hand in hand with U.S. security in the Middle East. It's been a long-standing democratic ally, and it fights the same war as the U.S. against the spread of radical Islam. It stands on the front lines against the attempt by the regime in Iran to destabilize not only that region, but frankly, to destabilize the world. So we stand with Israel, and I think the people of Israel will see that in the reception that Prime Minister Netanyahu gets at the U.S. Congress.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama is supposed to give his own speech on American policy in the Middle East and North Africa. Is there something you would like to hear? Some kind of initiative?

I would hope that what we can see from the administration is a firm commitment to step up and do all we can to stop the spread of radical Islam, to stop the spread of terrorism and the killing of innocent people, and that we can work to strengthen the democratic institutions in the Middle East, and without ever taking an eye off Iran.

Are you satisfied with the Obama administration's response to the Syrian crackdown on protesters?

I think that the events in Syria and throughout the region are extremely troubling. Any time there is a vacuum, the fear is that the forces of radical Islam will step in and, as we know, the regime in Iran continues its quest to destabilize countries there. And this force is contrary to what we believe is best for the region, which is to continue the strengthening of democratic institutions.

Is the United States safer after the death of Osama bin Laden? Al-Qaida and the Taliban are threatening retaliation.

The American people certainly have a sense of relief, but they understand that the danger is still there. We are blessed with many men and women in uniform that carry the mission to defend this country. I think that the American people understand that it took us a long time until we could apprehend Osama bin Laden. But the struggle continues, and we are committed to stand up for freedom, and for life, and I know that in the Congress there is a bipartisan support to continue our efforts to secure the national interests of the U.S.

What do you think about the celebrations of his death?

The reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden is certainly understandable when an evil man such as that perpetrates such a horrific attack on this country. But the danger is still there.

The operation certainly strengthened Obama's position as a candidate for reelection. Does any Republican candidate stand a chance in the 2012 elections?

The killing of bin Laden was something we did in our struggle together as Americans. I think the people of this country certainly have a lot to thank President [George W.] Bush for, and President Obama, in executing the mission against terrorist organizations and bin Laden himself.