Republican Gains Mean Israel Will Have More Allies on Capitol Hill

Cantor, currently minority whip in the House of Representatives, is poised to become the highest-ranking Jewish member of the House, as majority whip.

WASHINGTON - The spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in the United States told Haaretz on Wednesday that support for Israel in Congress is "strong and bipartisan."

Republicans, who took control of the House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate Tuesday, are expected to take a tougher stance on Iran and to put pressure on the Obama administration to ease up on Israel.

In a statement, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said, "It is abundantly clear that the 112th Congress will continue America's long tradition of staunch support for a strong, safe and secure Israel and an abiding friendship between the United States and our most reliable ally in the Middle East. Many of the strongest friends and supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship were reelected on Tuesday. In particular, AIPAC congratulates Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV ), Reps. John Boehner (R-OH ), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA ), Eric Cantor (R-VA ) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD )."

Cantor, currently minority whip in the House of Representatives, is poised to become the highest-ranking Jewish member of the House, as majority whip.

"A GOP Congress would have a tangible impact on improving the U.S.-Israel relationship," he told Haaretz last week. "The system of checks and balances permits us to apply oversight to the administration's foreign policy. If we regain the majority, we will use our larger platform to make the case that a strong Israel is firmly in the strategic and moral interests of the United States. We will press the administration not to pressure Israel into making concessions that will compromise Israel's already tenuous security."

In the past, Cantor introduced a bill to end financial aid to the Palestinian Authority until it end the "culture of hate."

Some Jewish incumbents lost, including central Florida Democrat Alan Grayson. Grayson ran a controversial campaign against challenger Daniel Webster, calling him "Taliban Dan."

Another Florida incumbent, Ron Klein, lost to Republican Allen West, himself a staunch Israel supporter.

In Wisconsin, Republicans picked up two seats, unseating Jewish Democrat incumbent Steve Kagen, who lost to Reid Ribble, for one of them. John Adler of New Jersey is also leaving the House.

AIPAC yesterday said it welcomed the election of three new Jewish members of Congress: Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal (D-CT ), Congresswoman-elect Nan Hayworth (R-NY ) and Congressman-elect David Cicilline (D-RI ).

Cicilline will become the fourth openly gay member of Congress, and the third Jewish and gay one.

However, the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Rea Carey, yesterday lamented the elections results, saying: "The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress."

The leftist Israel lobby J Street yesterday presented the results of what it called "the first-ever election-night poll of American Jewish voters."

Conducted by Gerstein Agne Strategic Communications, it polled 1,000 Jewish voters: 600 in Pennsylvania on the evening of November 2 and another 400 voters in Illinois' Ninth Congressional District from October 20 to 24.

The survey found that 66 percent of American Jews voted for the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district. Only 7 percent identified Israel as a decisive issue in their choice, while 62 percent cited the economy, 31 percent mentioned health care and 18 percent the federal deficit as the most important factor.

In Pennsylvania, where Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak took heat in negative ads of the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Emergency Committee for Israel (he lost to the Republican Pat Toomey ), only 8 percent of Jews mentioned Israel as one of their top two priorities in deciding how to vote, and 71 percent supported Sestak.

According to the poll, 60 percent of U.S. Jews approve of the way U.S. President Barack Obama is doing his job, and 53 percent say they approve the way he is handling the Arab-Israeli conflict. Eight-three percent of American Jews support an active U.S. role in resolving the conflict.

When asked if they would still support an active U.S. role if it meant "publicly stating its disagreements with" or "exerting pressure" on the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict, support remains high: 71 percent and 65 percent respectively, on "disagreement" and "pressure."