House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) delivered a series of stinging, albeit indirect, attacks against President Barack Obama's policy on Israel during a joint appearance with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. Monday evening.
The two second-in-command leaders of their respective parties appeared onstage in was has become a traditional bipartisan display of support for a strong U.S.-Israel alliance at the annual event. Yet Cantor used the opportunity to give voice to Republican criticism of President Obama's policy--criticism that AIPAC has done its best to mask over the past five years as it strives to maintain an appearance of even-handedness.
Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, blogging from the event, noted: "Cantor started with props for Hoyer--and then proceeded to target the Obama administration." Many of Cantor's most cutting remarks were amplified by his staff on his Twitter feed:
Kampeas noted that at least one Cantor remark seemed to have been aimed at the more isolationist wing of his party, represented most prominently by former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
The full speech appeared shortly afterwards on YouTube via Cantor's own channel:
Until Cantor's remarks Monday evening, the loudest applause at the AIPAC conference had been won by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), according to conference attendees. McCain's address earlier Monday included several direct rebukes of the Obama administration's policy on Iran, Syria, and other Middle East issues.
AIPAC's informal policy is that conference attendees are to show decorum towards members of both parties, and to applaud both sides regardless of their own personal affiliations. Protest is strongly discouraged. Yet the often confrontational approach towards Israel of Obama's first term, followed by the nomination of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel--a noted critic of Israel--in his second term, has stoked frustrations among many AIPAC members. (AIPAC itself did not take a position on the Hagel nomination as an organization.)