By Jonathan Easley - 03/05/12 01:43 PM EST
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Monday questioned President Obama’s “resolve” in his commitment to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and protecting Israel.
“What I think is going on right now is, not only some of us here in this country are questioning where the resolve is,” Cantor said on MSNBC. “I’ve spoken with many allies in the region, and that includes many Arab governments, and it is they that are also questioning where the resolve is. If you look at what is going on in the region, the question of American influence and leadership is a real one.”
Administration officials have downplayed talk of a rift between the two leaders, amid concerns Israel might pre-emptively strike Iran and GOP criticism that Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel.
On Sunday, the president gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which Cantor attended, in which Obama said the United States had “Israel’s back,” and urged the country to allow time for economic sanctions against Iran to take hold.
While Obama expressed his “deeply held preference” for peace over war, he stressed that his administration’s policy toward Iran was not one of “containment.”
“Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment, I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said Sunday. “And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
Republicans, though, have repeatedly blasted the president over what they say is a lack of commitment to Israel, which they say is exemplified by a 2013 budget proposal that fails to devote enough aid to Israel in light of the threat from Iran.
“Words are one thing, but backing it up with actions is what we need to see,” Cantor continued. “All of these questions lead one to ask, is there adequate resolve? And I’m hopeful that we see an adequate response to that.”
In his speech on Sunday, Obama sought to put the issue to rest.
“Over the last three years, as president of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel,” he said. “At every crucial juncture, at every fork in the road, we have been there for Israel. Every single time.
“There should not be a shred of doubt by now: When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back,” Obama continued.
Republicans have painted Obama's dealings with Israel as an example of weakness in the president's foreign policy, which has been bolstered by the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
GOP front-runner Mitt Romney weighed in from a campaign stop in Georgia on Sunday.
"If Barack Obama gets reelected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon, and the world will change if that's the case," he said. "He's also failed to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand. And that it's unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.
"I will have those military options, I will take those crippling sanctions and put them into place, and I will speak out to the Iranian people of the peril of them becoming nuclear. It's pretty straightforward, in my view," added Romney.