AIPAC Conference Will Welcome Politically Troubled Olmert, Clinton

Friday, May 30th, 2008

AIPAC’s ability to lure top politicians to its annual policy conference is widely accepted as a measure of the group’s undiminished clout. By that standard, this week’s conference of the pro-Israel lobby giant — which begins today – suggests that the federal prosecution of two former employees and continuing attacks from the Walt-Mearsheimer axis were mere blips, not major crises.

Interest in this year’s speeches could be heightened by the scheduled appearance of two figures who might be nearing critical career junctures.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, scheduled to speak at the Tuesday night banquet, must be looking forward to AIPAC; it may be the only place he can appear these days and be guaranteed an enthusiastic reception.

The AIPAC crowd, even those who oppose his peace process policies, will cheer lustily even as members of his own Kadima faction try to figure out how to force him from office in the wake of ongoing corruption investigations.

Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to speak on Wednesday morning, only hours after the votes are counted in the last two Democratic primaries.

This weekend’s decision by the Democratic National Committee giving Michigan and Florida delegates half votes at this summer’s convention all but assures the nomination to Sen. Barack Obama; the New York Times reports Clinton is facing her current predicament with “subdued resignation.”

Could this be the week she throws in the towel? Could it be on Wednesday, when she’s scheduled to speak to AIPAC?

If she does show up, it’s hard to imagine she’ll be much happier than Olmert – although she has her Senate job to fall back on, while the Prime Minister can only look forward to many months of legal problems.

Clinton’s appearance at AIPAC would culminate an intriguing political transformation.

Nine years ago, she was seen as the liberal face of the Clinton administration; her embrace of Suha Arafat convinced Jewish right wingers that she was a PLO sympathizer.

But in 2008, with a seven-year pro-Israel record in the Senate and a hawkishness on national security and terrorism that helped her lose the Democratic base in this year’s presidential primaries, she emerged as the solid favorite of strongly pro-Israel Democrats.

She can expect a strongly positive reception at AIPAC – while leaders of the group are clearly worried about how Obama will be treated.

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, speaks during today’s opening plenary; Sen. Barack Obama rolls in on Wednesday, just before AIPAC lobbyists go to Capitol Hill.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.