AIPAC Opposes Bibi’s Amendment – For Now

Who would have predicted it:  AIPAC is opposing an amendment in the Senate proposed by none other than its idol, Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) wants to be the prime minister's water carrier when debate begins next week on the "Iran Nuclear Review Act."  He's signaled he plans to offer the Netanyahu amendment, which calls for Iran to publicly recognize Israel's right to exist as a precondition for any nuclear agreement.  Rubio, a presidential hopeful tapping the wallet of Bibi's billionaire backer, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, for campaign contributions, was quick to take up the cause.

AIPAC isn't really opposed to the Netanyahu Amendment and would be delighted to make Bibi happy but it knows what Rubio is actually proposing is a poison pill for a bill the lobby wants to see pass.  The problem for the pro-Israel lobby group is timing, not substance. 

President Obama has said he will veto the bill, a bipartisan compromise crafted by Senators Bob Corker (R- Tennessee) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland),  the chairman and ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, if it contains amendments like Rubio's that  the President feels would undermine the nuclear talks with Iran.

As much as it would like to kill any Iranian deal and eventually hopes to do so, AIPAC wants this bill to avoid a veto because it gives the Congress authority to review the agreement and vote on it. 

"Our priority is to make sure the bill gets passed with the strongest possible bipartisan majority so that Congress is guaranteed the opportunity to pass judgment on the final agreement. To achieve that goal we are supporting the leadership of Senator Corker and Senator Cardin on the bill," an AIPAC official told Reuters.

AIPAC is lobbying against this and other poison pill amendments that would be veto bait. 

The problem with that strategy is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican, usually a close AIPAC ally, is encouraging a slew of amendments that are intended to force Democrats to appear to be casting anti-Israel votes, even if it risks a veto. 

McConnell still wants to force Obama to submit any nuclear agreement for Congressional approval, but not before inflicting a lot of pain on the Democrats. 

He wants to force Democrats to choose between Obama and Netanyahu on several votes.  A number of other Republican senators are preparing their own poison pills.  One would link sanctions relief to Iranian release of four Americans it currently holds.  Others involve Tehran's missile program, support for terrorism and compensation for American diplomats held hostage 1979-1981. 

McConnell is looking for "a robust amendment process" that will give Republicans an arsenal of ammunition to use in 2016 for raising more money from Jewish conservatives and painting the Democrats as the anti-Israel party.

After the votes are counted and Republicans have collected their evidence to portray the GOP as Israel's best friend in Congress and Democrats as unreliable, you can look for the veto bait amendments to be quietly stripped from the final bill in a conference committee and a signable sent to the White House. 

Mission Accomplished.  A string of votes by Democrats that can be branded anti-Israel and a law giving the Republican-led Congress the power to kill any deal Obama makes with Iran.

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.