AIPAC To Hill: Don’t Touch Israel Aid

At a time when sequestration is about to take a big bite out of the Pentagon budget, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will be sending thousands of its citizen lobbyists to Capitol Hill next week to make sure Israel is exempted from any spending cuts.

This could prove a very risky strategy at a time when millions of Americans will be feeling the bite of the sequestration debacle, from the defense budget to the school lunch program.

But not aid to Israel, which will be untouched if AIPAC gets its way.

This resolution could easily backfire and damage Israel far more than any cuts in its very generous grant aid program.

With no agreement between the administration and Congressional Republicans by March 1, sequestration will kick in.

The 13,000 expected AIPAC activists will be telling Congress not to touch Israel’s $3-billion-plus annual security assistance and to vote for legislation declaring the Jewish state a “major strategic ally.”

That is a designation not enjoyed by any other nation, JTA pointed out, noting it may be a step toward the goal of some conservatives of divorcing assistance to Israel from all other foreign aid spending.

AIPAC’s annual policy conference begins Sunday and culminates Tuesday with personal visits by constituents to hundreds of members of the House and Senate. 

They will also be urging Congress to enact more stringent sanctions on Iran and press the administration for tougher measures to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Part of that effort will be lobbying for support for a non-binding resolution urging the president to back Israel “it it is compelled to act against the Iranian nuclear threat,” JTA reported.

Look for opposition in Congress from lawmakers who see this as virtually requiring the United States to surrender to Israel the decision on whether to go to war with Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address the gathering by video link from Jerusalem where he is trying to cobble together a new government, has stressed that Iran poses the greatest existential threat to the Jewish state.

That message will be delivered in person by outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.   

Vice President Joe Biden will address the group and can be expected to stress the administration’s “rock solid” support for Israel and to reiterate its determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

As for the peace process with the Palestinians, never a popular topic for the group, JTA’s headline noted, “Palestinians aren’t even mentioned in agenda for confab.”  Look for the usual lip service, but don’t look for any light between AIPAC and Netanyahu, as usual.

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.