The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has a long-standing record of lobbying for legislation deemed mutually beneficial to the State of Israel and the United States of America. AIPAC has a long history of commendable bipartisan work and is generally recognized as the most powerful of the Israel lobbying organizations. A concerning change seems to be afoot however, and is demonstrated by their recent record.
The most significant fight AIPAC took on in the last 10 years was the JCPOA also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. AIPAC was bullish about having sufficient sway on the Hill to prevent its passage. Yet in the House they were only able to garner the support of 25 Democrats from their lobbying efforts. In the Senate only 4 Democrats voted against the JCPOA.
The reader will draw their own conclusions about the results as they pertain to AIPAC’S influence within the Democratic Party. The entire GOP was united against the JCPOA from the outset (save for Thomas Massie who voted present). Lobbying by AIPAC did nothing to alter opinions of the GOP that had long been set and therefore they cannot claim credit for that opposition.
The 29 total Democrats on the Hill who voted against the JCPOA however were not pushed into doing so. Take Senator Chuck Schumer for example. Schumer’s constituency is the largest group of Jews in the U.S. He also calls himself a “Shomer Yisroel” which means protector of Israel. He wasn’t going to vote for the Iran Deal under any circumstances. Congressman Ted Deutch, who is a true Zionist, did not support the deal. He didn’t wait to get his cues from AIPAC. He voted his conscience. AIPAC has spent many years praising Jerry Nadler. Nadler ended up voting for the deal even with AIPAC insisting he do otherwise.
Since that historic failure, AIPAC has only tried to make further overtures to the Democrats. AIPAC has consistently shown themselves willing to compromise values in exchange for access. But access is worth nothing if it does not generate the desired results. Everyone in the pro-Israel community should always support bipartisanship where Israel is concerned on condition that it is achieved in a manner commensurate with bedrock values. Unfortunately, AIPAC’s claims and portrayals of bipartisan support is less than honest and even an illusion at times.
They continue to invite Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi to address their annual policy conference. Warren has been openly hostile toward Israel since she launched her failed presidential bid. She had rabid anti-Semites on her campaign and would have likely elevated them had she won the presidency. No organization that purports to be pro-Israel has any business inviting Warren to their conference.
Nancy Pelosi is a different story. She is not adversarial towards Israel, though her friendship can definitely be called into question of late. She has refused to take on the anti-Semitic wing of her party. She has even helped promote them. Until the Speaker moves to marginalize anti-Israel and anti-Semitic voices in her party, she should not be welcome in pro-Israel circles.
Furthermore, AIPAC recently commissioned an advert which called out the anti-Semitic, far left wing of the party. Following an outcry from progressives, AIPAC pulled the ad and immediately apologized.
Is this really an organization that we want to be the face of the pro-Israel movement in the U.S.? The answer is no.
As a Conservative, I feel that AIPAC exploits my support for the U.S.-Israel relationship by pandering to far-left elements who hold dangerous positions. I find that objectionable. From their inability to confront anti-Semitism from the left, to them providing pro-Israel platforms and credibility to politicians that do not deserve it, they continue to push center right voters away.
With the Democratic party moving further to the left on Israel, there should be a renewed emphasis on championing those Democrats who have the courage to stand by our greatest ally in the Middle East. Such Democrats should be celebrated and granted the platform and recognition they deserve.
Finally, AIPAC has claimed credit for a litany of pro-Israel policies implemented by the Trump administration. AIPAC had very little to nothing to do with these policies, including the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan heights, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and major reforms at the U.N. These policy victories came about as a result of the hard work and tenacity of the Republican electorate. We have pushed for these policies, not AIPAC.
Rumors swirled at this year’s policy conference that AIPAC was upset at the partisan tone struck by Kevin McCarthy and David Friedman. That is absurd. If it upsets AIPAC when Republicans attack an increasingly anti-Israel left then they don’t deserve our support.
At this point, AIPAC has effectively become a center left pro-Israel organization. That is fine, but AIPAC shouldn’t be championed as the gold standard for bipartisan, pro-Israel organizations. In their efforts to appease the Democrats, they lose conservative Zionists and by catering to the conservative Zionists, AIPAC would only alienate Democrats whose engagement they seek to engender. Such a position is untenable and has forced AIPAC to choose a side. They have chosen poorly.
Democratic lawmakers must decide where they stand on the subject of Israel and AIPAC must not adjust the pro-Israel line in order to keep the left in bounds.
If AIPAC doesn’t become more forthright in the face of these challenges, which I don’t expect them to, we should unfortunately recognize the truth about American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Its mission statement is no longer bipartisanship. It is a representation of the American center-left on the subject of the U.S.-Israel relationship.