A strong AIPAC is vital to our future but AIPAC needs to take stock of the colossal failure over which this new generation of AIPAC leaders has presided. Forty-two Senators have chosen to willfully ignore the gravest global security threat since the emergence of the USSR. This crisis has evolved as AIPAC, over a period of years, relaxed its grip on the dire and cataclysmic nature of the Iranian nuclear threat. In effect AIPAC allowed the serious nature of the threat to have been reconstituted as a question of political discourse. This even though for twenty years AIPAC leadership, has chanted the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Yet somehow these proclamations ended up not being internalized as a core principal by AIPAC leadership. The notion that Iran might ever have been allowed to have become a nuclear state should have been a reflexive anathema and baked irrevocably into AIPAC’s institutional DNA. Policy Conference after Policy Conference Members fiercely invoked their unshakable commitment to “preventing a nuclear Iran” and on cue received the thunderous approval of AIPAC believers. On paper it certainly looked like the bake job had taken place.
The point is that humans, instinctively seek to avoid the “third rail”. Preventing a nuclear Iran had, on the surface appeared, over the years, to have been well honed by AIPAC, as an issue of “third rail” status. Meaning that Members would have under these conditions been educated to at all costs have remained well clear of the “third rail”. When 42 Senators fall off in unison, it becomes evident that the sacred status of stopping a nuclear Iran, as being a “third rail issue” had not in fact been institutionally baked in. There is a big difference between Policy Conference cheerleading and the quiet one on one conversations that key contacts have with their Members in the course of which their well ingrained reflexive opinions should have been communicated with pin-point conviction.
I am no lover of the man, but we cannot blame the President for allowing our goal posts to have been moved. We control the institutional discourse that is allowed to take place within our hallowed space. Rather it was AIPAC years ago, who instead of picking up the gauntlet when the President sought to have watered down Iran sanctions, chose instead, for what were described as tactical reasons, to avoid the fight with the President. This choice amounted to nothing less than the granting of a waiver on the sacred “third rail status” of the Iran issue. This choice by AIPAC telegraphed an inappropriate tolerance for debate on an issue which carried a cataclysmic downside. AIPAC doctrine should have been constructed with insufficient tolerance for any such discussion.
Despite of what was an unintended consequence, there was a critical nucleus of AIPAC lay and professional leaders, who despite the overt evasiveness and the escalating occurrence of backsliding by the Administration, continued to enthusiastically share and endorse this unwitting gamble. This bet was allowed to have been placed because AIPAC leadership had not been taught that core issues that critically impact the security of the US and Israel must be set behind sacrosanct red-lines and above all should never under any circumstance have been laid at the doorstep of uncertain political outcomes.
Unfortunately The President is not going to allow AIPAC time to rest. In the next round of pummeling, it is all but guaranteed that our President will attempt to force feed the left-over remnants of his previously failed Peace Process to Israel. AIPAC doctrine will on this issue be vigorously tested. Once again, AIPAC for reasons of political expediency had been “cheer-leading” a two-state solution consistently for some time. Any adjustment by AIPAC to this position will invoke the politically uncomfortable accusation of backtracking. Regardless, AIPAC will need to be ready to stand relentlessly on the brakes. Vast geographical and demographic transformations have swept violently through the region. Reasonable standards of prudence would dictate that within the midst of this regional upheaval, that the risks and the practicality of announcing any form of future relaxation of Israeli control of the West Bank (as our President’s Peace Process would require), would at this time be totally out of sync. Any rigid time-tabled commitment for the withdrawal of Israeli security forces from the West Bank would serve only as a catalyst for intensifying regional chaos. Any such time-table will obligate Israel to relinquish control of territory that given the escalating pace of regional chaos, provides an indispensable strategic buffer. The relaxation of Israeli sovereign control within or around these vital buffers will ( as the 2005 Gaza withdrawal has clearly demonstrated) result in the creation of a lethal platform from which heinous acts of aggression that target Israel’s most densely populated areas and the vital infrastructure that serves these areas, will be launched.
Being forced to cede control of the West Bank “security envelope”, in conjunction with the invigorating recapitalization of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (as the Iran deal provides for) will create a defensive burden which if it does not lead to a preemptive strike by Israel, will otherwise place Israel under the most challenging defensive burden since 1967.
AIPAC must rapidly shift roles from that of a cheerleader to the role of gatekeeper. AIPAC by successfully rebuffing the coming Presidential incursion on Israel’s sovereign right to defend its citizens will be provided a timely opportunity for a much welcomed act of redemption.