Bipartisan approach is what makes AIPAC so effective

Immediately upon my arrival this week in Washington I went to a basketball game at the Verizon Centre.

I watched the Washington Wizards beat the Brooklyn Nets in a venue similar in size to the O2 Arena back home.

The following day there was an ice hockey game there and the next day I was back to see the Vice President address the 2017 AIPAC Policy Conference.

This was my first time at AIPAC and it is impossible to compare the experience to anything in the UK.

The conference with 18,000 attendees not only dwarfs our pro-Israel events but also the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences.

From Vice President Pence and Speaker Paul Ryan to Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, we saw speaker after speaker come out to oppose Iran, condemn the BDS movement and call for an end to Israel’s delegitimisation at the United Nations.

This bipartisan approach is what makes AIPAC so effective at what it does.

Throughout the conference we saw Republicans and Democrats come out to address attendees together.

The highlight for me considering my recent experience in NUS politics was seeing the chairs of the college wings of both parties sitting together and hugging having recently participated on a bipartisan trip to Israel.

The bipartisan nature of AIPAC also presents challenges in the modern political landscape.

It is fair to say that the new administration is a polarising one and I certainly have friends who would want nothing to do with it.

This isn’t an option for organisations like AIPAC as they need to work with all elected officials in order to effectively lobby for their policy agenda.

If some speakers divided opinion, the new US Ambassador to the UN certainly didn’t.

Just mentioning Nikki Haley’s name was enough to receive a thunderous standing ovation.

When she finally came out to warn the UN that there was “a new sheriff in town”, it was clear that she was the rockstar of all of the speakers.

It wasn’t only the Republican’s criticising activity at the UN. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear, “the US should never use the UN as a forum to exert pressure on Israel”.

It was even more refreshing to hear this in light of the welcome news I received upon landing in Washington that the UK had put the UNHRC on notice.

The divide between the major parties in both the US and the UK is larger than it has been for a long time.

The politicians we saw this week agree on very little but they were joint in their message on Israel.

Unfortunately this bipartisan position is in danger and we are already seeing this in the UK.

We still have both Conservative and Labour MPs who will stand up for Israel in Parliament but the current leadership of the Labour Party are not friends of the Jewish State.

The lesson from AIPAC is that the community needs to continue our work with politicians in all parties to make it clear that while there may be disagreement on domestic issues, support for Israel should never be a party political position.

About the Author
Public Affairs Manager for the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC)
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