I attended my first AIPAC Policy Conference in 1993, as the official liaison from my youth group to the pro-Israel organization.
It was a lot of fun. Some of the highlights were: observing the carping between the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council (which continues until this day); hearing Rep. Newt Gingrich bring the house down after a robotic address by Vice President Al Gore; and meeting a young Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), then just an earnest staffer for Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-FL).
That was 20 years ago. The organization itself has not changed, fundamentally, but the Democratic Party has shifted, dramatically. The party’s base has shifted left on Israel issues, and the party leadership left Jerusalem out of the platform until last-minute amendments were rammed through (undemocratically) at the party’s 2012 convention. Ironically, as Israel has taken more risks for peace, starting with the Oslo process in 1993, the party most eager to see Israel take those steps has moved further and further away from supporting it.
In the face of that change–which has become especially dramatic under President Barack Obama–AIPAC has struggled to maintain a façade of bipartisanship. In practice, that has meant excusing Democratic retreats on Israel. In 2010, delegates to AIPAC’s Policy Conference had to swallow Hillary Clinton’s outrageous treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; this year, they endured Joe Biden’s post-Hagel fight platitudes.
There are certainly better ways to support Israel than to show one’s eagerness to be humiliated before power.