Once upon a time, AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — was one of the most successful lobbyist groups in the United States. AIPAC’s achievement was creating the impression that if you wanted to attain political power at the national level, you had to at least be perceived as being supportive of Israel.
Then Barack Obama became President and broke AIPAC. The influential pro-Israel organization was completely unprepared for a presidential candidate, and then President, like Obama.
AIPAC’s business model is forming relationships with elected representatives–mostly freshman members of Congress, but also Governors and other state leaders– to educate them about Israel. From there, AIPAC assumes that anyone who climbs the ranks and eventually becomes a serious nominee for president will be someone who AIPAC has developed a close relationship with, and who is therefore likely pro-Israel.
And for a time, this worked. Starting in the 1990s, and peaking during the George W. Bush administration, both parties could be considered generally supportive of Israel.
AIPAC has a strict policy of not creating any enemies. Their motto is, “We have friends, and potential friends.” AIPAC does not endorse candidates because they fear that if their candidate loses, the winner will hold a grudge.
AIPAC makes a fetish out of bipartisanship. They refuse to support any legislation– no matter how pro-Israel– if it doesn’t have sufficient bipartisan support. It is for this reason that AIPAC watered down the Taylor Force Act, which defunded Palestinian terror, in order to rally more Democrat support, before endorsing the final legislation — even though a stronger version of the bill could have probably passed with mostly Republican support.
When Obama became a serious contender for president, alarm bells should have gone off. AIPAC should have realized an Obama presidency would be terrible for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Obama was close with a number of radical anti-Israel individuals, including Pastor Jeremiah Wright; the terrorist Bill Ayers; and professor Rashid Khalidi. As a responsible lobbying group, AIPAC should have done everything they could to prevent Obama from winning. But that is not how AIPAC operates.
Instead, AIPAC decided to ignore Obama’s problematic background. Worse, AIPAC actively promoted Obama — who was close with then-AIPAC President, Lee Rosenberg. At the 2008 AIPAC policy conference, Rosenberg gave a lavishly positive introduction for Obama, who gave a rousing pro-Israel speech to numerous standing ovations.
Much of AIPAC was seduced by Obama’s lofty rhetoric and charm, and they gave him the kosher stamp of approval. They should have known better. Everyone who attends AIPAC events talks a great game about their supposed pro-Israel credentials. But those are just words.
When Obama became president, the fears of sober-minded pro-Israel individuals became realized. President Obama treated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worse than almost any world leader. He blamed the lack of peace in the region on Jewish communities — “settlements” — in Israel’s heartland.
At the end of his second term, President Obama violated decades of American policy and allowed an anti-Israel resolution to pass the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel for supposedly violating international law by governing Jerusalem — including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Worst of all, with Obama’s Iran deal, he empowered the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, which also seeks Israel’s annihilation.
The latter was the greatest test for AIPAC. They knew how dangerous Obama’s Iran deal would be for Israel, as well as America. So they mobilized all their supposed allies in Congress to vote against the deal — and failed miserably. The overwhelming majority of Democrats voted in favor of the Iran nuclear deal.
Why? Because Obama threatened to ruin the political career of any Democrat who voted against him on the issue.
Meanwhile, AIPAC essentially said to Democrats, “Please vote against the deal because we’re your friends, and if you don’t, no big deal.” What a shock that AIPAC lost.
AIPAC’s impotence in the face of Obama’s anti-Israel policies paved the way for worse anti-Israel views and individuals — who once would have been considered beyond the pale — to rise up in the Democrat Party.
A few years ago, no one from either party could compete for president without at least pretending to be pro-Israel, as Obama did. Now, the major candidates from the Democrat Party, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have thrown their lot in with radical anti-Israel leftists. And thus won’t hurt their image in the Democrat Party.
All the energy and influence in the Democrat Party has shifted to the far left. The anti-Israel group J Street now wields more influence in the Democrat Party than AIPAC. At the last J Street conference, virtually all of the Democrat candidates for President spoke in person or by video. AIPAC will be lucky if half the Democratic candidates appear at their policy conference March.
The most popular, emerging leaders in the Party, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), are anti-Israel — especially the latter. The few pro-Israel Democrats refuse to stand up to these zealots for fear of antagonizing the leftwing base.
Amazingly, someone at AIPAC noticed the problem. AIPAC recently took out an ad on Facebook criticizing the growing antisemitic movement on the left wing of the Democrat Party. Finally, many of us thought, AIPAC is taking a stand!
However, AIPAC immediately canceled the ad, and apologized for offending the Democrats. How pathetic.
Moving forward, AIPAC needs to realize that the game has changed. President Trump is the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House. The Democrat Party no longer prioritizes support for Israel. They are much more focused on domestic issues of race, identity, abortion, and opposing Trump.
AIPAC needs to stop promoting the facade that support for Israel is bipartisan. It is a noble goal to try to convince Democrats to support Israel.
But if Democrats refuse to do so, AIPAC needs to be honest about it and reevaluate how they can continue to promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in such an environment.
Ze’ev Zion is a pro-Israel activist in California. He is the author of the new children’s book, Z is for Zionism, which counters anti-Israel propaganda exposed to children. He can be reached at Counterboycott1948@gmail.com