Peter Beinart, a formerly mainstream Democratic pundit who in recent years discovered his deep hostility toward Israel, wants the administration to refuse to send a representative to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee confab this spring. He says AIPAC is a GOP outfit that no longer reflects a bipartisan policy toward the Jewish state. And, he claims, not showing up would deliver a sharp elbow to AIPAC.
He’s got his facts wrong on a number of counts. AIPAC is nonpartisan, but its membership is overwhelmingly Democratic (as are most American Jews). Its views on Iran and support for sanctions are not only in keeping with most Republicans, but the vast majority of Democrats and the public as a whole. That said, Beinart is on to something: The administration should not send a representative.
Behind closed doors and in public, the Obama team has lashed out at AIPAC and lawmakers who agree with its views as war-mongers. It has organized a transparent smear campaign again sanctions advocates via outlets like J Street. Its views and conduct of Iran negotiations are entirely at odds with those of AIPAC members, members of both parties, the American people and the president’s former Iran adviser Dennis Ross. The administration has gone to war against AIPAC, so why bother to show up?
The left might be under the impression the administration does AIPAC a favor by attending. That is bunk. In this administration, an AIPAC invitation must be accompanied by the AIPAC executive director’s memo pleading with attendees not to boo. The administration’s attendance makes hypocrites of AIPAC by lauding an administration that appointed Chuck Hagel, condemned Israel for building in its capital, ambushed the Israeli prime minister on the “1967 borders” (correctly known as the 1949 Armistice lines) and now threatens to veto sanctions — all positions deeply at odds with the wider pro-Israel community. The Obama team gets legitimacy from showing up; AIPAC looks craven for inviting a representative.
AIPAC is and has always been primarily focused on Congress. That is its highest and best purpose, and it should continue to invite leaders of both parties who express and actually act in support of Israel. It has tried to deal above-board and in good faith with the administration; its efforts haven’t been reciprocated. Maybe AIPAC can invite Bill Clinton instead. There was a Democratic president who at least respected AIPAC’s views and positions.
Sadly, the views expressed here in no way reflect those of AIPAC’s leadership. That is to the organization’s detriment and to the health of a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.