Tag Archives: American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Is AIPAC’s power ebbing?

Probably not, unfortunately. But it helps to have a counterweight, even one as fecklessly centrist as J Street. The relatively new “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization (whatever that means) is urging Congress not to pass a new Iran sanctions bill. National Journal takes stock of the situation:

The rise of J Street, a younger pro-Israel lobby pushing hard against the new sanctions, is serving as a counterweight to AIPAC on this issue. Revived hope for a diplomatic breakthrough with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani helps J Street’s cause. So does political pressure from Obama. By decoupling support for Israel with support for new sanctions against Iran, the group is making it easier for lawmakers inclined to support the White House.

“We’ve been working diligently on Capitol Hill and in the Jewish-American community to raise support for the president’s diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis Iran, and oppose any legislation which would threaten it,” said Dylan Williams, director of government affairs at J Street. “We feel very strongly that the current bill in the Senate would threaten diplomacy.”

J Street’s influence is also clear in the money it spends. Among pro-Israel groups, JStreetPAC was the largest single political donor during the 2008 and 2012 cycles, contributing nearly $2.7 million to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups.

Not so fast, says Foreign Policy:

A recent letter attacking Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is causing an internal brouhaha at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, The Cable has learned. The powerful lobbying outfit, known for its disciplined non-partisan advocacy for Israel, recently issued an action alert about the Florida congresswoman’s waffling on Iran sanctions legislation. The letter urged members to contact Wasserman Schultz and cited a disparaging article about her in a conservative website founded by a prominent Republican political operative.

That AIPAC was driving hard for new Iran sanctions legislation surprised no one. But its use of a right-wing blog to target a well-connected Jewish Democrat with a long history of support for Israel raised eyebrows among some current and former AIPAC officials. It also raised concerns that AIPAC’s open revolt against the White House’s Iran diplomacy could fray its relations with liberal Democrats on the Hill.

“In the 40 years I’ve been involved with AIPAC, this is the first time I’ve seen such a blatant departure from bipartisanship,” said Doug Bloomfield, AIPAC’s former chief lobbyist.

My inner optimist wants to believe this is the last, dying gasp of an organization desperately short on ideas. But then I remember that I live in the United States, and I laugh at my inner optimist.

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The Economist gives me hope

In this week’s Economist, the “newspaper” tackles the Israel lobby, arguing that “AIPAC remains highly effective” for now, but in the long run it represents a movement that is “losing its resonance with younger Jews.”

This is good news. Even better is the fact that J Street gets a mention in the article as well. J Street is another Israel-oriented lobbying group, but operating from the other side (to the extent that another side exists in American discourse on the subject). The group supports President Obama’s entirely un-novel proposal for basing Israeli-Palestinian border on the 1967 lines and in general exhibits traces of critical thinking, both elements that are sorely missing from the knee-jerk reactions of the Israeli and American evangelical blocs.

And while we’re on the subject, Peter Beinart’s exposé on how the lobby’s toe-the-party-line propaganda initiatives are alienating younger American Jews is quite illuminating.