AIPAC Represents Bibi’s Face to America—Not Necessarily Israel’s
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Joe Biden gave a fine speech to AIPAC but the members of AIPAC at best gave him a lukewarm reception. It was truly remarkable given that Biden has been a friend, supporter, and advocate for Israel for over 40 years. How could he have received such a weak response? Presumably, this was not a response to the man but to the Administration for which he works. It was also the response given by AIPAC in the name of Israel’s Prime Minister; polite applause.
The speech and the audience’s response demonstrated two clear things. First, how far to the right AIPAC has moved in American politics that a longstanding friend of American Jews could be so patently dismissed. Second, it made crystal clear the fact that for not only the leadership of AIPAC but for the rank and file as well, anyone nominally associated with the Obama Administration is anathema to the organization. Even in response to the standard lines of support for Israel’s safety, security, and future, the response was tepid—at best.
The secondary or even primary takeaway from the Biden speech was that AIPAC is not only Israel’s advocate on Capitol Hill and with the Administration, but there is absolutely no room for disagreement with Israel—read the Likud led Government—on behalf of American Jewish leadership as well as by its lay people. The marching orders presented in AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr’s remarks earlier–before the speech of the Vice President—made the Biden speech clearly considered in juxtaposition to Kohr’s (read Bibi’s) position; on Iran, on settlements, on negotiations, on peace process or on terrorism.
Finally, it is obvious that AIPAC today has moved politically so far into the Republican camp that even dyed in the wool long-time Democratic friends of AIPAC and Israel are and will be dismissed. All of which elevates tomorrow’s dynamics to an even higher level of anticipation. Not only does it question what kind of response Hillary will receive tomorrow morning, but what will be the response later in the day when Cruz, Kasich, and Trump all appear before the AIPAC policy conference.