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Notes From the AIPAC Conference
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Notes From the AIPAC Conference

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Theme

The clear theme of this policy conference is that unlike during the Cold War when the Soviets had nuclear weapons and the West adopted a policy of containment, in the case of Iran containment will not be acceptable. The feeling is that it would be too dangerous and too close for Israel, although to be clear, Russian weapons in Eastern Europe were as dangerous for America’s European allies as Iranian nukes would be for Israel.  Containment is also an “after the fact policy” which presumably is what they are trying to avoid. For the U.S. and Israel, probably containment in this instance means trying to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the region—beginning with Iran.

Ambiance

Some people at the conference sense the enormous size of the conference with over 12,000 delegates which is so impressive, may also have become too large. As the conference has grown, so too it has become less personalized, more noticeably stratified by income levels, and including more fluff for the masses.

The number of students continues to grow as does the diversity—religious and ethnic— which certainly is not only educational but impressive. In terms of desired goals, however, the real work—lobbying Members of Congress—is being done at a much more intense and lofty level. The lobbying meetings are extremely important to rally the gathered troops, but it is for the Senators and Members to meet their constituents as much as it to move them on issues.

Substance

President Obama’s speech on Sunday was flawless. Regardless of your political vantage point, it seems that the President did not miss a beat in form, substance, or nuance. He did not discuss the peace process and focused virtually all his substantive remarks on Iran. In his comments, he left virtually no room between the U.S. and Israel. Presumably, the White House wanted to insure that tonight when the Prime Minister addresses the AIPAC dinner—baring an explosion at their meeting today—the President can be reassured that there will be no political fires to be extinguished tomorrow morning. In this he appears to have achieved his goal.

Senator Joe Lieberman

Making his swan song appearance at an AIPAC policy conference as a U.S. Senator, Lieberman also underscored the “no containment” theme, from the Hill’s perspective as well. Then, as if wanting to add his own pitch to the discussion, he joined all the Republican presidential aspirants in calling for moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

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