Where is AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
One of the stranger phenomena about the flap over the Boehner/Netanyahu Speech invitation and the White House push back, has been the virtual total absence of comment from the major spokespersons and voices in the Jewish community; AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Both of these groups have historically accepted as their mandate to be the supporter of Israeli Government policy, regardless of how problematic it might seem; yet with respect to the current fight between Washington and Jerusalem, both groups have remained noticeably quiet.
It seems clear that both entities are much more deeply concerned about the consequences to the U.S.—Israel relationship over the next two years as well as into the future, than was Netanyahu when he decided to come to Washington. While AIPAC and the Presidents conference are no doubt seriously troubled by the intensifying Iranian threat, their silence on the Netanyahu speech to Congress suggests that they comprehend too well that there could be far more and immediate threats coming down the pike for which they will need to maintain strong, bi-partisan contacts and relationships, regardless of what Netanyahu may believe.
Admittedly, AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference operate quite differently. In the case of the later it is obvious that it could not put together a consensus position in support of the Boehner/Bibi decision, so that they have opted to lay low. (It is in fact likely that a majority of its members probably opposed Bibi’s decision to come over to address Congress two weeks before the election.) As for AIPAC, which has moved more and more right in the past years and, organizationally, become much more comfortable with a right-wing, Likud led Government, it has been working on specific letters from Congress dealing with congressional aid cuts to the Palestinians, support for strong congressional support for increased Iranian sanctions, and challenges to Palestinian participation in the ICC in the Hague. AIPAC ultimately comprehends the need not to alienate either political party in Washington; something that Netanyahu has opted to disregard.
What this suggests is that the major organizations which support and represent the American Jewish community and are representative of the major American Jewish organizations are not prepared to back the Netanyahu Government in their confrontation in Washington. Both groups understand—despite the fact that many of their leaders may truly support Netanyahu’s politics—that they must protect the integrity of the American political system vis-à-vis a transitory fight, albeit over a serious issue, which is being totally obfuscated by the Washington tempest.