AIPAC’s Downward Spiral
The American Jewish leadership’s downward spiral has accelerated. This can be traced back to its cowardly silence when then-President Barack Obama began treating Israel as a rogue state, and applied moral equivalence to Israelis defending themselves and Palestinian terrorists.
The leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements and the Anti-Defamation League have effectively become adjuncts of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Many have become so obsessed with hatred of President Donald Trump that their bitterness supersedes their support for Israel.
The chaos was reflected in recent weeks by the bizarre Qatari-sponsored visits of leading American Jewish personalities, designed to curry favor with the US. The Qataris, however, did not terminate their massive financial support of Hamas and remain closely allied with Iran and Hezbollah. These and similar misguided actions by Jewish leaders reflect a lack of leadership that will be accelerated with the retirement of Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Yet, despite the turmoil, until now, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee had remained a jewel in an otherwise crumbling Jewish establishment.
Its leaders correctly recognize that one of its greatest challenges is to maintain bipartisan support for Israel. Unfortunately, AIPAC’s solution to achieve this could worsen the situation and even prove disastrous.
AIPAC has determined that, come what may, it must seduce liberals into its ranks. To do so, it has embarked on a policy of appeasement or at least paying lip service to progressives. However, this may well become the primary goal in lieu of providing a means of effectively promoting Israel.
This is reminiscent of the recent failed American-Jewish establishment effort to bring all except the most vicious anti-Israel factions into the so-called “big tent.”
It seeks to establish unity and entice liberals by adopting the lowest common denominator. It means giving equal status to Jews committed to Israel and estranged liberals and the disengaged, many of whom consider the security of Israel a low priority.
Such an approach will invariably find AIPAC effectively supporting policies that run counter to the democratically elected government in Israel as well as the positions adopted by opposition parties Labor and Yesh Atid.
This new approach was proclaimed at the opening of the recent AIPAC conference by Howard Kohr, its executive director, who unambiguously committed AIPAC to a two-state solution.
This was endorsed by AIPAC President Mort Fridman, who added: “To my friends in the progressive community, I want you to know that we are partners in this project. The progressive narrative for Israel is just as compelling and critical as the conservative one. But there are very real forces trying to pull you out of this hall and out of this movement. We will not let that happen.”
In conformity with this, a discussion on the two-state solution was removed from the agenda to avoid “friction.”
American Jews, like Israelis, are entitled to have varying views on the two-state solution. But the reality is that in the face of the intensified Palestinian Authority campaign of terror and incitement, most Israelis, like myself, who at one time imagined that a two-state solution could be feasible if the Palestinians genuinely sought peace, now realize that is impossible.
The Palestinians have one goal — the destruction of Israel. Today, the creation of a nascent terrorist state in Judea and Samaria would be opposed by a clear majority of Israelis across the political spectrum. For diplomatic reasons, the government has not explicitly stated this but it has assiduously avoided endorsing a two-state solution. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu states that he supports a “state minus,” i.e., a framework separating Israelis from Palestinians, with Israel retaining security but providing the Palestinians a form of autonomy.
What Israel seeks is negotiations without preconditions. The Palestinians will not contemplate this unless the Americans are marginalized and anti-Israeli UN elements assume the role of arbitrators — which Israel would never accept.
Even the Trump administration, prior to releasing its peace program, repeatedly announced that it would support any decision both parties endorsed, and did not call for a two-state solution.
Bearing this in mind, it is with incredible chutzpah that an organization purporting to act with Israel’s as well as America’s best interests in mind, has formally adopted a two-state policy.
AIPAC is, in effect, pressuring Israel to move beyond what Trump himself has yet demanded. It is also effectively encouraging the administration and Congress to pressure Israel in this direction.
This outrageous behavior is calculated to induce liberals to support AIPAC. It will not do so, but may encourage many of our American supporters to view Israel as intransigent and press it to make further concessions.
When that happens, there will be pressure to be even more independent of Israel and ultimately, AIPAC could even find itself making overtures to J Street.
If the price of bipartisanship is adopting lowest-common-denominator policies on Israel, AIPAC will be betraying its original mandate to support the democratically elected government of the Jewish state and will alienate the bulk of its supporters, who loyally back Israel.
The conference’s 18,000 participants gave repeated, spontaneous, enthusiastic standing ovations when Netanyahu and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley addressed them. If put to a vote, the overwhelming majority would resolutely reject any policy that contradicted the objectives of the Israeli government or the preferences of an overwhelming majority of Israelis.
To avoid further upheavals, AIPAC leaders should not take up a position for or against a two-state solution. Individual members can make up their own minds. Ultimately, Israelis will have the last say and AIPAC will be expected to support them.
The only way to strengthen Israel’s support among Democrats and liberals is to painstakingly lobby and explain the case for Israel, which is today black-and-white and not difficult to convey – if they are willing to listen.
AIPAC should follow the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who, concentrated on the fact that the Palestinians were responsible for the deadlock, condemned false moral equivalence and insisted that Jewish settlement building was not an obstacle to peace. He clearly stated that the problem lay in the Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state. He urged AIPAC supporters to educate young Americans, many of whom tend to blame both sides out of ignorance.
AIPAC should face the reality that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah gang are an evil group of terrorists promoting a culture of death and encouraging the murder of Israelis. It can point out that the PA has just announced an increase in its payments to terrorists and their families from $347 million in 2017 to $403 million this year. Shame on AIPAC leaders for promoting a two-state solution with leaders engaged in financial initiatives to reward those who butcher innocent Israelis! That we should endorse a state engaged in such barbaric activities? AIPAC would do well to lobby for halting payments to the PA while it pursues such monstrous policies.
If AIPAC leaders continue promoting a Palestinian state, AIPAC members should protest and condemn their action. If the organization stands to lose its hard-core supporters to appease liberals — very few of whom are likely to change their attitudes — it will be obliged to review its policy or face the likelihood of vast numbers of people resigning from its ranks. This could bring about AIPAC’s collapse — the tragic undoing of one of American Jewry’s finest institutions.
Isi Leibler’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.