AIPAC Losing this Fight

AIPAC has been taken aback by new Mideast resolutions. Last month the House and the Senate each passed their own resolutions expressing support for the Palestinian Authority in the wake of their successful presidential elections. The Washington Jewish Week reported that many on the Hill feel the Israel lobby was caught asleep on this one.

The problem for the lobby was simple: popular support and optimism after the Palestinian presidential elections took the wind out of any possible grounds for raising opposition to the resolutions. The article in The Washington Jewish Week stated:

Many of Israel’s friends on Capitol Hill maintained a sullen silence last week when Congress passed two resolutions welcoming the prospect of Palestinian statehood, and when President George W. Bush almost quintupled aid to the Palestinians in hopes of achieving that state.

Most conspicuous in its silence was the pro-Israel powerhouse, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which issued a tepid commendation of the resolutions — after the fact, and only when reporters asked.

The statement that AIPAC released was in support of the resolutions but had many caveats. This is not a position that AIPAC is used to being in. Its reaction was timid and seemed to lacked the usual force and effectiveness of AIPAC’s statements. A segment of the response read:

Israel wants peace, but needs a sincere and credible partner to achieve it. Hopefully, under Mahmoud Abbas the Palestinians will finally break with the Arafat legacy of incitement, corruption, terrorism and hatred, and instead choose peace and a better life for both Israelis and Palestinians.

A letter is being distributed, initiated by Representatives Weiner (D-NY) and Crowley (D-NY), in Congress that is in favor of introducing legislation that would place restrictions on any aid given to Palestine. Any restrictions placed on Palestinian aid would be in stark contrast to the economic aid that the US has given to Israel without accountability.

But some congressmen who are hardcore supporters of Israel have some second thoughts about being tough on the Palestinians at this juncture. Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) put it, “if you want to ensure that there will not be a peace process, then you attach enough strings [to the aid package] that you strangle the process.”

The resolutions passed in both houses of Congress last month were aimed at indicating Congress approved what was happening in the Palestine Authority and wanted very much to encourage it. The resolutions support efforts to increase US assistance to help Abbas reform the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the “Road Map,” help combat corruption, establish the rule of law and help the government become stronger and more reliable for the people of Palestine.

While the AIPAC presence on the Capitol Hill is deep and pervasive, the two incidences described above indicate the organization has once again stumbled.

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    The Council for the National Interest is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization advocating a new direction for U.S. Middle East policy. As CNI Founding Chairman Paul Findley notes, CNI is “motivated by the national interest of our country in Middle East policy… CNI provides a way for all citizens, regardless of religious affiliation or national origin, to speak out in an effective way. Those who participate can help advance the national interest in the Middle East and at the same time help repair the damage being done to our political institutions by the over-zealous tactics of Israel’s lobby.”