AIPAC’s annual conference that begins Sunday night promises to be less interesting than any in recent memory.
That is because the main event took place months ago.
Think about it.
What is an AIPAC conference about? It is about power, specifically the lobby’s power to defend the Israeli government against United States policies it opposes.
That is why the key moment at every conference is when the president of AIPAC stands before the massive dinner crowd (and the television cameras) to call out the names of the Senate and House members in attendance. And they always number in the hundreds, some years approaching 400. The crowd cheers each and every name because all those names add up to unstoppable P-O-W-E-R.
And a clear message is sent to any president who might think of challenging the lobby. You may be the president. But a clear majority of Congress backs us, not you, on matters relating to Israel. In short, don’t even think about taking us on because you will lose.
The whole conference is designed to send that message.
But this past year the Obama administration tested that proposition. On the key issue about which AIPAC has been lobbying for a decade–stopping Iran’s nuclear program through relentless pressure–this administration balked.
Without consulting Israel or AIPAC, it commenced negotiations with Iran, offering to reduce trade sanctions in exchange for Iran foreswearing development of nuclear weapons.
When AIPAC and the Israeli government sought to torpedo the Iran negotiations by using Congress to enact new Iran sanctions that would kill them, it failed completely. It failed at the precise moment during the State Of The Union address when President Obama said, point blank, that negotiations with Iran are in the U.S. interest and more sanctions (the approach AIPAC was pushing) were not. Within a day, support for the sanctions bill collapsed and within a few more days AIPAC itself surrendered.
That was when the proverbial fat lady sang for AIPAC.
And that is why AIPAC’s conference this year will be an empty shell. Yes, it will have the usual 14,000 delegates in attendance, and thousands upon thousands of college kids. 350 Members of Congress will show up for the big dinner. Keynote speakers Senators Schumer and Menendez will swear eternal devotion to Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will produce ovation after ovation by comparing Iran to Nazi Germany and pledging “Never Again” and demanding recognition of Israel as a Jewish Jewish State.
And none of it will mean anything. Yes, campaign contributions will continue to keep Congress in line but only up to a point. When a president invokes U.S. interests, he will prevail. No, not with Bible thumping, gay bashing, Koch Brothers-financed, Obama hating, right-wing Republicans, but with almost everyone else.
Remember when top (later indicted for espionage) AIPAC official Steve Rosen warned that AIPAC was a “night flower” that would dry up and die if exposed to sunlight. Well, that happened this year. It wasn’t sunlight though. It was a giant flashlight and the person wielding it was the president.
That does not mean that AIPAC will not win again. It will. But only if a president allows it to. Don’t think that Obama (and would-be successors) don’t know that now. AIPAC has been exposed as a paper tiger. All a president needs to do is invoke “our national security” and he wins. He knows that. And AIPAC knows that.
AIPAC’s conference this year will be sound and fury, signifying very little.