(2015-01-05 16:36:52) 下一個

他們人口不到3%, 藤校據說超25%。亞裔人口是他們2倍,可據說藤校才16%。


據說,國會議員2/3是他們朋友。 他們的策略就是胡蘿卜加大棒,各議員的競選經費10~15%來自猶太人,不聽話

有些華人該醒醒了! 有正值的猶太人都寫巨篇,證明亞裔就象當初被歧視的猶太人,鏈接在這裏:

已經清醒的,還是一起看這篇文章, 學習他們強大的原因:



This was a daunting challenge. Jews made up less than three per cent of the
American population, concentrated in nine states, and they voted
overwhelmingly Democratic. How could AIPAC, with such a small base, become a
political force in both parties and in every state?

Dine launched a grass-roots campaign, sending young staff members around the
country to search for Jews in states where there were few. In Lubbock,
Texas, for instance, they found nine who were willing to meet—a tiny group
who cared deeply about Israel but never thought that they could play a
political role. The lobby created four hundred and thirty-five “
congressional caucuses,” groups of activists who would meet with their
member of Congress to talk about the pro-Israel agenda.

--------- 原文-----

On July 23rd, officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—the
powerful lobbying group known as AIPAC—gathered in a conference room at
the Capitol for a closed meeting with a dozen Democratic senators. The
agenda of the meeting, which was attended by other Jewish leaders as well,
was the war in the Gaza Strip. In the century-long conflict between the
Israelis and the Palestinians, the previous two weeks had been particularly
harrowing. In Israeli towns and cities, families heard sirens warning of
incoming rockets and raced to shelters. In Gaza, there were scenes of utter
devastation, with hundreds of Palestinian children dead from bombing and
mortar fire. The Israeli government claimed that it had taken extraordinary
measures to minimize civilian casualties, but the United Nations was
launching an inquiry into possible war crimes. Even before the fighting
escalated, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had made little secret
of its frustration with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
. “How will it have peace if it is unwilling to delineate a border, end the
occupation, and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity?”
Philip Gordon, the White House coördinator for the Middle East, said
in early July. “It cannot maintain military control of another people
indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and
recurring instability.” Although the Administration repeatedly reaffirmed
its support for Israel, it was clearly uncomfortable with the scale of
Israel’s aggression. AIPAC did not share this unease; it endorsed a Senate
resolution in support of Israel’s “right to defend its citizens,” which
had seventy-nine co-sponsors and passed without a word of dissent.

AIPAC is prideful about its influence. Its promotional literature points out
that a reception during its annual policy conference, in Washington, “will
be attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event, except
for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address.” A former
AIPAC executive, Steven Rosen, was fond of telling people that he could
take out a napkin at any Senate hangout and get signatures of support for
one issue or another from scores of senators. AIPAC has more than a hundred
thousand members, a network of seventeen regional offices, and a vast pool
of donors. The lobby does not raise funds directly. Its members do, and the
amount of money they channel to political candidates is difficult to track.
But everybody in Congress recognizes its influence in elections, and the
effect is evident. In 2011, when the Palestinians announced that they would
petition the U.N. for statehood, AIPAC helped persuade four hundred and
forty-six members of Congress to co-sponsor resolutions opposing the idea.

During the Gaza conflict, AIPAC has made a priority of sending a message of
bipartisan congressional support for all of Israel’s actions. Pro-Israel
resolutions passed by unanimous consent carry weight, but not nearly so much
as military funding. During the fighting, Israel has relied on the Iron
Dome system, a U.S.-funded missile defense that has largely neutralized
Hamas’s rockets. Although the U.S. was scheduled to deliver $351 million
for the system starting in October, AIPAC wanted more money right away. On
July 22nd, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had sent a letter to Harry Reid,
the Senate Majority Leader, seeking an immediate payment of $225 million.

In the conference room, the senators sat on one side of a long table, the
Jewish leaders on the other. Robert Cohen, the president of AIPAC, justified
Israel’s assault, agreeing with Netanyahu that Hamas was ultimately
responsible for the deaths of its own citizens. At one point, Tim Kaine, a
Democrat from Virginia, asked about conservative trends in Israel, a
participant recalled. “He said that he supports Israel, but he’s concerned
that Israel is headed toward a one-state solution—and that would be so
damaging and dangerous for everyone involved.”

Charles Schumer, the senior Democrat from New York, interrupted. Turning to
address the room, he said, “It troubles me when I hear people equate Israel
and Hamas. That’s wrong, that’s terrible!” Kaine protested, “That’s
not what I meant!” Cohen simply repeated that Hamas was to blame for
everything that was happening.

The Senate, preparing for its August recess, hastened to vote on the Iron
Dome funding. At first, the appropriation was bundled into an emergency bill
that also included money to address the underage refugees flooding across
the Mexican border. But, with only a few days left before the break began,
that bill got mired in a partisan fight. Reid tried to package Iron Dome
with money for fighting wildfires, and then offered it by itself; both
efforts failed, stopped largely by budget hawks. “If you can’t get it done
the night before recess, you bemoan the fact that you couldn’t get it done
, and everybody goes home,” a congressional staffer said. Instead, Mitch
McConnell, of Kentucky, the Republican leader, decided to stay over, even if
it meant missing an event at home. The next morning, with the halls of the
Senate all but empty, an unusual session was convened so that McConnell and
Reid could try again to pass the bill; Tim Kaine was also there, along with
the Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham. “There were five senators
present and literally no one else!” the staffer said. “They reintroduced
it and passed it. This was one of the more amazing feats, for AIPAC.”

In a press conference, Graham, who has been a major recipient of campaign
contributions connected to AIPAC, pointed out that the funding for Iron Dome
was intended as a gesture of solidarity with Israel. “Not only are we
going to give you more missiles—we’re going to be a better friend,”
Graham said. “We’re going to fight for you in the international court of
public opinion. We’re going to fight for you in the United Nations.”

The influence of AIPAC, like that of the lobbies for firearms, banking,
defense, and energy interests, has long been a feature of politics in
Washington, particularly on Capitol Hill. But that influence, like the
community that AIPAC intends to represent, is not static. For decades, AIPAC
has thrived on bipartisanship, exerting its influence on congressional
Democrats and Republicans alike. But Israel’s government, now dominated by
a coalition of right-wing parties led by Likud, has made compromise far less
likely than it was a generation ago. Prime Minister Netanyahu, the leader
of Likud and an unabashed partisan of the Republican view of the world, took
office at about the same time as President Obama, and the two have clashed
frequently over the expansion of Israeli settlements and the contours of a
potential peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Although both men repeatedly speak of the unshakable bond between the U.S.
and Israel, their relationship has been fraught from the start. In 2012,
Netanyahu made little secret of the fact that he hoped Mitt Romney would win
the election. Time and again—over issues ranging from Iran to the
Palestinians—AIPAC has sided strongly with Netanyahu against Obama.

AIPAC’s spokesman, Marshall Wittmann, said that the lobby had no loyalty to
any political party, in Israel or in the U.S., and that to suggest
otherwise was a “malicious mischaracterization.” Instead, he said, “we
are a bipartisan organization of Americans who exercise our constitutional
right to lobby the government.” For AIPAC, whose stated mission is to
improve relations between the U.S. and Israel, it is crucial to appeal
across the political spectrum. In recent years, though, Israel has become an
increasingly divisive issue among the American public. Support for Israel
among Republicans is at seventy-three per cent, and at forty-four per cent
among Democrats, according to a poll conducted in July by the Pew Research
Center for the People and the Press; the divide is even greater between
liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

This difference represents a schism among American Jews—AIPAC’s vital core
. For decades, the Jewish community was generally united in its support for
Israel. Today, a growing number of American Jews, though still devoted to
Israel, struggle with the lack of progress toward peace with the
Palestinians. Many feel that AIPAC does not speak for them. The Pew Center’
s survey found that only thirty-eight per cent of American Jews believe that
the Israeli government is sincerely pursuing peace; forty-four per cent
believe that the construction of new settlements damages Israel’s national
security. In a Gallup poll in late July, only a quarter of Americans under
the age of thirty thought that Israel’s actions in Gaza were justified. As
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive director of the left-leaning T’ruah: The
Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, told me, “Many people I know in their
twenties and thirties say, I have a perfectly good Jewish life here—why do
I need to worry about this country in the Middle East where they’re not
representing who I am as a Jew? I’m not proud of what’s happening there. I
’m certainly not going to send money. ”

This is precisely the kind of ambivalence that AIPAC adherents describe as
destructive. And yet even Israeli politicians recognize that AIPAC faces a
shifting landscape of opinion. Shimon Peres, who served as Prime Minister
and, most recently, as President, says, “My impression is that AIPAC is
weaker among the younger people. It has a solid majority of people of a
certain age, but it’s not the same among younger people.”

For AIPAC, the tension with the Obama Administration over Gaza comes amid a
long series of conflicts. Perhaps the most significant of these is over the
question of Iran’s obtaining a nuclear weapon. Last October, Iran and the
consortium of world powers known as P5+1—Britain, China, France, Germany,
Russia, and the United States—met in Geneva to begin talks. For two decades
, AIPAC has been warning that if Iran acquired nuclear arms it would pose an
existential threat to Israel, which has had a nuclear capacity since the
late sixties. Netanyahu has insisted that the United States—or Israel alone
, if necessary—must be prepared to take military action against Iran. The
Obama Administration, too, has said that a nuclear Iran is unthinkable and
that “all options”—including military options—“are on the table.” But
Netanyahu fears that Obama is prepared to settle for too little in the
negotiations, and, when they began, he launched an uninhibited campaign of
public diplomacy against them. In early November, after meeting in Jerusalem
with Secretary of State John Kerry, he proclaimed a tentative proposal “a
very, very bad deal. It is the deal of the century for Iran.” A photo op
for the two men was abruptly cancelled, and Kerry returned to Switzerland.

Later that month, Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., met with a
bipartisan group of two dozen congressmen in the offices of John Boehner,
the House Speaker. Dermer, who comes from a political family in Miami,
worked in the nineties for the Republican consultant Frank Luntz as he
shaped Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America campaign. A few years later,
Dermer emigrated to Israel, where he worked as a political consultant and
wrote columns for the Jerusalem Post, a conservative daily, in which he
referred to Jews who denounced the occupation as “self-haters.” When
Netanyahu took office in 2009, he brought in Dermer as a top adviser, and
the two became virtually inseparable. “Whenever we met with Bibi in the
last several years, Dermer was there,” a former congressional aide said. “
He was like Bibi’s Mini-Me.” In Boehner’s offices, a senior Democrat
recalled, “Dermer was very critical of the proposed Iran nuclear agreement.
He talked about how Reagan would never have done anything like this.”
Finally, one of the other politicians in the room had to advise him, “Don’
t talk about what Reagan would do. He’s not very popular with Democrats.”

The great incentive that the P5+1 could offer Iran was to reduce the
sanctions that have crippled its economy. As the talks proceeded, though,
Israel’s supporters in Congress were talking about legislation that would
instead toughen the sanctions. Dermer didn’t say specifically that he
favored such a law—representatives of foreign governments customarily do
not advocate for specific U.S. legislation—but it was clear that that was
what he and the Israeli leadership wanted. A former congressional staff
member who attended the meeting said, “The implicit critique was the na&#
239;veté of the President.”

Obama’s aides were alarmed by the possibility that AIPAC might endorse new
sanctions legislation. They invited Howard Kohr, the group’s chief
executive officer, and officials from other prominent Jewish organizations
to briefings at the White House. Members of the Administration’s
negotiating team, together with State Department officials, walked them
through the issues. “We said, ‘We know you guys are going to take a tough
line on these negotiations, but stay inside the tent and work with us,’ ”
a senior Administration official recalled. “We told them directly that a
sanctions bill would blow up the negotiations—the Iranians would walk away
from the table. They said, ‘This bill is to strengthen your hand in
diplomacy.’ We kept saying, ‘It doesn’t strengthen our hand in diplomacy.
Why do you know better than we do what strengthens our hand? Nobody
involved in the diplomacy thinks that. ’ ”

In late November, the negotiators announced an interim Joint Plan of Action.
For a period of six months, Iran and the six world powers would work toward
a comprehensive solution; in the meantime, Iran would limit its nuclear
energy program in exchange for initial relief from sanctions. Netanyahu
blasted the agreement, calling it a “historic mistake,” and, within a few
days, the leadership of AIPAC committed itself to fighting for new sanctions
. A senior Democrat close to AIPAC described to me the intimate interplay
between Netanyahu’s circle and the lobby. “There are people in AIPAC who
believe that it should be an arm of the Likud, an arm of the Republican
Party,” he said. Wittmann, the lobby’s spokesman, disputed this, saying,
“AIPAC does not take any orders or direction from any foreign principal, in
Israel or elsewhere.”

For the Israeli leadership and many of its advocates, the Iran negotiations
presented an especially vexing problem of political triangulation. Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, Iran’s previous President, had been a kind of ideal adversary,
attracting widespread outrage by questioning whether the Holocaust had
taken place and by challenging Israel’s right to exist. Danny Ayalon, a
former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., once described Ahmadinejad’s hateful
rhetoric to me as “the gift that keeps on giving.” But Iran’s new
President, Hassan Rouhani, was carefully presenting himself as a relative
moderate. Netanyahu would have none of it, calling Rouhani “a wolf in sheep
’s clothing.”

“I come from a hundred years in the future to warn you that nothing really
changes in the next hundred years.”

AIPAC worked to mobilize its friends in Congress. Mark Kirk, a Republican
senator from Illinois and a major beneficiary of AIPAC-related funding,
began pressing to pass a new sanctions bill. “He was saying, ‘We’re in
negotiations with a wolf in sheep’s clothing!’ ” a former Senate aide
recalled. The bill, co-sponsored by Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat,
was drafted with considerable input from AIPAC. This was the first time in
decades that the lobby had challenged the sitting U.S. President so overtly.

The Obama Administration was furious. “It’s one thing to disagree on some
aspect of the peace process, on things that are tough for Israel to do,”
the senior Administration official told me. “But this is American foreign
policy that they were seeking to essentially derail. There was no other
logic to it than ending the negotiations, and the gravity of that was

AIPAC was incorporated in 1963, fifteen years after the State of Israel came
into being. Its leader, Isaiah (Si) Kenen, had been a lobbyist for American
Zionist organizations and an employee of Israel’s Office of Information at
the United Nations. In that job, Kenen had been obligated to register under
the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which had stringent disclosure
requirements about financial expenditures and communications with the U.S.
government. The journalist M. J. Rosenberg, who volunteered at AIPAC in 1973
and is now a critic of it, recalled Kenen’s saying that the foreign-agent
model was too restrictive. AIPAC would lobby Congress for aid to Israel, but
its members would be Americans, taking orders from an American board of
directors. Rosenberg told me that Kenen was “an old-fashioned liberal” who
liked to say, “AIPAC has no enemies, only friends and potential friends.”
When asked which politicians he hoped to elect, he said, “We play with the
hand that is dealt us.” Congress must lead, he said, and “our job is to
help it lead.”

Kenen retired in 1974, and by the late eighties AIPAC’s board had come to
be dominated by a group of wealthy Jewish businessmen known as the Gang of
Four: Mayer (Bubba) Mitchell, Edward Levy, Jr., Robert Asher, and Larry
Weinberg. Weinberg was a Democrat who gradually moved to the right. The
others were Republicans. In 1980, AIPAC hired Thomas Dine, a former diplomat
and congressional staffer, as its executive director. Dine set out to
develop a nationwide network that would enable AIPAC to influence every
member of Congress. This was a daunting challenge. Jews made up less than
three per cent of the American population, concentrated in nine states, and
they voted overwhelmingly Democratic. How could AIPAC, with such a small
base, become a political force in both parties and in every state?

Dine launched a grass-roots campaign, sending young staff members around the
country to search for Jews in states where there were few. In Lubbock,
Texas, for instance, they found nine who were willing to meet—a tiny group
who cared deeply about Israel but never thought that they could play a
political role. The lobby created four hundred and thirty-five “
congressional caucuses,” groups of activists who would meet with their
member of Congress to talk about the pro-Israel agenda.

Dine decided that “if you wanted to have influence you had to be a fund-
raiser.” Despite its name, AIPAC is not a political-action committee, and
therefore cannot contribute to campaigns. But in the eighties, as campaign-
finance laws changed and PACs proliferated, AIPAC helped form pro-Israel
PACs. By the end of the decade, there were dozens. Most had generic-sounding
names, like Heartland Political Action Committee, and they formed a loose
constellation around AIPAC. Though there was no formal relationship, in many
cases the leader was an AIPAC member, and as the PACs raised funds they
looked to the broader organization for direction.

Members’ contributions were often bundled. “AIPAC will select some dentist
in Boise, say, to be the bundler,” a former longtime AIPAC member said. “
They tell people in New York and other cities to send their five-thousand-
dollar checks to him. But AIPAC has to teach people discipline—because all
those people who are giving five thousand dollars would ordinarily want
recognition. The purpose is to make the dentist into a big shot—he’s the
one who has all this money to give to the congressman’s campaign.” AIPAC
representatives tried to match each member of Congress with a contact who
shared the congressman’s interests. If a member of Congress rode a Harley-
Davidson, AIPAC found a contact who did, too. The goal was to develop people
who could get a member of Congress on the phone at a moment’s notice.

That persistence and persuasion paid off. Howard Berman, a former
congressman from California, recalled that Bubba Mitchell became friends
with Sonny Callahan, a fellow-resident of Mobile, Alabama, when Callahan ran
for Congress in 1984. Eventually, Callahan became chairman of the House
Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. “Sonny had always been
against foreign aid,” Berman said. “Then he voted for it!”

Republicans knew that they would never get more than a minority of the
Jewish electorate, but AIPAC members convinced them that voting the right
way would lead to campaign contributions. It was a winning argument. In 1984
, Mitch McConnell narrowly beat AIPAC supporters’ preferred candidate, the
incumbent Democrat Walter Huddleston. Afterward, McConnell met with two
AIPAC officials and said to them, “Let me be very clear. What do I need to
do to make sure that the next time around I get the community support?”
AIPAC members let Republicans know that, if they supported AIPAC positions,
the lobby would view them as “friendly incumbents,” and would not abandon
them for a Democratic challenger. The Connecticut Republican senator Lowell
Weicker voted consistently with AIPAC; in 1988, he was challenged by the
Democrat Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew. Lieberman won, but Weicker got the
majority of funding from Jewish donors.

In the early days, Howard Berman said, “AIPAC was knocking on an unlocked
door.” Most Americans have been favorably disposed toward Israel since its
founding, and no other lobby spoke for them on a national scale. Unlike
other lobbies—such as the N.R.A., which is opposed by various anti-gun
groups—AIPAC did not face a significant and well-funded countervailing
force. It also had the resources to finance an expensive and emotionally
charged form of persuasion. Dine estimated that in the eighties and nineties
contributions from AIPAC members often constituted roughly ten to fifteen
per cent of a typical congressional campaign budget. AIPAC provided lavish
trips to Israel for legislators and other opinion-makers.

Nevertheless, the lobby did not endorse or rank candidates. “We made the
decision to be one step removed,” Dine said. “Orrin Hatch once said, ‘
Dine, your genius is to play an invisible bass drum, and the Jews hear it
when you play it.’ ” In 1982, after an Illinois congressman named Paul
Findley described himself as “Yasir Arafat’s best friend in Congress,”
AIPAC members encouraged Dick Durbin, a political unknown, to run against
him. Robert Asher, a Chicago businessman, sent out scores of letters to his
friends, along with Durbin’s position paper on Israel, asking them to send
checks. Durbin won, and he is now the Senate Majority Whip. (Findley later
wrote a book that made extravagant claims about the power of the Israel
lobby.) In 1984, AIPAC affiliates decided that Senator Charles Percy, an
Illinois Republican, was unfriendly to Israel. In the next election, Paul
Simon, a liberal Democrat, won Percy’s seat. Dine said at the time, “Jews
in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And American
politicians—those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire—got
the message.”

“For a militia, he’s not very well regulated.”
As AIPAC grew, its leaders began to conceive of their mission as something
more than winning support and aid for Israel. The Gang of Four, a former
AIPAC official noted, “created an interesting mantra that they honestly
believed: that, if AIPAC had existed prior to the Second World War, America
would have stopped Hitler. It’s a great motivator, and a great fund-raiser
—but I think it’s also AIPAC’s greatest weakness. Because if you convince
yourself that, if only you had been around, six million Jews would not have
been killed, then you sort of lose sight of the fact that the U.S. has its
own foreign policy, and, while it is extremely friendly to Israel, it will
only go so far.”

In the fall of 1991, President George H. W. Bush decided to delay ten
billion dollars in loan guarantees to Israel, largely because of the
continuing expansion of settlements. In response, AIPAC sent activists to
Capitol Hill. The lobby was confident. Its officials had told Yitzhak Shamir
, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, that Bush did not have the
political desire to take on AIPAC, according to a memoir by former Secretary
of State James Baker. But Bush proved willing to fight. The former AIPAC
official recalled that Bubba Mitchell was summoned to the White House for a
meeting: “When he came back to the AIPAC boardroom, an hour after the
meeting, he was still shaking—because the President of the United States
yelled at him!” Soon afterward, Bush remarked that he was “one lonely
little guy” fighting “something like a thousand lobbyists.” The Senate
lined up behind him, and voted to postpone consideration of the loan
guarantees. For AIPAC, this marked the beginning of a difficult period. The
next June, Israeli voters ousted Shamir and his Likud Party and voted in
Labor, headed by Yitzhak Rabin. After a career of military campaigns and
cautious politics, Rabin began a transformation, offering to scale back
settlement activity. In response, Bush asked Congress to approve the loan
guarantees. Afterward, Rabin admonished the leaders of AIPAC, telling them
that they had done more harm than good by waging battles “that were lost in
advance.” Daniel Kurtzer, then the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
Near Eastern Affairs, told me, “Rabin was furious with AIPAC. He felt they
were allied with Likud and would undermine him in what he was trying to do.”

In September, 1993, Rabin and Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, which were
aimed at building a formal peace process with the Palestine Liberation
Organization. AIPAC officially endorsed the agreement, and still does. But
many members were uncomfortable with it, according to Keith Weissman, a
former analyst for the lobby. “AIPAC couldn’t act like they were rejecting
what the government of Israel did, but the outcry in the organization about
Oslo was so great that they found ways to sabotage it,” he said. (In 2005,
Weissman was indicted, along with Steven Rosen, for conspiring to pass
national-defense information to a reporter and an Israeli government agent,
and AIPAC fired them. The charges were ultimately dropped.) As part of the
agreement, the U.S. was to make funds available to the Palestinians,
Weissman said. “The Israelis wanted the money to go to Arafat, for what
they called ‘walking-around money.’ But AIPAC supported a bill in Congress
to make sure that the money was never given directly to Arafat and his
people, and to monitor closely what was done with it. And, because I knew
Arabic, they had me following all of Arafat’s speeches. Was he saying one
thing here, and another thing there? Our department became P.L.O. compliance
-watchers. The idea was to cripple Oslo.”

In 1995, AIPAC encouraged Newt Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House, to
support bipartisan legislation to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to
Jerusalem. This put Rabin in a political corner. On one hand, he knew that
such a move would infuriate the Arab world and endanger the Oslo process. On
the other, as Yossi Beilin, then an official in the Labor government,
pointed out, “You are the Prime Minister of Israel and you are telling
American Jews, ‘Don’t ask for recognition of Jerusalem as our capital’?
Nobody can do that!” At a dinner with AIPAC leaders, Rabin told them that
he did not support the bill; they continued to promote it nonetheless. In
October, the bill passed in Congress, by an overwhelming majority. President
Bill Clinton invoked a national-security waiver to prevent its enactment,
and so has every President since.

In 1999, Ehud Barak, also of the Labor Party, became Prime Minister, and, as
Rabin had, he grew friendly with Clinton. “AIPAC flourishes when there is
tension between Israel and the U.S., because then they have a role to play,
” Gadi Baltiansky, who was Barak’s press spokesman, told me. “But the
relations between Rabin and Clinton, and then Barak and Clinton, were so
good that AIPAC was not needed. Barak gave them courtesy meetings. He just
didn’t see them as real players.” Still, the lobby maintained its sway in
Congress. In 2000, Barak sent Beilin, who was then the Justice Minister, to
obtain money that Clinton had promised Israel but never released. Beilin
went to see Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national-security adviser. “He said
this money is tied to two hundred and twenty-five million dollars in
assistance to Egypt,” Beilin recalled. “We cannot disburse the money to
Israel unless we do to Egypt, so we need to convince Congress to support the
whole package. I said, ‘I am speaking on behalf of my Prime Minister. We
want Egypt to get the money.’ He said, ‘Yossi, this is really wonderful.
Do you know somebody in AIPAC?’ ”

Beilin was astonished: “It was kind of Kafka—the U.S. national-security
adviser is asking the Minister of Justice in Israel whether he knows
somebody at AIPAC!” He went to see Howard Kohr, the AIPAC C.E.O., a onetime
employee of the Republican Jewish Coalition whom a former U.S. government
official described to me as “a comfortable Likudnik.” Kohr told Beilin
that it was impossible to allow Egypt to get the money. “You may think it
was wrong for Israel to vote for Barak as Prime Minister—fine,” Beilin
recalled saying. “But do you really believe that you represent Israel more
than all of us?” By the end of Barak’s term, in 2001, the money had not
been released, to Israel or to Egypt. “They always want to punish the Arabs
,” Beilin concluded. “They are a very rightist organization, which doesn’
t represent the majority of Jews in America, who are so Democratic and
liberal. They want to protect Israel from itself—especially when moderate
people are Israel’s leaders.”

In the spring of 2008, AIPAC moved from cramped quarters on Capitol Hill to
a gleaming new seven-story building on H Street, downtown. At the ribbon-
cutting ceremony, Howard Kohr introduced Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate
who had been a generous donor to AIPAC since the nineties, and who had
helped underwrite congressional trips to Israel (paying only for Republican
members). On this bright spring day, according to someone who was in the
audience, Adelson recalled that Kohr had telephoned him, asking him to have
lunch. Adelson remembered wondering, How much is this lunch going to cost me
? Well, he went on, it cost him ten million dollars: the building was the
result. He later told his wife that Kohr should have asked him for fifty

“No, I don’t want to join the Sea Level Club, either.”
Netanyahu became Prime Minister the following year. AIPAC officials had been
close to him since the eighties, when he worked at the Israeli Embassy in
Washington, and stuck with him when, in 1990, he was banned from the State
Department for saying that U.S. policy was built “on a foundation of
distortion and lies.” As Prime Minister, Netanyahu had a difficult
relationship with Bill Clinton, largely because Clinton found him unwilling
to stop the expansion of settlements and to meaningfully advance the peace
process—a sharp contrast with the approach of Rabin, who was assassinated
in 1995. Then as now, Netanyahu displayed a vivid sense of his own
historical importance, as well as flashes of disdain for the American
President. After their first meeting, Clinton sent a message to another
Israeli, wryly complaining that he had emerged uncertain who, exactly, was
the President of a superpower.

But, even if Netanyahu had trouble with the executive branch, AIPAC could
help deliver the support of Congress, and a friendly Congress could take
away the President’s strongest negotiating chit—the multibillion-dollar
packages of military aid that go to Israel each year. The same dynamic was
repeated during Barack Obama’s first term. Israeli conservatives were wary,
sensing that Obama, in their terms, was a leftist, sympathetic to the
Palestinian cause. They took note when, during the 2008 campaign, Obama said
, “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says
unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re
opposed to Israel, that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure
of our friendship with Israel.”

At Obama’s first meeting with Netanyahu, in May, 2009, Dermer came along,
and found himself unable to observe the well-established protocol that one
does not interrupt the President. As Obama spoke, Dermer’s hand shot up: “
Excuse me, Mr. President, I beg to differ!” Obama demanded a full
settlement freeze, as a means of convincing the Palestinians that Netanyahu
was not merely stalling the Americans. Netanyahu was incensed, and AIPAC
rallied members of Congress to protest. At an AIPAC conference, Dermer
declared that Netanyahu would chart his own course with the Palestinians: “
The days of continuing down the same path of weakness and capitulation and
concessions, hoping—hoping—that somehow the Palestinians would respond in
kind, are over.” Applause swept the room.

In a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in June, 2009, Netanyahu seemed to
endorse a two-state solution, if in rather guarded terms. Leaders of the
settler movement and even many of Netanyahu’s Likud allies were furious at
this seemingly historic shift for the Party, though, with time, many of them
interpreted the speech as a tactical sop to the United States. No less
significant, perhaps, Netanyahu introduced a condition that could make a
final resolution impossible—the demand that the Palestinians recognize
Israel as a Jewish state. “It was a stroke of political brilliance,” the
former Senate aide, who had worked closely with Dermer, told me. “He
managed to take the two-state issue off the table and put it back on the

In March, 2010, while Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, the
Netanyahu government announced that it was building sixteen hundred new
housing units for Jews in Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Biden said that the move “undermines the trust we need right now.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu to upbraid him. But,
while Obama and his team viewed the move as a political insult and yet
another blow to a potential two-state solution, AIPAC went into defensive
mode, sending an e-mail to its members saying that the Administration’s
criticisms of Israel were “a matter of serious concern.” Soon afterward, a
letter circulated in the House calling on the Obama Administration to “
reinforce” the relationship. Three hundred and twenty-seven House members
signed it. A couple of months later, when the U.S. tried to extend a partial
moratorium on construction in settlements in the West Bank, AIPAC fought
against the extension. Obama eventually yielded.

In May, 2011, Obama gave a speech about the Arab Spring, and, hoping to
break the stalemate in the peace talks, he said, “The borders of Israel and
Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” The
1967 borders, with some adjustments, had long been recognized as the
foundation for a peace agreement, but Obama was the first President to utter
the words so explicitly. The next day, Netanyahu arrived in Washington and
rebuked him in the Oval Office, saying, “We can’t go back to those
indefensible lines.”

A veteran Israeli politician was aghast at Netanyahu’s performance. “This
is the President of the United States of America, and you are the head of a
client state—let’s not forget that!” he said. “AIPAC should have come to
Bibi and said, ‘You don’t talk to the President the way you do! This is
not done, you have to stop it!’ Instead of reflecting almost automatically
everything the Israeli government is doing and pushing in that direction.”

AIPAC officially supports a two-state solution, but many of its members, and
many of the speakers at its conferences, loudly oppose such an agreement.
Tom Dine has said that the lobby’s tacit position is “We’ll work against
it until it happens.” After Obama endorsed the 1967 borders, AIPAC members
called Congress to express outrage. “They wanted the President to feel the
heat from Israel’s friends on the Hill,” a former Israeli official
recalled. “They were saying to the Administration, ‘You must rephrase, you
must correct!’ ” When Obama appeared at an AIPAC policy conference three
days later, he was conciliatory: “The parties themselves—Israelis and
Palestinians—will negotiate a border that is different than the one that
existed on June 4, 1967. That’s what ‘mutually agreed-upon swaps’ means.
” AIPAC had e-mailed videos to attendees, urging them not to boo the
President; they complied, offering occasional wan applause. The next day,
Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress and received twenty-nine
standing ovations.

Fifty years ago, before Israel became an undeclared nuclear power and its
existence was under threat, any differences it had with the U.S. were
usually aired in private. Today, the political dynamics in both countries—
and the particulars of the relationship—have evolved. A majority of
Israelis still favor the idea of a two-state solution, but the political
mood has shifted markedly to the right. The reasons range from the deeply
felt notion that the Palestinians were “offered the world and rejected it”
to the rise of Hamas in Gaza, from the aftershock of terror attacks a
decade ago to the instability throughout the Middle East. Likud has rejected
relative moderates like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin; Netanyahu himself is
considered a “dove” by some leaders of his coalition and members of his
party. The consensus deepens that Oslo was a failure, and that, as Netanyahu
says, “there is no partner for peace.” The Palestinians, for their part,
argue that the settlements in the West Bank and Jewish expansion into East
Jerusalem have created a “one-state reality.” They point out that members
of Netanyahu’s coalition reject a two-state solution—“The land is ours!”
—and endorse permanent Israeli control, or outright annexation, of the West

Netanyahu prides himself on understanding the American political climate.
But his deepest relationships are with older, often wealthy members of the
establishments in New York and Los Angeles, and he is less conscious of the
changes in American demographics and in opinion among younger American Jews.
Assaf Sharon, the research director of Molad, a progressive think tank in
Jerusalem, said, “When Israelis see House members jump like springs to
applaud every lame comment Bibi utters, they think he is a star in
Washington. Then they are told by the local pundits that everything else is
just personal friction with Obama. My sense is that the people surrounding
Bibi—and the Prime Minister himself—don’t appreciate the significance of
the shift.”

Yet the rhetoric of Netanyahu’s circle has never been more confident. In a
recent talk, Dermer argued that Israel is a regional superpower, with much
to give in its relationship with the U.S. “America’s most important ally
in the twentieth century was Great Britain,” he said. “Your most important
ally in the twenty-first century is going to be the State of Israel.” In a
meeting with young Likud supporters last spring, which one of them
transcribed online, Netanyahu boasted of defying Obama’s pressure to halt
settlements; 2013 was a record year for settlement construction in the West
Bank. He preferred to “stand up to international pressure by maneuvering,”
he said. “What matters is that we continue to head straight toward our
goal, even if one time we walk right and another time walk left.” When one
of the Likudniks asked about peace talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu is
said to have replied, as the audience laughed, “About the—what?”

AIPAC’s hold on Congress has become institutionalized. Each year, a month
or two before the annual policy conference, AIPAC officials tell key members
what measures they want, so that their activists have something to lobby
for. “Every year, we create major legislation, so they can justify their
existence to their members,” the former congressional aide said. (AIPAC
maintains that only members of Congress initiate legislative action.) AIPAC
board meetings are held in Washington each month, and directors visit
members of Congress. They generally address them by their first names, even
if they haven’t met before. The intimacy is presumed, but also, at times,
earned; local AIPAC staffers, in the manner of basketball recruiters,
befriend some members when they are still serving on the student council. “
If you have a dream about running for office, AIPAC calls you,” one House
member said. Certainly, it’s a rarity when someone undertakes a campaign
for the House or the Senate today without hearing from AIPAC.

In 1996, Brian Baird, a psychologist from Seattle, decided to run for
Congress. Local Democrats asked if he had thought about what he was going to
say to AIPAC. “I had admired Israel since I was a kid,” Baird told me. “
But I also was fairly sympathetic to peaceful resolution and the Palestinian
side. These people said, ‘We respect that, but let’s talk about the
issues and what you might say.’ The difficult reality is this: in order to
get elected to Congress, if you’re not independently wealthy, you have to
raise a lot of money. And you learn pretty quickly that, if AIPAC is on your
side, you can do that. They come to you and say, ‘We’d be happy to host
ten-thousand-dollar fund-raisers for you, and let us help write your annual
letter, and please come to this multi-thousand-person dinner.’ ” Baird
continued, “Any member of Congress knows that AIPAC is associated
indirectly with significant amounts of campaign spending if you’re with
them, and significant amounts against you if you’re not with them.” For
Baird, AIPAC-connected money amounted to about two hundred thousand dollars
in each of his races—“and that’s two hundred thousand going your way,
versus the other way: a four-hundred-thousand-dollar swing.”

The contributions, as with many interest groups, come with a great deal of
tactical input. “The AIPAC people do a very good job of ‘informing’ you
about the issues,” Baird told me. “It literally gets down to ‘No, we don
’t say it that way, we say it this way.’ Always phrased as a friendly
suggestion—but it’s pretty clear you don’t want to say ‘occupied
territories’! There’s a whole complex semantic code you learn. . . . After
a while, you find yourself saying and repeating it as if it were fact.”

Soon after taking office, Baird went on a “virtually obligatory” trip to
Israel: a freshman ritual in which everything—business-class flights,
accommodations at the King David or the Citadel—is paid for by AIPAC’s
charitable arm. The tours are carefully curated. “They do have you meet
with the Palestinian leaders, in a sort of token process,” Baird said. “
But then when you’re done with it they tell you everything the Palestinian
leaders said that’s wrong. And, of course, the Palestinians don’t get to
have dinner with you at the hotel that night.”

In early 2009, after a brief truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed in a
series of mutual provocations, Israel carried out Operation Cast Lead, an
incursion into Gaza in which nearly fourteen hundred Palestinians were
killed, along with thirteen Israelis. Baird visited the area a few weeks
later and returned several times. As he wrote in an op-ed, he saw “
firsthand the devastating destruction of hospitals, schools, homes,
industries, and infrastructure.” That September, the U.N. Human Rights
Council issued a report, based on an inquiry led by the South African jurist
Richard Goldstone, that accused Israel of a series of possible war crimes.
AIPAC attacked the report, saying it was “rigged.” A month later, an AIPAC
-sponsored resolution to condemn the report was introduced in the House, and
three hundred and forty-four members voted in favor. “I read every single
word of that report, and it comported with what I had seen and heard on the
ground in Gaza,” Baird said. “When we had the vote, I said, ‘We have
member after member coming to the floor to vote on a resolution they’ve
never read, about a report they’ve never seen, in a place they’ve never
been.’ ” Goldstone came under such pressure that threats were made to ban
him from his grandson’s bar mitzvah at a Johannesburg synagogue. He
eventually wrote an op-ed in which he expressed regret for his conclusions,
saying, “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
Other members of the council stood by the report.

In 2010, Baird decided not to run again for the House; he is now the
president of Antioch University Seattle. Few current members of Congress are
as outspoken about AIPAC as Baird. Staff members fret about whether AIPAC
will prevent them from getting a good consulting job when they leave
government. “You just hear the name!” a Senate aide said. “You hear that
they are involved and everyone’s ears perk up and their mood changes, and
they start to fall in line in a certain way.”

Baird said, “When key votes are cast, the question on the House floor,
troublingly, is often not ‘What is the right thing to do for the United
States of America?’ but ‘How is AIPAC going to score this?’ ” He added,
“There’s such a conundrum here, of believing that you’re supporting
Israel, when you’re actually backing policies that are antithetical to its
highest values and, ultimately, destructive for the country.” In talks with
Israeli officials, he found that his inquiries were not treated with much
respect. In 2003, one of his constituents, Rachel Corrie, was killed by a
bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier, as she protested the demolition of
Palestinians’ homes in Gaza. At first, he said, the officials told him, “
There’s a simple explanation—here are the facts.” Or, “We will look into
it.” But, when he continued to press, something else would emerge. “There
is a disdain for the U.S., and a dismissal of any legitimacy of our right
to question—because who are we to talk about moral values?” Baird told me.
“Whether it’s that we didn’t help early enough in the Holocaust, or look
at what we did to our African-Americans, or our Native Americans—whatever!
And they see us, members of Congress, as basically for sale. So they want
us to shut up and play the game.”

“Personally, I don’t see the big deal about the ice-bucket challenge.”
In 2007, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two leading political scientists
of the realist school, published a book called “The Israel Lobby and U.S.
Foreign Policy.” The book, a best-seller, presented a scathing portrait of
AIPAC, arguing that the lobby had a nearly singular distorting influence on
American foreign policy, and even that it was a central factor in the rush
to war in Iraq. While the authors’ supporters praised their daring, their
critics argued that they had neglected to point out any failures of the
Palestinian leadership, and painted AIPAC in conspiratorial, omnipotent
tones. Even Noam Chomsky, a fierce critic of Israel from the left, wrote
that the authors had exaggerated the influence of AIPAC, and that other
special interests, like the energy lobby, had greater influence on Middle
East policy.

A broader political challenge to AIPAC came in 2009, with the founding of J
Street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” advocacy group. Led by Jeremy Ben-Ami, a
former Clinton Administration aide whose grandparents were among the first
settlers in Tel Aviv, J Street was founded to appeal to American Jews who
strongly support a two-state solution and who see the occupation as a threat
to democracy and to Jewish values. J Street has only a tiny fraction of
AIPAC’s financial power and influence on Capitol Hill, but it has tried to
provide at least some campaign funding to weaken the lobby’s grip.

AIPAC and its allies have responded aggressively. This year, the Conference
of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted not to admit J
Street, because, as the leader of one Orthodox alliance said to the Times,
its “positions are out of the mainstream of what could be considered
acceptable within the Jewish community.” Danny Ayalon, the former Israeli
Ambassador, told me, “When Jewish organizations join the political campaign
to delegitimatize Israel, they are really undermining our security
collectively. Because I do believe that, if Israel’s security is
compromised, so is that of every Jew in the world.”

Many Israeli and Palestinian leaders have taken note of the rise of J Street
and, without overestimating its capacities, see that it represents an
increasing diversity of opinion in the American Jewish community. At the
last J Street convention, in Washington, Husam Zomlot, a rising figure in
Fatah, the largest faction in the P.L.O., delivered a speech about the
Palestinian cause and got a standing ovation. “AIPAC is not as effective as
it was,” Zomlot said. “I wouldn’t say J Street is the mainstream
representative of Jewish Americans, but it is a trend that gives you some
sense of where things are and what is happening. Though it has limited
funding, it is the first organized Jewish group with a different agenda in
Washington since Israel was established. It’s worth noticing.”

Some politicians in Washington have indeed noticed, and not always to their
benefit. Soon after J Street got started, it endorsed Robert Wexler, a
Democratic congressman who represented a South Florida district. “Some
AIPAC people told me they would not support me anymore if I went to a J
Street event or took their support,” Wexler recalled. “I called them and
said, ‘You’ve supported me for twelve years. You’re not going to support
me because somebody from J Street endorsed me?’ ” Wexler added, “AIPAC is
still by a factor of a hundred to one the premier lobbying organization for
the Jewish community. I’ll never understand why they care one iota about J
Street—but they have this bizarre fixation on it.”

Jan Schakowsky, who has represented a liberal Chicago district since 1999,
was another of J Street’s first endorsees. For years, she had maintained
good relations with AIPAC, whose members* gave money to her campaigns and
praised her positions. She voted to condemn the Goldstone report and signed
a 2010 letter urging the Administration to keep any differences with Israel
private. But in her 2010 race, she was challenged by Joel Pollak, an
Orthodox Jew, who argued that she was insufficiently supportive of Israel.
“We were very much aware that AIPAC-associated people were fund-raising for
Jan’s opponent,” Dylan Williams, the director of government affairs for J
Street, said. A small but vocal contingent of AIPAC members were behind
Pollak. But he was also backed by the Tea Party, which J Street believed
might drive away other Jewish voters. The new lobby raised seventy-five
thousand dollars for Schakowsky (through its PAC, whose financial
contributions are publicly disclosed), and she won by a wide margin. “It
was exactly the type of race we had hoped for!” Williams said. “A lot of
the power of AIPAC is based on this perception, which I believe is a myth,
that if you cross their line you will be targeted, and your opponent in your
next race will receive all this money, and it will make a difference.”
Still, Schakowsky told me, the process was painful. “Getting booed in a
synagogue was not a pleasure,” she said. “This is not just my base—it’s
my family!” She added, “Increasingly, Israel has become a wedge issue,
something to be used against the President by the Republicans, and it can be
very unhelpful.”

AIPAC is still capable of mounting a show of bipartisanship. At this year’s
policy conference, Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip, appeared onstage
with Eric Cantor, then the Republican House Majority Leader, and together
they rhapsodized about the summer trip they routinely took, leading groups
of mostly freshmen on an AIPAC tour of Israel. “Few things are as
meaningful as watching your colleagues discover the Jewish state for the
very first time,” Cantor said.

Hoyer offered a benediction: “We Baptists would say, ‘Amen.’ ”

Cantor and Hoyer have been steadfast supporters of AIPAC, and its members
have held at least a dozen fund-raisers for them each year. But last
December AIPAC’s efforts to implement sanctions against Iran were so
intense that even this well-tempered partnership fractured. When Congress
returned from its Thanksgiving recess, legislators in the House began
discussing a sanctions bill. According to the former congressional aide,
Cantor told Hoyer that he wanted a bill that would kill the interim
agreement with Iran. Hoyer refused, saying that he would collaborate only on
a nonbinding resolution.

Cantor sent Hoyer a resolution that called for additional sanctions and
sought to define in advance the contours of an agreement with Iran. “The
pressure was tremendous—not just AIPAC leadership and legislative officials
but various board members and other contributors, from all over the country
,” the former congressional aide recalled. “What was striking was how
strident the message was,” another aide said. “ ‘How could you not pass a
resolution that tells the President what the outcome of the negotiations
has to be?’ ” Advocates for the sanctions portrayed Obama as feckless. “
They said, ‘Iranians have been doing this for millennia. They can smell
weakness. Why is the President showing weakness?’ ” a Senate aide recalled.

AIPAC was betting that the Democrats, facing midterms with an unpopular
President, would break ranks, and that Obama would be unable to stop them.
Its confidence was not unfounded; every time Netanyahu and AIPAC had opposed
Obama, he had retreated. But Obama took up the fight with unusual vigor. He
has been deeply interested in nonproliferation since his college days, and
he has been searching for an opening with Iran since his Presidential
campaign in 2008. As the Cantor-Hoyer resolution gathered momentum, House
Democrats began holding meetings at the White House to strategize about how
to oppose it.

“Wait—I almost forgot why I called.”
APRIL 18, 2005
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee,
attended the meetings, at some political risk. Wasserman Schultz represents
a heavily Jewish district in South Florida, and has been a reliable
signature on AIPAC’s letters and resolutions; she has boasted of concurring
with a hundred per cent of its positions. Now the lobby e-mailed out an “
AIPAC Action Alert,” including the text of a story about the meetings in
the conservative Washington Free Beacon, in which she was described as “
siding with the Mullahs over the American people.” The alert asked AIPAC’s
executive-council members to contact her office, ask if the story was true,
and challenge her opposition to Cantor-Hoyer. Stephen Fiske, the chair of
the pro-Israel Florida Congressional Committee PAC, sent a similar alert to
Wasserman Schultz’s constituents, setting off a cascade of calls to her
office. (Fiske told the Free Beacon that the callers included a team of
young students: his son’s classmates at a Jewish day school in North Miami
Beach.) Wasserman Schultz was furious. Soon afterward, she flew to Israel
for the funeral of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On the trip, she
remarked to a colleague, “They’re doing this to me?”

But as the meetings continued Democrats began to build a consensus. In
December, Ester Kurz, AIPAC’s director of legislative strategy, went to see
Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader, to urge her to pass the resolution.
Pelosi resisted, pointing out that many members of Hoyer’s caucus strongly
opposed it. David Price, a Democrat, and Charles Dent, a Republican, had
written a letter to the President, urging him to use the diplomatic opening
that followed Rouhani’s election to attempt a nuclear agreement; it
garnered a hundred and thirty-one signatures. Pointing to the letter, Pelosi
demanded to know why AIPAC wanted this resolution, at this time.

The members of Hoyer’s caucus pressed him, and, on December 12th, just as
the language of the resolution became final, he asked to set aside the
effort, saying that the time was not right. His demurral—from someone who
had rarely disappointed AIPAC—was a sign that the lobby might be in
uncharted terrain. Two weeks after local AIPAC activists pressured Wasserman
Schultz, a national board member issued a statement that called her “a
good friend of Israel and a close friend of AIPAC.”

The crucial fight, though, was in the Senate. A couple of days before the
Christmas recess, Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk introduced their sanctions
bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013. At first, senators were
eager to express support—previous Iran-sanctions bills had passed by votes
of 99–0—and, by the second week of January, Menendez and Kirk had secured
the votes of fifty-nine senators, including sixteen Democrats. One more vote
would enable the bill’s supporters to overcome a filibuster. A number of
senators facing reëlection were told by AIPAC contacts that fund-
raisers would be cancelled if they did not sign on, according to several
employees of another lobby. (AIPAC denies this.)

In January, though, AIPAC’s effort stalled. Some senators complained that
the bill called for immediate sanctions. In fact, a close reading of the
bill makes plain that most of the sanctions would become active ninety days
after enactment. But the sanctions, ostensibly intended to put pressure on
the Iranian negotiators, were designed to go into effect automatically, no
matter how the nuclear talks went. The bill also dictated to negotiators the
acceptable terms of an agreement, and committed the U.S. to support any
defensive military action that Israel took against Iran. On the Senate floor
, Dianne Feinstein gave a pointed speech, in which she warned that, if the
bill passed, “diplomatic negotiations will collapse,” and said, “We
cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war.”
Ten Senate committee chairmen—including Feinstein, who serves on the Select
Committee on Intelligence, and Carl Levin, of Michigan, the head of the
Armed Services Committee—wrote to Harry Reid, noting that the intelligence
community believed that new sanctions would effectively halt the

At the same time, AIPAC was urging Reid to bring the measure to a vote—and,
as the former congressional aide noted, “you don’t alienate a key fund-
raising base, especially when you may be about to lose the Senate.” But the
pressure from the White House was even greater. Brad Gordon, AIPAC’s
longtime legislative official, said ruefully, “I have not seen the
Administration act with such force and such sustained effort . . . since
Obama became President.” At a meeting with several dozen Democratic
senators in January, Obama spoke at length about Iran, warning of the
possibility of war. Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, said later that
the President “was as good as I’ve ever heard him.” As congressional
Democrats continued to meet in the White House Obama’s press secretary, Jay
Carney, referred to the proposed sanctions as part of a “march to war.”
Not long afterward, Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council
spokeswoman, said, “If certain members of Congress want the United States
to take military action, they should be up front with the American public
and say so.” Congressional offices were inundated with calls from
constituents alarmed by the prospect of war. The decisive moment came in the
State of the Union speech, when Obama said plainly, “If this Congress
sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I
will veto it.”

About a week later, forty-two Republican senators sent a letter to Reid,
demanding that he bring Menendez-Kirk to a vote, and noting that he had
already “taken unprecedented steps to take away the rights of the minority
in the Senate.” Reid’s staff members urged AIPAC officials to stop
pressing for the bill; their office had been open to a bipartisan process,
they argued, but siding with the Republicans against Obama was hardly
bipartisan. According to a former Senate aide, the lobbyists seemed to
realize that if they continued to push they would have to give up any claim
to bipartisanship. Two days later, AIPAC issued a statement saying that the
time was not right for a vote; Menendez issued a similar statement. “That
was the fundamental moment when Menendez-Kirk lost,” the aide said.

AIPAC had sustained a painful defeat—and its annual policy conference was
only a few weeks away. The day before the conference, according to a senior
House Democrat, “AIPAC still did not have its ‘ask’ together.” Instead
of dictating the terms of legislation, the lobby struggled to negotiate
letters to the President, urging him to support sanctions. In the end,
Cantor and Hoyer’s resolution was reduced to a letter, circulated in the
House, that was so anodyne that most Democrats in the progressive caucus
signed it.

Some of the House Democrats who had fought against the resolution were
enjoying a new sense of confidence. For a month, David Price and his fellow-
Democrat Lloyd Doggett had been gathering support for a letter to the
President, saying that Congress should “give diplomacy a chance.” They
expected to get perhaps forty signatures. Instead, they got a hundred and
four, including those of four Republicans. “AIPAC tried to peel some away,
but what’s striking is how few we lost,” Price said. A handful of Jewish
members signed, including Jan Schakowsky. Wasserman Schultz did not. “It
was a difficult policy spot for all of us, as Jewish members,” Schakowsky
said. But, had the Cantor-Hoyer resolution passed, she continued, “it would
have created an atmosphere surrounding the bargaining table that the
President could not bargain in good faith. And it would for the first time
have dramatically divided the Democrats.”

John Yarmuth, of Kentucky, another Jewish member who signed the letter, said
, “AIPAC clearly has a great deal of clout in the Republican conference,
and many Democrats still think that they have to be responsive to it.” But
he believes that the letter was an important measure of congressional
restiveness. “I think there is a growing sense among members that things
are done just to placate AIPAC, and that AIPAC is not really working to
advance what is in the interest of the United States.” He concluded, “We
all took an oath of office. And AIPAC, in many instances, is asking us to
ignore it.”

A few months later, the Gaza war began, and AIPAC mobilized again. “There
were conference calls, mass e-mails, talking points for the day,” a
congressional aide said. “AIPAC activists would e-mail me, with fifteen
other AIPAC activists cc’d, and then those people would respond, saying, ‘
I agree entirely with what the first e-mail said!’ ”

“You’ve got those Stuck-in-the-Subway-Listening-to-a-Guy-Massacre-Dylan
OCTOBER 25, 2010
It didn’t hurt AIPAC’s cause that the enemy was Hamas, whose suicide
bombings a decade ago killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, and whose rocket
attacks in recent years have terrorized citizens, particularly in southern
Israel. As Israel pressed its offensive, and hundreds of Palestinian
civilians were killed, AIPAC argued, as did Netanyahu, that the casualties
came only because Hamas was using human shields. Online, AIPAC posted a
short film, “Israel’s Moral Defense,” which depicted an Israeli major in
a quandary. Looking at a schoolyard filled with girls in neat uniforms, he
sees fighters with a rocket launcher not far behind them. Should he order
his men to fire their machine guns, and risk hitting the girls, or hold back
, and risk the rocket killing Israelis? “I didn’t pull the trigger,” the
soldier says. “We are totally different. . . . I am very proud to be in an
army that has this level of morality.” A couple of weeks after the film
appeared, Israeli shells struck a United Nations school in the Jabaliya
refugee camp, killing twenty-one people and injuring more than ninety; it
was the sixth U.N. school that Israel had bombed. The next day, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, pointed out that,
as Israeli forces attacked homes, schools, and hospitals, the U.S. was
supplying them with heavy weaponry. Almost simultaneously, the House passed
an AIPAC-supported resolution denouncing Hamas’s use of human shields and
condemning an inquiry into Israel’s Gaza operations that Pillay was

According to congressional staffers, some members of Congress seemed eager
to make up for their recent apostasy on the Iran negotiations. While Reid
and his colleagues went to extraordinary lengths to fund the Iron Dome
missile-defense system, the House leadership engaged in the same mission.
The vote in the House came late on the night of Friday, August 1st—the last
possible moment before the summer recess. The earlier resolutions that
AIPAC had sponsored during the war had passed unanimously, with no record of
individual votes, but on this vote the roll was called. (AIPAC sometimes
asks congressional leaders to call the roll when a decisive victory seems
likely.) “I think AIPAC thought this vote would be one hundred per cent,”
Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, said. It was close: out of four hundred
and thirty-five members, only eight voted no. Moran, who has been in
Congress since 1990, and is retiring this year, was one of four Democrats
who voted against the resolution. As a longtime member of the Defense
Appropriations Committee, he did not believe that there was any urgent need
for the funding. “We have put about nine hundred million dollars into the
Iron Dome,” he argued. “We know that there are many millions unexpended in
Israel’s Iron Dome account. And Israel was to get three hundred and fifty-
one million on October 1st, for Iron Dome.”

Beto O’Rourke, a freshman Democrat from El Paso, also voted against the
funding. “I tried to find him on the floor, but I couldn’t,” Moran said.
“I wanted him to switch his vote. Now, he might not have switched it anyway
, because—as shocking as it may be—he’s in Congress solely to do what he
considers to be the right thing. I’m afraid he may have a tough race in
November.” The morning after the vote, O’Rourke e-mailed a local AIPAC
activist, Stuart Schwartz, to explain his vote, according to a knowledgeable
person. In his explanation, which he also posted on Facebook, he pointed
out that he had voted for Iron Dome in the past, and had supported the funds
that were scheduled to arrive in October. But, he wrote, “I could not in
good conscience vote for borrowing $225 million more to send to Israel,
without debate and without discussion, in the midst of a war that has cost
more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children.”
Within hours, O’Rourke was flooded with e-mails, texts, and calls. The next
day, the El Paso Times ran a front-page story with the headline “O’ROURKE
VOTE DRAWS CRITICISM.” In the story, Stuart Schwartz, who is described as
having donated a thousand dollars to O’Rourke’s previous campaign,
commented that O’Rourke “chooses to side with the rocket launchers and
terror tunnel builders.” A mass e-mail circulated, reading “The Following
Is Shameful, El Paso Has an Anti-Israel Congressman. . . . Do Not Reë
lect Beto O’Rourke.” At the bottom was the address of AIPAC’s Web site,
and a snippet of text: “AIPAC is directly responsible for the overwhelming
support this legislation received on the Hill. If you are not a member of
AIPAC, I strongly recommend that you join. Every dollar helps fund this
important work in Congress.”

The day that Congress passed the Iron Dome bills happened to be an
especially deadly one in Gaza. In the city of Rafah, Israeli troops pursued
Hamas fighters with such overwhelming force that about a hundred and fifty
Palestinians were killed, many of them women and children. Israel’s critics
in the region have been energized. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator,
told me that Congress had sent a clear message by funding Iron Dome that
day. “Congress was telling Israel, ‘You go ahead and kill, and we will
fund it for you.’ ” She argued that Israelis had dominated American
political discourse on the war, as they have for decades on the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict. “They say, ‘The Palestinians are all terrorists,
they are the people we don’t know, they are alien, foreign, strange—but
Israelis are like us.’ Who shaped the presentation, in the U.S.? AIPAC, to
a large degree.”

Yet the war has broad support in Israel. According to the Israel Democracy
Institute, just six per cent of the Jewish population believes that the
Israeli Army has used excessive force. Of those who expressed an opinion,
almost half believe that the force has not been severe enough. The left,
finding itself increasingly isolated, is deeply critical of AIPAC. Zeev
Sternhell, a leading Israeli intellectual and an expert on European fascism,
told me, “I consider AIPAC’s role to have been absolutely disastrous,
because it prevents any possibility to move with the Palestinians. We cannot
move without American intervention—but we are more or less free of
American intervention. This is AIPAC’s job. So the present coalition has
this sentiment of impunity.”

In the U.S., the war has created tense disagreement, dividing left and right
, young and old. Congress showed no such uncertainty, which is a triumph for
AIPAC. But the lobby also faces an inevitable question about the extent to
which young liberals like O’Rourke represent the future. When I asked Dore
Gold, an external adviser to the Netanyahu government, about AIPAC’s
prospects, he spoke in determinedly upbeat tones, dismissing the Iran-
sanctions episode. “A political loss does not necessarily mean that a
political organization has reached its sunset years,” he said. “To the
contrary, it can give added motivation for people who are concerned with the
implications of Iran crossing the nuclear threshold.” Still, he said, “
when issues become so partisan, it is harder for an organization like AIPAC.
You have to fight that.” For decades, AIPAC has maintained a hugely
successful model, creating widespread support from an unlikely base, and
tapping into a seemingly endless wellspring of support from the American
Jewish community. But bipartisanship is a relic now, and a generation of
unquestioning adherents is aging. Like its embattled allies in Congress,
AIPAC needs to reach constituents who represent the country as it will look
in the coming decades.

At AIPAC’s policy conference last March, Olga Miranda, the president of S.E
.I.U. Local 87, gazed out at the crowd that filled the darkened Washington
Convention Center—a gathering she dubbed the “Jewish Super Bowl.” Large
video screens displayed her image. A lively woman with long black hair and a
commanding voice, Miranda proclaimed, “I am a union leader, I am Joaquin’
s mother, I am one of nine children raised by a single mother, I am a
Chicana—and I am AIPAC!” For years, she explained, her information about
the Middle East had come from television, and she sympathized with the
Palestinians, until one day she got a call from someone at AIPAC who asked
her if she’d be interested in a trip to Israel. That trip changed her life,
she said. Now she argues about Israel with her friends and colleagues. “
See you on the picket lines!” she shouted.

“It’s supposed to be a comedy, so I’ve had Steve, here, red-flag the
funny parts.”
DECEMBER 22, 2003
“The face of pro-Israel activists has changed pretty dramatically,” David
Victor, a former AIPAC president, told me. In the past eight years, AIPAC
has reached out to Hispanics, African-Americans, and evangelical Christians,
in the hope that greater diversity will translate into continued support in
Congress. Victor pointed out that this year’s AIPAC conference was bigger
than ever. In 2008, when he was president, eight thousand members attended;
this year, there were fourteen thousand, including two hundred and sixty
student-government presidents. “These are future opinion leaders,” he said.

Those opinion leaders face a difficult task when they return to campus. Many
young American Jews believe that criticism is vital to Israel’s survival
as a democratic state. Some are even helping to support a campaign known as
B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, which is aimed at ending the
occupation and recognizing the rights of Palestinian refugees and citizens.
In June, the U.S. branch of the Presbyterian church voted to divest from
three companies seen as profiting from the military occupation of the West
Bank. (One was Caterpillar, the construction-equipment company, which Rachel
Corrie’s parents had sued, unsuccessfully.) The church took care to affirm
Israel’s right to exist and to disavow an endorsement of the B.D.S.
movement. J Street, likewise, has said that B.D.S. can be “a convenient
mantle for thinly disguised anti-Semitism.” But the movement persists,
particularly on campuses and in left-wing circles.

Ironically, there is also a threat to AIPAC from the right. Many American
conservatives were enraged by the perception that AIPAC had surrendered in
the fight for Iran sanctions. Shortly after Menendez set aside his efforts
to pass the bill, AIPAC issued a statement vowing to try again later. “They
did that because there was an eruption from the other side,” a former
Senate aide said. “ ‘How could you sell out the Republican caucus, when we
were advocating exactly what Bibi Netanyahu was!’ ” Republicans were
frustrated by the lobby’s refusal to move forward at the expense of
Democrats, the aide said: “I know AIPAC has its commitment to
bipartisanship. But what good is that commitment if in the end you don’t
achieve your policy objective?”

For AIPAC’s most severe conservative critics, its attempts to occupy a
diminishing sliver of middle ground are unacceptable. Recently, Sheldon
Adelson, who funded AIPAC’s new office building a few years ago, has been
increasing his support for the right-wing Zionist Organization of America.
Mort Klein, the head of the Z.O.A., told me, “Adelson is not happy with
AIPAC, clearly.” Several people affiliated with the right-wing Jewish
movement told me that significant donors are talking about founding a new

Caught between the increasingly right-leaning Israel and the increasingly
fractious United States, AIPAC has little space to maneuver. Wittmann, the
spokesman, said, “Our positions in support of the Oslo process and the two-
state solution have generated criticism from some on the right, just as our
stand for strong prospective Iran sanctions has spurred criticism from some
on the left”—a statement of bipartisan intent, but also of the difficulty
of contemporary politics. Recently, the lobby has begun another outreach
effort, focussed on progressive Democrats. At the conference, Olga Miranda
and Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential
campaign, spoke on a panel called “The Progressive Case for Israel.” Lewis
told me that she has recently been involved in conversations with AIPAC
staff and board members about finding ways to improve AIPAC’s connections
with progressive Democrats. “They are exploring how to reach progressives,
but they’re lost on this!” a leader in the pro-Israel community who is
knowledgeable about the effort said. “They don’t know how to bridge the
gap. People see AIPAC as representing issues that are anathema to them. It’
s an enormous challenge.”

At the conference, the extent of the challenge was clear. Even Netanyahu
seemed struck by the mood. At one point in his speech, he said, “I hope
that the Palestinian leadership will stand with Israel and the United States
on the right side of the moral divide, the side of peace, reconciliation,
and hope.” The audience members responded with scant, listless applause. “
You can clap,” the Prime Minister said. ♦

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Jan Schakowsky’
s campaigns received funding from the AIPAC organization.

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