Posted by Ari Zells on Jan 5, 2013
March 4, 2012
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. The current President of AIPAC is Michael Kassen from Fairfield, Connecticut.
Describing itself as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby,” AIPAC is a mass-membership, American organization whose members include Democrats, Republicans, and independents. The New York Times calls it “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.” It has been described as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, DC. Its critics have stated it acts as an agent of the Israeli government with a “stranglehold” on the United States Congress with its power and influence. There is some disagreement as to where AIPAC’s agenda lies ideologically. Some critics on the political left allege that AIPAC holds views that are politically conservative in their nature, while AIPAC’s membership has also been described as “overwhelmingly Democratic” by conservatives. AIPAC describes itself as a bipartisan organization, and bills it lobbies for in Congress are always jointly sponsored by both a Democrat and Republican.
In 2005, a Pentagon analyst pled guilty to charges of passing US government secrets to two AIPAC staffers in what is known as the AIPAC espionage scandal. Both staffers were later fired by AIPAC. In 2009 all charges against the former AIPAC employees were dropped.
The annual AIPAC Policy Conference is the largest gathering of the pro-Israel movement. Thousands of participants, up to 13,000 in the 2012 conference, come from all 50 states to take part in “three of the most important days affecting Israel’s future.” Held at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., numerous speakers, including Presidents and Prime Ministers, speak about the importance of the U.S.-Israel Relationship.
AIPAC has a wide base of supporters both in and outside of Congress. Support among congressional members includes a majority of members of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. AIPAC’s 2011 Policy Conference included the attendance of approximately 2/3 of the US Senate and House of Representatives, including President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House John Boehner. The annual Policy Conference is second only to the State of the Union address for the number of federal officials in attendance at an organized event.
Many political leaders have addressed AIPAC conferences, including past Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other speakers have included prominent Senators such as John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, as well as and current and former members of the leadership of both parties in Congress, and current and former Prime Ministers of Israel.
Historian and current Israeli ambassador to America, Michael Oren argued in his 2007 bestseller, “Power, Faith, and Fantasy”, that strong American support for Israel derives from Puritan-Republican roots of the United States itself.
Sen. John McCain said in his speech to the 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference “[T]here are ties between America and Israel that critics of our alliance have never understood, /../ that’s because they do not fully understand the love of liberty and the pursuit of justice.”
Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) has argued that America supports Israel because they share fundamental values as “freedom-loving people” who “deserve to have a free and secure state.’” Nancy Pelosi similarly stated that “America and Israel share an unbreakable bond: in peace and war; and in prosperity and in hardship.”
Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union acts as Scholar-In-Residence for 2010 National Summit in South Florida.
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