AIPAC’s Dilemma and Its Roots

Jan. 12 2017

With support for Israel increasingly becoming a partisan issue, the influence of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is correlatively weakening. According to Armin Rosen, the heart of the problem is the organization’s relentlessly bipartisan approach, and the real damage was done during its attempt to rally congressional opposition to the Iran deal. AIPAC’s overall strategy—based on rewarding friends but shying away from punishing enemies, and never threatening consequences for senators and representatives who take positions it opposes—severely curbed its ability to pressure legislators effectively, and ultimately exposed its frailties:

[T]he bipartisan approach that worked so well in the 1980s and early 1990s created severe problems for AIPAC under the Obama administration, which proved more willing to pressure Israel openly and to engage with its enemies than any White House in decades. AIPAC had to keep up its access to an uncooperative executive branch while sticking to its policy of only backing legislation that has bipartisan support. . . .

Multiple people who attended meetings [intended to encourage members of Congress to block the Iran deal] . . . recalled how intense some of the sit-downs . . . got. But the meetings would also include an acknowledgement that there were unlikely to be any direct consequences [to a Congressman] for supporting the deal. . . .

[Such an approach to] lobbying that’s overly determined by relationships—and thus by access—has arguably hamstrung AIPAC. It gives considerable power to the member of Congress, who can decide politely to stop listening to his or her key contacts [in the organization]. It also makes AIPAC hesitant to criticize individual members of Congress or other political figures for fear of blowing up the relationships on which the group’s influence is based. This imbalance grows over time: the longer the relationship lasts, the more the lobby has invested in it, and the more it has to lose from a rupture. . . . If there was a red line for AIPAC declaring that members of Congress were dead to them, it wasn’t crossed at any point before or after the Iran deal debate by any member.

Read more at Tablet

More about: AIPAC, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Politics

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC