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.