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

Close the PLO Office in Washington

April 24 2017

In the wake of the Oslo Accords, and in order to facilitate futher negotiations, Congress carved out an exception to the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Act to permit the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—a known terrorist group—to open an office in the U.S. capital. The legislation allows the president to extend this “temporary” waiver at his discretion—which every president since Bill Clinton has done. Shoshana Bryen argues that putting an end to the policy is a proper punishment for the PLO’s continued financial support for terrorists and their families.

[The waiver] was conditional on the PLO’s meeting its Oslo Accords obligations, including refraining from terrorism and renouncing international moves that would impede a bilateral agreement on final-status issues. . . .

In 2011, a Palestinian bid for recognition as a full member of the UN failed, but the waiver remained. Over U.S. objections, “Palestine” joined the International Criminal Court in 2015 [in violation of the Accords and thus of the waiver’s conditions]. . . .

[Furthermore], worried about foreign-aid payments from the U.S. and the EU, in 2014 the Palestinian Authority (PA) claimed it stopped paying salaries [to terrorists and their familites] and that future money would come from a new PLO Commission of Prisoner Affairs. . . . [I]n 2015, a year after the PA “officially” transferred authority over Palestinian prisoners to the PLO, it also transferred an extra 444-million shekels (more than $116 million) to the PLO—nearly the same amount that the PA had allocated in the previous years to its now-defunct Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. . . .

[T]he U.S. government should let the PLO and PA know that we are onto their game. Disincentivizing terrorism by closing the PLO office in Washington would be a good first step.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy