The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual conference this week. As much as the organization struggles to retain its official nonpartisan stance, writes David Horovitz, it must still reckon with the fact that, as Republicans are growing ever closer to the Jewish state, Democrats are growing more distant:
[In 2016], the only Jewish presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, chose to be the sole presidential candidate to give AIPAC a wide berth, opting instead to campaign in Salt Lake City. To coincide with the conference, Sanders instead made public a speech that would have gone down like a lead balloon had he chosen to deliver it to the pro-Israel lobbying group, in which he lambasted Israel for its ostensible “disproportionate responses to being attacked,” criticized its “bombing of hospitals, schools, and refugee camps” in the 2014 war with Hamas, and demanded an end to Israel’s “blockade of Gaza.”
Meanwhile, then-candidate Donald Trump, who AIPAC leaders had worried might be booed by the crowd, drew increasingly warm applause with a speech not only pledging that “When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end,” which was just about okay, but also castigating President Barack Obama as possibly “the worst thing that ever happened to Israel, believe me”—a devastatingly inappropriate declaration at the annual gathering of an organization committed to bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. . . .
Even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to see how AIPAC could have handled its near-impossible task of maintaining a bipartisan consensus on Israel in so divided an America. Regarding the 2016 fiasco, for instance, it could hardly not have invited candidate Trump, and it very probably sought to ensure ahead of time that his speech was appropriate; the Obama-bashing was likely ad-libbed. . . .
The group’s leadership is fully aware that the pendulum swings in American politics. As it works to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, it knows that it cannot afford to have Israel perceived as the pet cause of only one side of the political spectrum. But being cognizant of the challenge is only part of a battle that—when fractured America looks at complex, divided Israel—appears almost unwinnable right now.