With Bipartisan Support for Israel in Danger, It’s Time for AIPAC to Shift Its Focus

Neil Rogachevsky
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Feb. 28 2020
About Neil

Neil Rogachevsky teaches at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and writes a monthly column for Mosaic.

On Sunday, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will hold its annual conference in Washington, DC. Since its creation in 1951, the organization has accomplished much by rallying support for the Jewish state in the U.S., lobbying Congress, and working to keep a generally pro-Israel stance on the platforms of both major political parties. Yet, writes Neil Rogachevsky, its failure to prevent the Obama administration’s turn away from Israel and toward Iran, and the left’s increasingly anti-Israel stance, suggest that AIPAC’s usual tactics may be less effective than ever before. He proposes an alternative approach:

[P]erhaps the central focus of pro-Israel activity in the United States should shift toward “community reconstruction”—to the rebuilding of core institutions from which future pro-Israel leaders are likely to emerge in the first place. It is no accident that declining support for Israel among young Jews corresponds to the weakening of the Jewish day-school network around the country—a weakening both in terms of quality of instruction as well as an affordability crisis that has pushed many potentially interested Jewish families away from Jewish education.

It would be a refreshing change, and potentially highly salutary, if big-ticket AIPAC donors were to turn their attention to this crisis rather than to increasingly ineffectual efforts to influence national policy. Effective advocates for Israel are at the end of the day well-educated ones—and well-educated ones emerge out of the contexts where meaningful skill development in Hebrew language, Jewish history, theology, and Zionism can take place.

What if Jewish community leaders invested their efforts in ensuring that Hebrew-language instruction was more widely available to anyone who wanted it, knowledge of Hebrew being necessary (though certainly not sufficient) for understanding Israel? What if instead of focusing on winning an amorphous “battle of ideas,” community leaders sought to expand and improve failing Jewish high schools, both through the hiring and development of better teachers and through providing scholarships for the most talented and promising?

The “return on investment” of a back-to-basics approach such as this would be hard to be measure. . . . But the case that the money is better spent on political lobbying in Washington is getting harder and harder to make.

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Read more at American Affairs

More about: AIPAC, American Jewry, Israel and the Diaspora, U.S. Politics

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship