It happened last week at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington. Those were three days of huge support for Israel. Bipartisan and interreligious support.
One of the highlights of the event was when “Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of the State of Israel” was invited to the stage. The audience was on its feet. The applause was deafening.
Make no mistake. The enthusiastic applauders included people who had told me an hour or a day earlier that he was finished, that he was no longer the man, that his total connection to US President Donald Trump—and only to Trump—was doing terrible damage to Israel and to AIPAC.
Netanyahu knows how to stir excitement. He spoke about innovation, about reaching out to the Third World, about Israel leading the world in water recycling, and about Iran of course. He couldn’t leave out Iran.
I saw excellent speakers in last week’s conference and in many other conferences. Netanyahu is in a league of his own. He left the podium and walked around the stage like a skilled actor. The man knows what he’s doing and he know how to put on a show. There were many stage giants and audience favorites there like US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who received a standing ovation. But Netanyahu? In this show he is second to none. Even the Oscars are no big deal for him.
But it’s a show. The US Jewry is in a crisis. More and more articles popped up before, during and after the conference about AIPAC being a right-wing body which is drifting away from the US Jewry. There is no greater lie. AIPAC is making every effort to shake off these false claims.
The organization’s bipartisanship is its greatest asset to remain an influential lobby. There was a one-to-one ratio of Republican and Democratic Congress members in the conference, and a one-to-one ratio of politicians from the Israeli Right and Left. Moreover, certain right-wing representatives complained to me that they hadn’t been invited to talk. Indeed, there was a respectable representation of the Left, not to mention the fact that a Yesha Council-sponsored gathering was held just blocks away and wasn’t included on the AIPAC conference’s event list.
The United State is a split nation these days, with frightening hostility between supporters of the Democratic Party and supporters of the Republican Party in general, and Trump supporters in particular.
AIPAC isn’t taking sides. Netanyahu is. And in this sense, Netanyahu isn’t the solution. He’s part of the problem. The US Jewry was and remains largely liberal and Democratic. It isn’t against Israel. It’s against a government which gives in to the Haredim, which cancels the Western Wall plan, which gives the ultra-Haredi faction control over the conversion systems, which flirts with an annexation law that would destroy the Zionist vision.
Add that to the fact that the person sitting in the White House is problematic, controversial and unpredictable. The more Israel is identified with Trump, the more it stands to suffer in the long run. After all, the Democrats will regain power one day. AIPAC understands that, which is why it maintains the bipartisanship tradition. The Israeli government has yet to understand that.
So why are we hearing so much unfounded criticism about AIPAC? Because most of the critics belong to the radical left. It pains them to hear Democrats and Republicans talk in favor of the alliance with Israel.
And it’s not just the radical left. One writer, a Labor Party member who attended the conference, used an entire article to disparage and degrade Nikki Haley. It’s really not okay that Haley slammed UNESCO.
The problem isn’t AIPAC. The problem is that certain left-wing elements, including Labor Party members, have adopted the rhetoric of the anti-Zionist left. They find anything that is pro-Israel wrong. And AIPAC indeed keeps proving that it can be a pro-Israel organization without being pro-Likud.