Pro-Israel Groups Suspend Lobbying Push on Syria

250 AIPAC Activists Flooded Capitol Hill

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By Ron Kampeas

Published September 16, 2013.
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(JTA) — Pro-Israel groups suspended their high-profile lobbying effort for a strike on Syria now that the United States and Russia have struck a deal to strip the Assad regime of its chemical weapons.

A spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which organized a Capitol Hill blitz last week aimed at persuading Congress to back a strike, confirmed Monday that lobbying has been suspended for now.

The American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which also had been involved in the lobbying, said they would suspend lobbying, too.

“We sent many messages over the last week and a half; we are not formulating new letters to the Hill,” Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of international affairs, told JTA. “Our message is out there should it be required.”

Jewish groups had hesitated at first to sign on to the lobbying effort, fearful that their support would be construed as a pro-Israel initiative. But they dove in after President Obama called for a strike last month and senior administration officials solicited their help in persuading Congress to sign off on the military action.

AIPAC sent 250 of its members for personal meetings with Capitol Hill lawmakers, a show of strength the lobby reserves for major initiatives. The group kept up its effort even after Obama called last week for Congress to delay a vote while he explored the Russian proposal for international monitors to take over and destroy Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons.

The AJC in a letter Sept. 12 to Congress members said the threat of credible military action must be maintained even as the United States looked at the Russian plan. Leading pro-Israel figures echoed the view.

“Every day that goes by without congressional authorization, it undermines the vitality of the threat,” Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, said in an interview Friday.

By Monday, however, the groups had changed their tune, suspended their lobbying and endorsed the putative deal brokered in Geneva over the weekend by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.


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