AIPAC in Disarray After Iran Sanctions Setback

Israel Lobby Seeks Path Forward as Annual Conference Looms

All Smiles: Vice President Joe Biden and then-Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak at last years’ AIPAC annual conference.
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All Smiles: Vice President Joe Biden and then-Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak at last years’ AIPAC annual conference.

By Ron Kampeas

Published February 12, 2014.
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“I’ve heard there’s an option of a resolution being kicked around, but not much beyond that,” said a staffer for a top Democrat, referring to the Iran issue.

The uncertainty regarding what’s next on the Iran issue is evident on Capitol Hill. A Republican source told JTA on Tuesday afternoon that Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, had agreed on the text of a nonbinding resolution that would recommend congressional oversight in implementing the current interim nuclear deal as well as outlining acceptable outcomes for a final agreement. But an official in Hoyer’s office immediately denied the claim.

Leading AIPAC board members were meeting Tuesday with lawmakers to discuss future steps. One factor making it difficult to decide on an appropriate legislative vehicle for an AIPAC-backed initiative on Israeli security needs is that Israeli-Palestinian talks are being kept secret at the behest of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is expected to soon present a framework for an agreement.

The framework would address Israeli security needs in detail. AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups, administration insiders said, mostly have been supportive of Kerry’s efforts.

There has been no such comity on Iran, where the White House and AIPAC had been locked in a battle of wills over the Senate’s Iran sanctions legislation. Senate Republicans had been pushing for quick action on the AIPAC-backed bill, which had majority support in the chamber, but Democrats resisted calling a vote.

Last week, both the bill’s chief Democratic sponsor, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and AIPAC distanced themselves from calls for an immediate vote on the legislation.

“I hope that we will not find ourselves in a partisan process trying to force a vote on a national security matter before its appropriate time,” Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Feb. 6 speech.

Menendez, sources close to the senator said, was referring to a letter sent that morning to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, from 42 Republican senators calling for a vote on the bill.

His speech, however, was otherwise a lengthy defense of a measure that was vigorously opposed by the Obama administration, which warned that its passage could scuttle talks with Iran.


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