Benjamin Netanyahu Gives Declawed AIPAC Little To Fight For

'It's All Fuzzy' on Peace and Iran — Loyalists Moan

getty images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published March 06, 2014, issue of March 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Something was off-kilter in Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 4 appearance before the annual Washington policy conference of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse.

After five years of raging that the Obama administration was too hard on Israel and too soft on Iran, the Israeli leader faced a record crowd of 14,000 activists ready to storm the barricades for him and told them that things were, well, pretty okay.

It was a startling message to deliver to the thousands of citizen-lobbyists from across the country, moments before they were to head to Capitol Hill for their annual day of hands-on lobbying: There’s not much for you to do.

Certainly, Israel faces grave challenges. Iran is to retain some nuclear enrichment capacity at the end of the current six-power negotiations. This leaves the threat of an Iranian bomb intact. Unfortunately, AIPAC had been forced a month earlier by fierce White House opposition to give up trying to legislate stiffer negotiating terms. The agenda the delegates were bringing to Congress was, as one staffer said in a briefing session, “just a letter” requesting tougher terms. No teeth, no drama.

Beyond that? Negotiations with the Palestinians sounded more hopeful than usual. The prime minister looked forward with almost Peres-like enthusiasm to a new Middle East as Arab states embraced Israel after a Palestinian peace deal. Israel is still threatened by boycott, divestment and sanctions, but this isn’t fundamentally a legislative issue, and therefore not on the agenda of a lobbying organization.

Something was missing, and folks noticed.

“It’s all fuzzy,” said Charles Jacobs of Boston, a pro-Israel militant who founded The David Project and now heads Americans for Peace and Tolerance. “There isn’t a specific thing that they’ve planted a flag around, that gives a strong sense of direction.”

It was a revelatory moment in what’s shaping up to be a period of wrenching transition, for Israel and AIPAC alike.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.