Aipac Forum, Day 1: Strengthening Ties — With Help From Purell

“Relationships Matter” is the slogan Aipac has chosen for this year’s annual policy conference, which opened on Sunday at the Washington Convention Center. “Relationships,” as in those between the U.S. and Israel, and relationships of the kind Aipac members are expected to forge with members of Congress and other elected officials.

And good relationships, everyone knows, begin with a handshake. But this could turn out to be somewhat of a problem with the Swine Flu scare, which is making people think twice before extending their hand for a friendly hello. Organizers at the Aipac conference had thought even of that, and provided delegates who were interested in it with miniature bottles of Purell.

And with the antibacterial wash in hand, they can move forward with making those relationship matters.

Another relationship that matters was that of the pro-Israel lobby with Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat who got into trouble after transcripts of her phone conversation regarding the prosecution against two former Aipac staffers were leaked to the press.

Harman sat on the opening panel at the conference and, for a while, stuck to the issue of Middle East foreign policy. But at the final round of questions, Harman turned to the crowd and addressed what she called “my alleged situation.” She vowed to keep fighting to clear her name, and promised to keep up her good ties with pro-Israeli activists.

“The issue is obviously creating a chilling effect on hardworking bipartisan members of Congress who care intensely about the U.S.–Israel security relationship and have every right to talk to advocacy groups and our good friends about that relationship,” Harman said.

One relationship that never came up during the first day of the Aipac conference was the relationship of the lobby itself with its two former staff members, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman; on Friday, Rosen and Weissman were all but exonerated from espionage charges.

Somehow, no one felt the need to mention the case.


Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Aipac Forum, Day 1: Strengthening Ties — With Help From Purell

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