Washington — The annual debate over the Aipac Action Agenda — the pro-Israel powerhouse’s lobbying platform — took a turn to the right this year, with the leader of the Zionist Organization of America introducing 14 amendments that were approved as official Aipac policy.
Most of the changes pushed for by the ZOA’s president, Morton Klein, were minor, but each gave a right-wing tint to the platform. The action agenda is produced by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s executive committee, which includes representatives from major Jewish groups, as well as Aipac board members.
In one move, the executive committee approved an amendment sponsored by Klein demanding that Fatah, the political party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, change 10 clauses in its charter calling for Israel’s destruction. Attempts last fall to raise this issue at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations failed. Palestinians maintain that the charter does not have any official standing, and Israel’s government has never taken up the issue.
The amendment was adopted by Aipac’s executive committee, though it is not yet clear whether the organization will actively lobby in favor of congressional action on the charter issue.
The other major change that Klein successfully pushed deals with the American embassy in Israel, which pro-Israel activists have long wanted moved from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Jewish state’s capital. Congress passed legislation in 1995 requiring the move, but administrations since then have utilized a clause allowing them to delay relocating the embassy if necessary for reasons of national security.
In the Monday meeting, Klein proposed adding quotation marks to the term “national security” and opposing the government’s use of this waiver to prevent the relocation of the embassy — language that was reflected in his amendment.
Aipac’s leadership opposed the amendment, arguing that it would put the pro-Israel lobby on record as contradicting the government’s reasoning on issues of national security. Nevertheless, the change passed with the support of an overwhelming majority of the committee.
Morton Klein said after the meeting that he believes the amendments gained support because “15 years after Oslo, people are finally realizing that the [Palestinian Authority] has no real interest in peace.”
A member of the executive committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while the changes made to the action agenda are mainly symbolic, they can cause Aipac embarrassment and run counter to the group’s stated support for the peace process.
Klein did propose a number of changes that were rejected, including a call to drop the word “peace” when referring to negotiations with the Palestinians and to support the right of Jews to settle in the West Bank, even if the areas are under Palestinian rule.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is 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.