Nikki Haley to RJC: AIPAC takes bipartisanship too far

LAS VEGAS (JTA) – Nikki Haley, one of the most popular presidential contenders for 2024 in the pro-Israel community, harshly criticized AIPAC for what she said was its overemphasis on bipartisanship in its approach to Democrats.

Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations under former President Donald Trump, told a Republican Jewish Coalition conference here that she “loved” the United States’ Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“But there is one thing that I do not understand and I am not telling you anything that I have not told your leaders,” he said. “Why are you inviting politicians who strongly support the Iran nuclear deal to your conference?”

Haley’s question drew applause from the RJC crowd, which scorns the deal President Barack Obama struck in 2015 to ease sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on the country’s nuclear program. Republican and Israeli leaders oppose the deal, which Trump abandoned in 2018, because they prefer tougher means to limit Iran’s nuclear potential. Democratic President Joe Biden wants to rejoin the deal.

Haley said AIPAC takes its bipartisan principle too far. “I want all the Democrats to support Israel as much as the Republicans,” he said. “But if you make bipartisanship your sole rationale, then you lose sight of the policies you are fighting for in the first place.”

Nikki Haley at the Western Wall on June 26, 2019 (credit: OREN BEN HAKON / YISRAEL HAYOM)

Haley’s rebuke of AIPAC was notable because she is a moderate Republican who will likely run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Republican moderates have often joined Democrats on stage at annual lobby conferences to underscore bipartisan support for Israel. But in an increasingly polarized environment, the lobby is struggling to maintain the bipartisan balance that has been its defining characteristic and contributes to its status as one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington.

An AIPAC spokesperson declined to comment on Haley’s speech.

Right-wing Republicans have said for years that a distancing from Israel among some Democrats renders AIPAC’s bipartisanship obsolete. Among the most prominent right-wing critics of AIPAC was Sheldon Adelson, the RJC billionaire benefactor who died earlier this year and who once said he invested money in the American Israeli Council in part because he believed that AIPAC was not energetic enough. to boost pro-Israel policies.

Haley had to urge the RJC crowd to applaud AIPAC when she brought up the group’s name.

At the same time, several progressives have called on Democrats in recent years to boycott AIPAC.

Haley speaks frequently at AIPAC conferences and is very popular there for her many actions at the United Nations that aligned with the policies of the Israeli government at the time, including resigning from the UN Human Rights Council and other agencies, obtaining funding from UNRWA, the agency. which administers Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and penalizes countries that did not vote with the United States on Israel-related measures.

“I have spoken at AIPAC events many times and they have always been incredibly supportive,” he said. “If a politician supports the disastrous Iran deal, opposes moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and is embraced by anti-Semites who support the BDS movement,” the movement to boycott Israel, “then his pro-Israel group should have absolutely no nothing to do with him. “

AIPAC has struggled in recent years to rebuild relations with the Democrats who backed the Iran nuclear deal. AIPAC also does not exclude any legislator in its lobbying.

However, AIPAC has never invited lawmakers close to the Israel boycott movement to speak at its conferences, and while some Democrats questioned the timing of Trump moving the embassy to Jerusalem, most supported the measure in principle.

The RJC conference in La Vegas, at the Adelson-owned Venetian complex, is the first since it was forced to cancel its 2020 conference due to the pandemic. Haley was one of the speakers likely to compete for the nod from the Republican Party in 2024, including former Vice President Mike Pence; Texas Senator Ted Cruz; and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump spoke through a recorded video message.

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