Haley’s critique of AIPAC is misplaced – opinion

He is regularly maligned by right-wing anti-Semites who see him as controlling Washington and proof that American Jews have dual loyalties, and by left-wing anti-Semites who see him as a bribe to Congress to allow a racist, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing regime. Israel.

In 2007, two well-known political scientists, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, wrote The Israel Lobby stating that AIPAC had done nothing less than hijack US foreign policy, often to the detriment of US national security.

In 2019, then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders panned the far-left of the Democratic party and refused to attend AIPAC’s annual conference because, he said, it provides a platform for “leaders who express intolerance and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” .

And that’s it for the general population.

An AIPAC attendee wears a suit with the theme of America and Israel (credit: TOM BRENNER / REUTERS)

Among Jews, there are people on the left who say he is too deep in the pocket of Likud and Republicans, and there are people on the right who say he is too big of a mouth and not strong enough in his support for Israel. and against proposals like a two-state solution and the Iranian nuclear deal.

In 2007, the late Sheldon Adelson formed the American Israel Council and split from AIPAC because he endorsed then-President George W. Bush’s Annapolis process. A decade later, Adelson explained his creation of the new group as a result of wanting an organization that it would be an “unequivocal support organization for Israel. There will be no political correctness, there will be no doubts about whether we can keep the White House door open for us. “

On the other side of the political spectrum, Left J Street was established in 2008 because its founders were interested in a counterweight to AIPAC.

Throughout its long history, AIPAC has grown accustomed to background noise, has come to expect and accept being hit from every conceivable direction, and moves on.

On Sunday, however, the organization was struck from a more unlikely corner: Niki Haley, the former United States ambassador to the UN who has been the favorite, no, the rock star, of recent AIPAC annual conventions (due a COVID-19 the group has not held its annual policy conference since 2020, and it does not plan one in 2022 either.)

Haley memorably won the 2017 AIPAC policy conference, shortly after taking office at the UN, when she vowed to fight anti-Israel bias at the UN, memorably saying, “I’m wearing heels. It’s not for a fashion statement. “. it’s because if I see something wrong, we’ll kick them every time. “

But speaking in Las Vegas at an annual convention held by the Republican Jewish Coalition, another Adelson-backed organization, Haley opted this time to kick AIPAC, opening her speech by harshly criticizing the lobby for what she said was putting too much emphasis on bipartisanship. . .

Saying that she “loved” AIPAC, she added: “But there is one thing I do not understand, and I am not telling you anything that I have not told your leaders. Why are politicians who strongly support the Iran nuclear deal invited to your conference? ”

His words were greeted with applause by an audience that undoubtedly included many who, like Adelson, do not feel that AIPAC is right-wing enough.

“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.

“I have spoken at AIPAC events many times and they have been incredibly supportive,” he said. “If a politician supports the disastrous Iran deal, opposes moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, and is accepted by anti-Semites who support the BDS movement, then his pro-Israel group should have absolutely nothing to do with him.”

However, this criticism is largely unfair to AIPAC.

First, AIPAC’s “raison d’être” is not bipartisanship. Rather, its raison d’être is to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel, and what the organization has discovered in its 58 years of existence is that the best, most successful way to do this is by drawing bipartisan support.

American support for Israel is critical, both militarily and diplomatically. And that support is not now, nor has it ever been a fact. Realizing that politics is cyclical, that one day the United States Congress will be controlled by the Democrats and the next day by the Republicans; that one year there will be a Democratic president and four or eight years later a Democratic one; it means that it is essential to have the support of both parties.

AIPAC is not sanctifying bipartisanship on its own, which Haley hinted at, but realizes that this approach better serves Israel.

This is something that Israel’s political parties must also realize. There is much talk today, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid leading the chorus, about the need for Jerusalem to build bridges with the Democratic Party, both because of the rise of progressives within the party and because Democrats now. control both Congress and the presidency.

But it will not always be so. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cultivated close ties with President Donald Trump and the leadership of the Republican Congress, he was often criticized for getting too close to Republicans, who his critics said would not be in power forever.

The same can now be said of the Democrats. There are those who advocate paying more attention to liberals and progressives, and less attention to Republican evangelicals. But after last year’s election results last Tuesday, chances are high that Republicans will have control of the House of Representatives after next year’s midterm elections, not Democrats.

What this means is that both parties must cultivate, that both must be brought closer together, something that AIPAC has understood for a long time.

Haley, a leading light in the Republican firmament, obviously would like AIPAC not to give Democratic politicians a platform, something that would help create the perception that Republicans are the pro-Israeli party, while Democrats are not. .

But the reality is more nuanced and complex.

Haley asked why AIPAC invited politicians who strongly supported the Iran nuclear deal to its conference. Why? Because supporting that agreement, however wrong that position may have been, does not make a politician anti-Israel, and if AIPAC were to cancel all the politicians who supported President Barack Obama in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the agreement is formally known, the organization would be losing many followers to other issues for which it exerts pressure.

According to Haley, “If a politician supports the disastrous Iran deal, opposes moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, and is accepted by anti-Semites who support the BDS movement, then his pro-Israel group should have absolutely nothing to do with him.” . Agreed. But AIPAC does not have much to do with most of the politicians conforming to that bill, nor do they, the Ilhan Omars and Rashida Tlaibs of the congressional world, want much to do with AIPAC.

AIPAC has enough naysayers pointing it out the way it is. Did the staunchly pro-Israel Haley, whose political ambitions have only been helped by her appearances at AIPAC events in recent years, really needed to stack up?


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