Chastened Aipac prepares for annual conference

By Dan Friedman, February 27, 2014

This year’s annual Aipac conference, running from March 2-4 in Washington DC, will differ from usual. Most years the conference is an exercise in celebration and display of power - but this year, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is both institutionally chastened and at an inflection point in the US-Israel relationship.

Arguably America’s foremost lobbying group of the past half century, Aipac has rarely lost a political battle. This year’s conference comes after a year in which its smaller rival, JStreet, won cautious gains and Aipac suffered two political defeats: its failed push for increased sanctions on Iran and its fruitless call for US military intervention in Syria.

With Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charting a rightward course that alienates not only much of the world and the Obama government, but also the American Jewish community, Aipac faces a major challenge as Secretary of State John Kerry conducts his peace diplomacy.

Despite these anxieties, the conference will welcome up to 14,000 participants to hear Mr Kerry on Monday and Mr Netanyahu on Tuesday. Senior Jewish members of the two major parties will speak: Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, as well as grandees such as Joe Lieberman and John McCain.

It may be more beleaguered than it is accustomed to being, but the ripples from next week’s Aipac annual conference will be felt throughout 2014, from the Middle East to the Mid-West.

Last updated: 11:02am, March 4 2014