'AIPAC created a logistical masterpiece'

By Jonathan Arkush, May 26, 2011
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Obama as seen on AIPAC’s screen

Obama as seen on AIPAC’s screen

One runs out of superlatives when describing this event. Huge screens beamed down shots of all-American couples explaining why Israel was important to them. The hall was easily large enough to take the 550ft Washington monument lying on its side. Every cheerleading slogan got a standing ovation, the name of every single person present was read out, from foreign delegates - including myself - to envoys from all over the world. The event was a logistical masterpiece.

Obama's State Department speech on Thursday that emphasised the 1967 borders as the starting point for peace talks, and Netanyahu's firm rebuttal, meant that the atmosphere at AIPAC was feverish ahead of the US President's arrival. But as soon as Obama took the podium and said "I need to say a little more", it was clear that he was subtly changing tack. The crowd picked up on this change of emphasis and gave him a polite - but not effusive - reception. But what is clear from speaking to conference delegates and Democrat Jews in general is that Obama is a major disappointment.

During Netanyahu's speech, a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators started shouting but were brought to the ground in seconds. In response, Netanyahu said: "Try demonstrating in Gaza, then see what happens."

We need an AIPAC in Britain. AIPAC has succeeded in creating an army of Israel supporters who are mobilised and constantly lobby elected senators. We need to study their methods urgently.

Jonathan Arkush, Senior Vice-President of the Board of Deputies, gives his view of last weekend's AIPAC conference in Washington.

Last updated: 2:09pm, May 26 2011