This was my fourth visit to the Aipac policy conference in Washington, DC. After joining a panel on the UK-Israel relationship, I was able to enjoy the stellar speakers on offer.
I amused myself by doing an informal Aipac popularity index, using that trusted game-show technique, the “clapometer”, and measuring who received the greatest amount of un-British cheering, whooping and standing ovations.
Going in, I predicted a head-to-head competition between Benjamin Netanyahu and Nikki Haley (right), the US Ambassador to the United Nations.
The ovations were easy to come by. All a speaker had to do was mention either Ms Haley or Mr Netanyahu, or to thank Donald Trump for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem for the crowd to leap to their feet.
David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, was a dark horse in this popularity contest. He spoke first on the final morning and gave the best speech of the conference, measured, powerful, lyrical and thoughtful.
“Seventy years from Truman to Trump. How blessed we are to be living today,” he said.
The crowd loved it. The clapometer raced to the top.
Then, we were asked to stand for Sara Netanyahu. She was cheered into the room by an 18,000-strong standing ovation, something which I am not sure would ever happen in Israel.
When Benjamin Netanyahu did speak, he walked around the stage as though he were the CEO of Apple launching a new iPhone.
Arms wheeling, he ran through a PowerPoint presentation about Israeli military might, agricultural innovation, cyber security pioneering, economic power and so on. There were graphs, charts, pictures, diagrams, maps.
He kept the crowd on their feet with a tribute to the IDF soldiers — always certain to send the clapometer into the red — but, in the end, Bibi could not keep up the energy. His closing was downbeat and the hall was emptying before the end.
The winner of the clapometer was my alternative prediction, Ms Haley. The roof nearly came off when she was introduced. She spoke powerfully and the crowd lapped it up.
Mind you, she could have read the telephone directory and still have received more standing ovations than Bibi. Ms Haley effectively spent 15 minutes telling an appreciative crowd how she was putting the UN in its place.
She had two audience members yelling, “I love you”. Bibi got just the one — from an Israeli sounding woman whom he engaged in brief conversation. The camera, wisely, did not record his wife’s reaction.
It was a privilege to be there, to learn and to debate, and to nominate Nikki Haley as the winner of the Aipac 2018 Clapometer Stakes.
Simon Johnson is the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council