AIPAC makes a useful cudgel for anti-Semites. It’s the big, bad and powerful “Israel lobby”. If you’re being circumspect. If you’re not, it’s the “Jewish lobby”.
And it’s less relevant than ever.
The 2020 Democrats are skipping it. Though the usual majority and minority leaders of both parties show. And Obama chose to conduct counterprogramming.
But it’s not just the Democrats.
President Trump bypassed AIPAC when announcing his Golan Heights move. The step was calculated to help Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is facing a tough election against a lefty party.
The gathering was clearly aimed at Trump’s pro-Israel base. A group that AIPAC, with its notoriously wishy-washy bipartisan neutrality on everything, had kept out in the past. This year, AIPAC had made an effort to conduct some outreach to conservative and pro-Trump media.
But Trump isn’t especially interested in AIPAC. And vice versa.
Neither is Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to skip out and AIPAC and headed home in response to Hamas rocket attacks. Israel is pounding Hamas positions. And it makes sense for Israel’s leader to be there. But at the same time, Netanyahu is indicating that AIPAC doesn’t matter much.
And drawing an effective contrast with Benny Gantz, his main opponent, staying behind to posture at AIPAC, while he goes home to fight.
Netanyahu has shown Israelis that he can build a strong relationship with the United States government by bypassing AIPAC and its bipartisanship. Israel doesn’t have to spend all its time kowtowing to liberal American Jews and listening to their ill-informed arguments.
And AIPAC’s leaders are happy enough.
Netanyahu alienates Democrats. And distracts from AIPAC’s mission of blowing its own horn. But it’s tooting that horn in an echo chamber.
The important issues on Israel are moving forward with very little input from AIPAC, either on the left or on the right.