The annual gathering of the center of Jewish control over the world (American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC’s Policy Conference) starts the process this coming Saturday. And I will be attending, as I have for the last four years. A current list of the political class speakers invited and accepting is below, including President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The gathering will be 13,000 strong (10,000 last year) and will probably be a much larger number for the Monday night Gala Event that hosts the biggest gathering of our US Congressmen and Congresswomen outside of the actual Congress. That, folks, is a measure of the bi-partisan support for Israel in the country and an indication of the importance the subject of Israel has on the minds of America’s leaders, as well as the minds of the American people.
That was not always the case. For instance, the relationship between Israel and US President Lyndon B. Johnson was so rocky that he threatened Israel that “they would be on their own” if they attacked pre-emptively against Arab threats toward the Jewish State in May of 1967. Egypt, under the pan-Arabist Gamal Abdul Nasser, illegally kicked out the peacekeeping UN Emergency Force (UNEF) from the Sinai, moved in troops and tanks and munitions there, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping traffic, and threatened to annihilate Israeli sovereignty at the hand of joint Arab League attacks. Nasser said, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel.” The world knows well the resulting story whereby Israel on June 5, 1967 pre-empted a possible Egyptian attack, took air superiority and went on to defeat the combined Arab armies in the famously titled “Six Day War.” It was only after that war that US leaders went from visualizing Israel as a liability to Israel as a strategic asset. The American people, on the other hand, have always, by majorities, supported the Israeli State. Support today is stronger than ever.
Since then, an alliance has grown by leaps and bounds in fields as diverse as financial, technology, military, cultural, religious, medical, security and intelligence. AIPAC is partly a gathering of Israeli experts and American experts in many fields, but related to the growing relationship between them; particularly on questions related to the Middle East. This year, that would put the AIPAC Policy Conference on a path to considering the questions of Iranian nuclear development and the upcoming November, 2012 elections. Thus the acute interest in the Washington’s political class to come and speak at the convention.
It is well known that Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship together, but many have also pointed out, including the Israelis, that President Obama has been a great friend to Israel in the last year. It is apparent that they do not, at least by publicly gleaned information, see eye to eye on the question of whether to use military force against Iran in the near future. Israel today has said it will not give the US government an advance heads up on its decision to attack Iran if and when they come to that line. Also, Netanyahu’s ex-Chief of Staff has said an Israeli attack is imminent. The fear in certain quarters is that the US will allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb and will not take strong enough action to stop it, either in a sanctions regime against Iran or a military strike at Iranian nuclear assets. Iran has already reached uranium enrichment of 20% and is starting to put its nuclear material-producing centrifuges deep underground. The window of opportunity for a military strike is publicly acknowledged by Israel as closing fast.
Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and 31 other Senators introduced legislation intended to show bi-partisan support for even stronger sanctions against Iran, and specific triggers (dependent on Iranian intentions) that would call for the US to respond with a military strike on Iran. The legislation, called a Sense of the Senate, specifically calls on the President to make it the official policy of the United States NOT to adhere to a policy of containment of Iran. The Policy Conference leaders hope to lobby our Congressional legislators in some 500 meetings on Capitol HIll on Tuesday with Conference attendees, immediately after the end of the Policy Conference itself.
Notable speakers already confirmed for this year’s conference include:
• President Barack Obama
• Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
• Israeli President Shimon Peres
• Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
• Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
• House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
• Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
• Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
• Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
• Republican Candidate for President and Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
• Republican Candidate for President and Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
• President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Former Member of Congress Jane Harman
• CNN Contributor Paul Begala
• Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile
• Fox News Contributor Liz Cheney
• Editor of The Weekly Standard William Kristol
• Political Analyst for NBC News Mike Murph