For too long, U.S. policy toward Israel has been controlled by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), a group that demands unequivocal support for all Israel’s policies even when they are indefensible. AIPAC’s power was on display last month when a resolution was brought before the United Nations Security Counsel demanding an immediate halt by Israel to the building of settlements on Palestinian land.
The resolution put the Obama administration in a difficult position. The United States has repeatedly voiced its belief that Israel’s continued settlement building is an obstacle to peace and a violation of international law. In fact, Washington recently offered Israel an extra $3.5 billion in aid to freeze settlement building for 90 days in order to restart the peace process.
The U.N. resolution had more than 100 cosponsors and was supported by all 14 other members of the Security Council, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany, all U.S. allies who share our mission to assure a peaceful and safe future for Israel. British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed the group consensus, saying it is “precisely because of” concerns for the security of Israel and “the stability of the region around her” that Britain supports the resolution.
The U.S. had three choices. It could support the resolution. It could abstain and let it go forward to a vote. Or it could block the resolution with a veto. This decision came at a critical time when growing street protests in the Middle East have exposed the gap between America’s rhetoric about democracy and freedom, and the reality of our support for dictators.
But Israel opposed the resolution and AIPAC demanded that the United States veto it. Leaders in Congress, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all parroted AIPAC’s demand.