Victory Over AIPAC, What It Means, What It Doesn’t Reply

By Scott McConnell

The American Conservative

Eli Lake here does a micro-analysis of AIPAC’s failure on its Iran sanctions bill. The timeline is confusing: AIPAC supported (and probably drafted, that’s how it’s usually done) the Kirk-Menendez-Schumer legislation designed to scuttle Obama’s Iran negotiations; then it appeared to back off, signaling through many channels that it wasn’t necessary to bring the bill (which gained 59 co-sponsors, a majority but not enough to break a filibuster or override a presidential veto) up for a vote immediately. This wasn’t AIPAC’s only mixed signal: AIPAC also appeared to attack Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic Congresswoman (and pro-Israel stalwart) representing an AIPAC stronghold in South Florida for not facilitating companion legislation in the House. Then it backed off from the attack and defended her. All this took place amidst an unprecedented public debate about sanctions and Iran diplomacy which put the organization under a spotlight; AIPAC lobbying for the bill was reported openly in the New York Times, an extremely rare occurrence. As a group which prefers to work behind the scenes and win its votes by overwhelming margins, this was a doubly uncomfortable situation.

Lake doesn’t try to draw big conclusions, but it is time for a reassessment. Is the eight hundred pound gorilla of Capitol Hill really weakened? On its way out? Was AIPAC always a bit of a paper tiger, which could be blown away as soon as an American president set his mind to it? These are critical questions, whose answers will shape American mideast policy for decades to come.

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