Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addressed AIPAC in person in 2015, will give a speech to the attendees of the 2018 AIPAC conference [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
Washington, DC – The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, is holding its 2018 policy conference in Washington, DC, on Sunday, an event meant to underscore its outsized influence inside America’s corridors of power by hosting key Congressional leaders; the US vice president; the US ambassador to the UN; and several foreign leaders.
This year’s conference will crown several of AIPAC’s accomplishments in advancing its pro-Israel agenda in Congress and in the White House.
Key to AIPAC’s congressional agenda this year will be to support Israeli goals of curbing Iran’s rising power and influence in the Middle East, something Israel sees as a threat to its own economic and military superiority in the region.
AIPAC also seeks to limit US financial support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and to target the BDS movement for its efforts against the Israeli occupation.
BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, is a Palestinian-led international initiative that seeks to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories through economic and cultural boycotts.
According to its website, AIPAC’s key legislative agenda includes: “develop a comprehensive strategy for Iran”.
Driven by AIPAC’s lobbying efforts and by pro-Israeli supporters on the American right, President Donald Trump’s administration is trying undo American nuclear deal with Iran signed under the Obama administration in 2015.
Taking on the PA
AIPAC seeks to limit US aid to the PA for its financial assistance to the families of Palestinian prisoners and detainees held by Israel mostly for their activism against Israeli occupation.
Palestinians view this assistance as key to help families cope with economic hardship when their relatives and breadwinners are imprisoned by Israel.
Another major AIPAC goal is to codify the US commitment to give Israel $38bn over the next 10 years that was committed by the Obama administration.
AIPAC wants Congress to enact a law to make those funds available to Israel regardless of who is in the White House.
If this key agenda is passed through congress, which should not be difficult given the wide support Israel enjoys there, it will prevent any future US presidents from using any component of US aid to Israel as a leverage to advance US policy objectives in the Middle East.
Israel also gets an annual $3.1bn every year since it signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979.
Through its website, AIPAC urges its members to contact their congressional representatives to support giving Israel an additional $750m for Israel’s missile defence programme.
Established in 1951 by Jewish American leaders as lobbying group to advance Israeli interests in the US, AIPAC has evolved into one of the most powerful ;obbying organisations in the US history.
Today, AIPAC says that its membership has crossed the 500,000 mark across the US.
AIPAC’s influence in American politics stems from its members’ generous financial donations to candidates for political office at both the state and national levels.
Unlike its Democratic and Republican predecessors, the Trump administration is seen to have accomplished one of AIPAC key demands of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy to the city last December, effectively ending a lonstanding US policy that left the fate of the city to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
AIPAC had successfully lobbied Congress during the Clinton administration to enact the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which became a public US law.
All of President Trump key Middle East advisers – notably US ambassador to Israel David Freedman, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt – are key supporters of Israeli rightwing policies against Palestinians.
These key advisers are effectively in charge of US foreign policy vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict and are known to favour expanding illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian areas, thus ending Palestinian hopes of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state on pre-1967 lines.
Palestinians demand that Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, to be the future capital of their independent Palestinian state.
Among the key speakers of this year’s conference is Vice President Mike Pence, who as a conservative Christian is one of Israel’s strongest backers inside the White House, and Nikki Haley, who often uses the UN platform to defend Israeli policies and its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and publicly admonish its critics at the UN.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will also address the delegates as it is customary of AIPAC conferences to invite the sitting Israeli prime minister to address AIPAC’s annual conference.
Among the key congressional leaders scheduled to speak this year are the Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Nancy Pelosi the Democratic Senate Minority leader; and several other key senators and House members.
Nana Akufo-Addo, the president of Ghana, and Edi Rama, prime minister of Albania, will be among the foreign leaders scheduled to deliver speeches at the conference.
Follow Ali Younes on Twitter @ali_resports