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Tue Jan 8, 2013, 12:37 PM

Pro-Israel Lobbies Split Over Hagel

“The Jewish lobby,” as former Sen. Chuck Hagel once called pro-Israeli forces in Washington, is divided over his nomination for secretary of defense.
Political action committees describing themselves as pro-Israel were on opposite sides of several high-profile congressional races. Now they’re at odds over President Barack Obama’s decision to nominate the Republican from Nebraska to run the Pentagon.
The Washington Political Action Committee, for example, contributed to the campaigns of four Republican Senate candidates, then-incumbent Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Reps. Heather Wilson of New Mexico and Allen West of Florida.

J Street’s PAC financially supported the Democrat in all four races, Harvard University professor Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Rep, Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, and Patrick Murphy in Florida. All four won.
The founder of Washington PAC, Morris Amitay, says that if he were a senator, he wouldn’t vote to confirm Hagel.

“It’s a poor choice not only regarding Israel but it’s a poor choice for national security,” Amitay said. “Someone who basically has been fairly soft on strengthening Iran sanctions and who seems to feel there can be major cuts in the defense budget is very poor choice for the United States.”

J Street, though, is behind Hagel, urging supporters to call their senators and ask them to confirm him, noting his support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



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Reply Pro-Israel Lobbies Split Over Hagel (Original post)
Purveyor Jan 2013 OP
leveymg Jan 2013 #1

Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Tue Jan 8, 2013, 12:47 PM

1. Meanwhile, AIPAC, conspicuous by its absence, pretends to be neutral.

According to Peter Beinart: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/07/why-aipac-won-t-fight-hagel.html

It’s easy to exaggerate how big a defeat all this is for AIPAC. The Hagel nomination isn’t a good test of AIPAC’s strength precisely because it’s a cabinet nomination—a topic on which president’s usually get their way. It’s much easier for AIPAC to rally members of Congress behind resolutions that limit the Obama administration’s room to maneuver on actual policy questions, where opposing the president doesn’t look like such a direct slap in the face. (It’s also easier for the Israeli government to lobby Congress on policy questions like settlement growth and Iran sanctions than on cabinet appointments.) Furthermore, the Hagel struggle hasn’t been a complete loss for hawkish Jewish groups. His political near-death experience may leave Hagel more cautious when it comes to U.S.-Israel relations than he would have been otherwise (though I doubt that means he’ll turn hawkish on Iran).

Still, the Hagel nomination is a reminder that when the President of the United States decides he really cares about something, political realities change, especially for members of Congress in his own party. Democrats in Congress may want to stay on good terms with AIPAC, but AIPAC also badly needs to stay on good terms with Democrats in Congress. Nothing is worse for AIPAC, and better for J Street, than being perceived as a partisan Republican organization. And AIPAC’s leaders are smart enough to know that given the cultural shifts inside the organization—the increased presence of right-wing Christian evangelicals and Orthodox Jews—it needs to work especially hard to counteract that perception. I suspect that played a role in AIPAC’s initial decision not to make a fuss about the Jerusalem language in the Democratic platform this summer, and its apparent decision to punt on Hagel now. It’s possible that some right-wing AIPAC lay leaders will go rogue and lobby against Hagel on their own accord. Something similar happened in the 1990s when AIPAC officially backed the Oslo peace process but powerful AIPAC board members privately lobbied against key aspects of it. It’s even possible that by not fighting Hagel, AIPAC could lose some right-wing donors to further right groups like the ZOA or Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI). But that risk pales compared to the risk of AIPAC becoming ECI or ZOA.

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