Keeping AIPAC relevant during the pandemic

#34 - Across the aisle: Betsy Berns Korn

Betsy Berns Korn (photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
Betsy Berns Korn
(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
On May 31, Betsy Korn sent an email she probably never imagined she would have to send. It was an official announcement that for the first time since the foundation of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby wouldn’t be holding its annual conference next year.
“Given the continued uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and without a predictable avenue to safely bring together thousands of pro-Israel Americans, we have been forced to cancel the 2021 AIPAC Policy Conference,” she wrote.
It has been a challenging year for AIPAC. Some Democratic presidential hopefuls skipped this year’s convention, and the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, sent a video message instead of attending in person, as contenders were busy with Super Tuesday. On top of that, a few attendees tested positive for COVID-19 after the event.
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And yet, it seems like the biggest challenge for Korn and AIPAC is more significant than arranging a Zoom conference for 2021. That is to keep AIPAC bipartisan amid the hyper-partisan reality in Washington.
The lobbying group faced that challenge in June when Israel and the US discussed a possible annexation of parts of the West Bank. Two sources – a congressional aide and a donor – told JTA that AIPAC was telling lawmakers that they were free to criticize Israel’s looming annexation plans, just as long as the criticism stopped there. That was a “Mapai-style” compromise, as they used to call it, referring to the now-defunct Israeli political party, in trying to keep everyone happy. In order to keep AIPAC bipartisan, Korn, a chess player, will have to plan a few moves ahead.