Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Several lobbies in Washington have pioneered the two-state solution in recent years, but the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has not been one of them, offering what Democrats considered lip service to US-led peace initiatives conducted throughout the Obama administration.
The largest Israel advocacy organization in America has focused on other matters, such as sanctioning Iran, maintaining US defense aid and combating efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Establishing an independent, viable Palestine has not been a significant agenda item. But that appeared to change this week, as senior AIPAC officials bent over backwards to emphasize their support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly between the two parties.
In private, AIPAC’s leadership told senior correspondents, lobbyists and government officials that the two-state paradigm remains their sincere preference.
Their message was clear: AIPAC is a deeply bipartisan organization, and will continue to represent the political center in Washington that is committed to a two-state outcome.
It is a tactical effort. AIPAC’s influence on Capitol Hill, for which it is so well known, is predicated on robust bipartisan support.
But that foundation has eroded on the Left amid politicization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Washington and direction confrontations with Democrats over Iran’s nuclear program.
The lobby seeks to shore up that support by reestablishing the trust of those on the Left who prioritize the establishment of a Palestinian state.
With Republicans in control of a unified government, AIPAC has an opportunity to do what J Street did for the last eight years – overtly align itself with the party in power.
But as it has in the past, AIPAC is choosing to play a longer game, treating this moment instead as an opportunity to appeal to wounded Democrats and express its commitment to the issues they care most deeply for.
AIPAC’s effort has been bolstered by US President Donald Trump’s careful and deliberate yet enthusiastic drive toward a new round of direct negotiations. Because of Trump’s interest in Israeli-Palestinian peace, AIPAC is able to appeal to Democrats on two states without ostracizing the administration.
“We will always talk about our achieving peace through negotiations between the parties, with the goal of a two-state solution,” said one AIPAC official ahead of the lobby’s annual policy conference this week. “The two-state solution has been, and continues to be the goal that we aspire to, and that will be a message we’ll continue to send through the conference.”