(photo credit: COURTESY AIPAC)
Executive director of the American in Israel Public Affairs Committee since 1996, Howard Kohr has navigated Washington’s largest Israel lobby through some of its most turbulent times. A nuclear agreement brokered between world powers and Iran in 2015 was his biggest test yet. He believed that AIPAC had no choice but to confront the Democratic administration and oppose the deal on its merits, forcing the organization to face accusations of partisanship over an issue it considered of paramount importance to US-Israel relations.
Since then, Kohr’s mission has been to rebuild AIPAC’s ties with the Democratic Party and its reputation as a bipartisan force – the very foundation of support on which the lobby is based. This is not an easy task in a Washington that is increasingly polarized, partly due to the presence of Donald Trump in the White House but also because of the leftward turn the Democratic Party has taken in recent years. Keeping Israel in the consensus and building partnerships across the aisle will not be easy but it will prove to be of extreme importance for the Jewish state in the years to come.
Instrumental in achieving that goal are two key initiatives: the trips AIPAC runs for freshman congressmen - two were held over the summer for Republicans and Democrats - as well as the Policy Conference which brings close to 20,000 people to Washington each year to show their support for Israel.
In recent months, Kohr has been at the center of negotiations over an equally delicate crisis: the state of prayer at the Western Wall and the evolution of the Israeli conversion law.
Victories by the Haredi parties in Israel on these matters continue to ostracize Diaspora communities, especially in America, forcing AIPAC
– whose mission is to sustain US-Israel ties – to step into the fray.