Analysis: Trump’s Israel agenda faces AIPAC test

Is US going to appease or surprise at the upcoming AIPAC conference? The former option is probably more likely.

The stage at the 2017 AIPAC conference. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The stage at the 2017 AIPAC conference.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The American Israel Public Affairs Committee convenes Sunday with a fixed agenda, set to press members of Congress to punish Iran for its regional behavior, combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and maintain robust US defense aid for the Jewish state.
But when AIPAC hosts senior members of the Trump administration at its conference for the first time, the new president’s staff will have a stage – and an opportunity – to outline an Israel policy agenda of their own.
So what will the White House bring to the table?
President Donald Trump’s team supports the lobby’s existing agenda, which includes passage of two significant bills in Congress that have already received substantial bipartisan support. One of those bills would impose new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran, while the other would target international non-governmental organizations and bodies that seek to boycott, divest and sanction Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
Nikki Haley, the president’s ambassador to the United Nations, is likely to express support for both of these initiatives. In her current role she has repeatedly condemned bias against Israel at the UN, and has threatened to pull US participation and aid from several of its agencies should they continue to disproportionately target the Jewish state.
Donald Trump at AIPAC conference in March 2016: Will veto anti-Israel moves at UN, move US embassy to Jerusalem
Vice President Mike Pence, who will address the crowd of 18,000 followers on Sunday night, is also likely to support these two bills. But he, more than any other speaker, is most likely to relay Trump’s hopes for a negotiated peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians – and his belief that “now is the time to make a deal,” as Trump told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in their first phone call earlier this month.
An AIPAC official told The Jerusalem Post last week to expect several “prominent” references to the lobby’s support for a two-state solution throughout the conference. But historically, it has been the administration in power that has struck the tone of the conference on issues of Middle East peace, not the other way around. It will be up to the Trump administration to determine whether or not now is the time to highlight its push for the peace process.