In 2010, I decided to go to the AIPAC Policy Conference. Why? Because I felt I wanted to know more about Israel- what Israeli leaders were saying, what other experts were saying, the challenges/opportunities, and what U.S elected officials were thinking and/or saying. Before AIPAC 2010 I would have said Israel was important to me, but I wasnt sure I was paying attention to it as if it were that important.
Well, I heard HIllary and Senators Shumer, Graham and Bayh. I heard Netanyahu and Livni. I heard Baptists, Catholics and Mormons profess their love and support of Israel based on their belief in the Bible. It was exhilirating. And I signed up to go back in 2011.
Well, I have just returned from AIPAC 2011. And with everything that is happening in the Region (the Arab Spring, the “reconciliation” of Fatah and Hamas, and Iran’s influence), i knew there was no lack of things to talk about. We are in unprecedented times.
And, with over 10,000 of my closest friends I heard President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Senators Reid and Kirk, Congressional Leaders Boehner and Cantor,Tzippi Livni, former CIA Director Woolsey and Tea Party advocates Dick Armey and Gary Bauer.
Ater 48 exhausting hours, I can tell you the key take-aways for me: -Peace Negotiations-The President tried to clarify his remarks from last Thursday and the reception by the audience was muted. Harry Reid broke with the President (in my opinion) and said no preconditions could be a part of sitting down to negotiate and that the 1967 borders were not defensible. This was echoed by Boehner, Cantor and the Tea Party speakers.
-Delegitimization-I think Prime Minister Netanyahu said it best when he referenced that Israel is not the problem in the Middle East. It is not what is wrong there, it is what is right. The people risking their lives in the Arab Spring are not protesting against Israel, they are protesting to have what Israel has(Freedom, Liberty, the opportunity to have a better life, the chance for Women to have rights/drive a car).
Iran- Every speaker I heard addressed Iran and its infuence on Hamas, Hezbollah, etc, as well as the hypocrisy of Iran supporting the Arab Spring but crushing internal dissent. Their role can not be underestimated and they will not stop the drive for nuclear capability. We can not take our eye off the ball on this one, and while current sanctions are not working, others are hopeful that new legislation will prove more successful.
If you want to really know what is going on in Israel, and what our elected officials are planning to do about it, I don’t think you can find a better option than the Annual AIPAC Conference. And if you have heard a big part of AIPAC is lobbying, you don’t have to participate in that. I haven’t for the past 2 years, and you don’t have to either!
If you, like me in 2010, say Israel is important to you, then learn more about it than you can read in the paper. Hear it from the people driving the political process and making the news!!