What role for AIPAC in the process?

aipacRon Kampeas reported on Thursday that AIPAC’s official endorsement of the U.S. push for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is (a) three sentences long, (b) buried on the organization’s website, and (c) appears to have been shared only with those who cared enough to seek it out. Yet back in June, AIPAC’s president gave John Kerry’s diplomacy a reportedly “hearty” endorsement in a meeting with U.S. Senators—and furthermore AIPAC was in the room when Kerry and Martin Indyk briefed American Jewish leaders on their progress, also on Thursday.

What this brings to mind for me is a different Kampeas story, from February: AIPAC’s failure to mention the conflict in its annual legislative agenda. Israel’s special relationship with America? Check. U.S. security aid to Israel? Check. Iran? Check. (Double-check, actually, as the topic of Iran took up two of the four slots on the agenda). The conflict that has defined and shaped Israel since its inception? Quietly buried in a panel discussion.

And of course, there’s this: Twenty years ago, when the Oslo Accords were the newest game in town, AIPAC was outright hostile to Rabin’s efforts, and actively worked to undermine them. In 2007, on the other hand, one of the organization’s biggest donors, Sheldon Adelson, abandoned ship over a letter calling for increased aid to the Palestinian Authority. And then there was AIPAC’s opposition to the modest (and Potemkin-esque) settlement freeze during Obama’s first term.

Which is to say: AIPAC has a pattern of opposing any movement that might promote an equitable peace, and getting slapped when it fails to do so sufficiently. It might be worth noting, in this context, that the Senators before whom president Michael Kassen heartily endorsed renewed peace talks were all Democrats; would his endorsement have carried the same heartiness if he had been standing in front of, say, House Republicans?

Probably not. Israel’s right is currently canvassing House Republicans in an effort to undo Kerry’s work, and not employing what one might call subtlety in the process: “When [Kerry] fails—and he will fail,” the JTA was told by the “foreign envoy” of Israel’s settler movement, “the fact that the Secretary of State of the United States failed will be noticed very clearly in Tehran and in Damascus and in Moscow and in Pyongyang.” Dani Dayan also told the press that he “would like Congress to explain to the State Department that this is a morally improper way to conduct diplomacy.”

Putting aside the question of whether or not elected U..S representatives ought to meet with an ally’s cut-rate, self-appointed diplomats as they work to make America’s own foreign policy goals unachievable; putting aside whether or not Dani Dayan should be in a position to tell the U.S. Congress what conversation to have with the US Department of State; putting aside who might have a better grasp of America’s best interests (Israeli settlers or U.S. generals)—it’s clear why AIPAC might feel a need to be circumspect about its endorsement, hearty or begrudging.

Which might, in fact, suit John Kerry just fine.

The Secretary of State has made it abundantly clear that he wants this whole process to be as drama-free as humanly possible. He’s made it abundantly clear that he wants no leaks, no rumors, and nothing that might give the naysayers a chance to pull the process down before it even gets to its feet. Having American Jewish leaders over to the White House a week before talks are meant to get underway was a very astute move, giving those leaders a slice of ownership in what Kerry’s doing, while possibly mollifying those who might support the Just Say No crowd. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: John Kerry knows a thing or two.

Whether or not AIPAC’s leaders have changed their spots and are suddenly on board with all that a two-state agreement will entail (national boundaries based on the 1967 borders; a shared Jerusalem; and a mutually-agreed resolution of the refugee issue) is still, clearly, up in the air. I rather doubt it myself.

But if John Kerry can keep AIPAC quiet, I don’t need it to shout support from the roof tops. Saying one thing while signaling another and then perhaps saying something else again is how many, many stakeholders will be playing things in the coming months, and AIPAC and its rejectionist backers have never represented this American-Israeli Jew in any way, shape, or form.

All I need from AIPAC is for it to not aid those who are trying to destroy what may well be Israel’s last chance for peace. Because my home and my people deserve that peace, and they really need it.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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