In the summer of 2015, AIPAC found itself opposing both Obama and J Street. Though late to the game, AIPAC eventually agreed with those (like the Israeli government and all major Israeli opposition parties) who saw the Iran deal as an existential threat to the Jewish State. AIPAC raised tens of millions of dollars by claiming to work towards securing the bipartisan support of those it had long touted as friends of Israel. AIPAC’s leaders announced high-profile meetings with senator after senator, availing itself of the access it had accumulated through its years in Washington. Many of AIPAC’s Democratic friends issued lengthy statements decrying the deal’s deficiencies and emphasizing the dangers that it posed to the United States, to Israel, and to the world—fully in line with the public’s overwhelmingly unfavorable view of the deal. Yet when it came to legislative action, even senators considered among AIPAC’s staunchest allies, like Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski, Delaware’s Chris Coons, and New Jersey’s Cory Booker, failed to back the organization.
Yet this recent, high-profile failure appears to have had minimal impact on AIPAC’s self-image or strategy. Far from distancing itself from any of the fair-weather “friends” who had disappointed it, AIPAC announced that it would not let this single vote sour any of its relationships. Within days, AIPAC resumed raising funds for its old friends and has yet to suggest that any candidate’s position on the Iran deal should matter in the 2016 elections. At AIPAC’s 2016 Policy Conference, the organization welcomed numerous Democratic supporters of the Iran deal as friends of AIPAC and friends of Israel—reserving its criticism for Donald Trump–ignoring what every other lobby seems to know: While it is nice to have friends on both sides of the aisle, a reputation for rewarding friends and punishing enemies is a necessity for exercising political power.If AIPAC can't even tell who its friends (and enemies) are, then what good is it?
Update: Caroline Glick weighs in on AIPAC's moment of decision.