AIPAC in Decline

MADRID – The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s lobbying power in the United States is undeniable. But AIPAC’s supposed ability to control US policy decisions is a Potemkin village myth, cultivated by friends and rivals alike. In fact, thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, AIPAC’s influence is under threat – though Netanyahu himself will be just fine.

Claims about AIPAC’s clout have long shaped analysis of US foreign policy. For example, Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer, in their notorious essay “The Israel Lobby,” asserted that AIPAC manufactured the Iraq War. But the reality is far less sinister: in that case, AIPAC merely surfed on the pro-invasion wave unleashed by President George W. Bush, with his Messianic urges, and Vice President Dick Cheney, a one-man war lobby.

The truth about AIPAC – that it is influential, but far from invulnerable – has recently been revealed, both to the public and to the group itself. Having been pushed by Netanyahu into an unwinnable fight against US President Barack Obama’s administration over its nuclear deal with Iran, AIPAC is now crumbling under the weight of its own hubris.

In fact, AIPAC has never overcome resolute opposition from an American president, particularly in a matter of US national security. It failed to stop Jimmy Carter from selling F-15 Eagle fighters to Saudi Arabia in 1978, or to prevent Ronald Reagan from supplying AWACS reconnaissance planes to the Saudis three years later. And its 1991 battle with President George H.W. Bush over the linkage of US loan guarantees for Israel with Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir’s support of the 1991 Madrid peace conference – one of Bush’s key legacies – ended in defeat.