March 4-6 marked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2018 Policy Conference in Washington D.C.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the conference during a five day trip to the US.
AIPAC is the most influential pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States, boasting over 100,000 members. It has been in existence for 55 years.
Their mission statement is to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel whilst the annual conference is heralded as the largest gathering of Pro-Israel Americans.
Themes of the conference included the US embassy move, Iran’s nuclear threat and the Palestinian peace process.
In a joint press conference between Netanyahu and Trump, who each face corruption charges in their respective countries, the two mutually reaffirmed their relationship.
Netanyahu played to Trump’s ego, praising his brave decision to move the embassy and comparing him to heroic figures in Jewish history. Others talk about it, you did it, Netanyahu told Trump.
Asked whether he would be attending the Jerusalem embassy opening in May, Trump said; If I can, I will.
I think things [between America and Israel] are better than ever, declared David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel, in his address.
Netanyahu’s address was stuffed with awkward American references (even a Clint Eastwood movie) and jovial quips. He began by bragging for over ten minutes about latest IDF fighter jets, developed with American assistance; the dozens of terrorist attacks Israeli intelligence has foiled and the success of Israeli innovation and industries.
Israel is changing the world, Netanyahu said, several times.
Addressing the BDS movement Netanyahu said; Those who talk about boycotting Israel, we’ll boycott them!
He then attacked Palestinian president Abbas for paying money to families of Hamas prisoners.
Raise your hands high if you agree with me that President Abbas should stop paying terrorists for murdering Jews, he cried out, as though in a pantomime.
What message does this send to Palestinian children? It says ‘murder Jews and get rich’.
Ironically considering the violence of the occupation of Palestine, he then urged Abbas to Invest in life, invest in peace.
A great amount of lip-service was paid to the beautiful alliance, as Netanyahu described it, between the America and Israel nations.
Both Netanyahu and David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel for whom it was his first AIPAC conference, built upon shared Biblical roots, quoting King David.
Shared values are instilled in us from ancient texts, Friedman said, meaning support for Israel is a quintessential American value.
He even hinted at some sort of divine recognition for America’s support of Israel.
We can’t help but be convinced that America’s steadfast support for Israel has had a profound effect on our good fortune.
Vice President Mike Pence was representing Trump at the conference. He brought greetings from who he described as the most pro-Israel president in the history of the United States of America.
Pence evoked standing with Israel as a moral duty.
Her cause is our cause, her values our values, her fight is our fight We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, in liberty over tyranny.
He continued the narrative of Israel as a plucky nation, surviving against the odds, calling it a miracle of history.
The Jewish people have turned the desert into a garden, Pence said.
One of the most discussed speeches of the conference came from Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations. She received multiple standing ovations and even declarations of love from the audience as she described how she stands up to the bullying of Israel by the UN.
Haley attacked UNESCO for attempting to change ancient history by listing the Tomb of the Patriarchs, located in Hebron, as Palestinian and in need of protection from Israel. In response, she said, the United States withdrew from UNESCO.
Our embassy decision caused a little bit of a stir at the United Nations, she quipped coolly, in reference to the Trump’s administration recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Like most Americans, I knew what the capital of Israel was, Haley said with a large grin, met with rapturous applause. Jerusalem was, is and will always be the capital of Israel.
She continued to say that Trump had recognised a reality that American presidents had denied for too long.
She also threatened to throw American weight around by saying; President Trump and I are pushing to draw a closer connection between US foreign aid and how countries vote at the UN.
Both Haley and Friedman portrayed Israel as a victim.
Haley berated how it’s the only nation in the world that cannot choose its capital city and that only one set of refugees throughout the world is counted in a way that causes the number to grow forever, referring to Palestinians.
Friedman said that If there is no peace in the Middle East… I strongly suggest that we blame someone other than Israel for this predicament.
He stated that both the entire Trump administration and everyone living in Israel yearns for and is committed to peace. In fact, he said, Israelis would love the opportunity to spend more on hospitals and schools rather than defence, if we only had peace.
Pence said the government is currently crafting our administration’s vision for peace. But he reassured the audience that whilst peace will undoubtedly require compromise, the United States will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel.
AIPAC is not a fringe movement of the American right but is bipartisan.
Democrats Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden have both spoken at the conference in recent years and AIPAC is known for making indirect campaign contributions.
There are some Americans who vocally criticise Israel.
In his address, Friedman took jabs at liberal group J Street, which describes itself as Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace and offers an anti-Netanyahu alternative for Democratic Jews.
In an opinion piece for Haaretz, Emily Meyer who runs a movement of American Jews to end occupation (IfNotNow), wrote that young Jews and Democrats are waving goodbye to AIPAC.
My generation has only known Israel as an occupier. We won’t back anyone who supports that injustice � including the powerful lobby that is AIPAC, she wrote.
Lobby groups are currently pressuring Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera, not to broadcast a forthcoming documentary which exposes the US-Israel lobby for both spying on and smearing American citizens who are critical of Israel and for breaching the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires those working on behalf of foreign governments to register with counterintelligence.
Source: Palestine Monitor