Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

Now this could be a big deal.

A top staffer for billionaire philanthropist George Soros met recently with senior representatives of the dovish pro-Israel community to discuss setting up an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, JTA has learned.

Morton Halperin, a director of Soros' Open Society Institute and a veteran of senior positions in the Clinton, Nixon and Johnson administrations, confirmed to JTA that the meeting took place late last month. He would not add details.

"It was a private meeting, it was an effort to get this off the ground," said Halperin, who directs the institute's U.S. advocacy.

The meeting focused on how best to press Congress and the Bush administration to back greater U.S. engagement toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how to better represent American Jews who don't buy into AIPAC's often hawkish policies.

Contacted by JTA, an AIPAC spokesman said he was not aware of the effort, but officials with the group did not express any concern that the new initiative posed a threat.

JTA has learned from a variety of sources that a follow-up meeting focused on funding will take place in New York on Oct. 26.

Soros is to attend, and other major Jewish liberals are invited, including Peter Lewis, who like Soros is a major contributor to MoveOn.org, the Web-based, liberal fund-raising group; Edgar and Charles Bronfman, major philanthropists to Israel and Jewish causes; and Mel Levine, a former Democratic congressman and high-powered West Coast lawyer.

If it comes to fruition, it would be Soros' first major venture into Israel advocacy. Soros drew fire from some Jews in 2003 when at a conference on funding for Israel, he suggested that Israel bore some responsibility for the outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe because of its stiff response to Palestinian terrorism during the intifada.

Oct. 26 also is the date of a New York City retreat for board members of the Israel Policy Forum, a dovish pro-Israel group whose executive director, David Elcott, is leading the new initiative with Halperin. It's not clear whether the potential funders will meet at the board retreat, or separately.

Another leader of the initiative is Jeremy Ben-Ami, a senior policy adviser to President Clinton who now works for Fenton, one of Washington's largest public relations outfits.

The late September meeting -- no one would give a precise date -- took place in Washington.

In addition to Halperin and Elcott, others in attendance were Debra DeLee, president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now; Mara Rudman, a Clinton-era member of the National Security Council and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank; Daniel Levy, a former adviser to dovish Israeli politician Yossi Beilin who now works at the New America Foundation, another Washington think tank; M.J. Rosenberg, director of IPF's Washington office; Jeremy Rabinovitz, chief of staff to Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a congresswoman who often backs positions taken by the dovish pro-Israel groups; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, and his deputy, Mark Pelavin; and representatives of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, another dovish, pro-Israel advocacy group.

AIPAC is deeply unrepresentative of the mostly liberal Jewish population in this country.  It's good to see them getting some possible competition.  Actually, it could be game-changing.

Tags: AIPAC (all tags)

Comments

16 Comments

Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

Wow. This is incredibly good news. AIPAC might have once served a purpose in helping Israel defend itself, but it has long since ceased to serve that purpose and arguable serves the exact opposite one at this point given how it is run by and supports the neocon agenda.

There are many people, both Jews and non-Jews, who support Israel (but not all of its policies, of course) but who would never be able or willing to work with or support AIPAC. It's good to see that there will now be a progressive pro-Israel organization that they will be able to work with and support.

Thank you Mr. Soros, and thank you for helping to fund and organize this "liberal conspiracy". May all "conspiracies" be this progressive and enlightened.

by kovie 2006-10-11 09:44PM | 0 recs
Hmmm....

While certainly I have much reprehension about dividing up pro-Israel community, it certainly cannot be denied that the Neo-Conservative tide has swept up the leadership of AIPAC.  Even if this group fails to challange AIPAC seriously, I certainly hope it scares the leadership into moderating it's policies and type of legislation it supports.  

by ira13ping 2006-10-11 10:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Hmmm....

It's not a divide. Theoretically, both organizations would have the well being of Israel-US relations at heart...

...okay I'm done with THAT.

by MNPundit 2006-10-12 04:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

I used to support AIPAC, but now I see them more as pro-Likud rather than pro-Israel.  Good to see someone move to balance out the hawkishness.  Still, if Soros wants to put money into something, I wish he'd start buying some media outlets.  

by bosdcla14 2006-10-11 10:42PM | 0 recs
fair enough

I still support AIPAC.  Granted, the ZOA has way more influence now than probably necessary for AIPAC to be an effective pro-israel lobby.  It seems to me that Bush has probably only brought not only Neo-Conservative gentiles into power, but Jewish ones as well.   Certainly, Likud, has grown strong agian because of that lobby as well.  

However, with the threat of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraqi insurgents, and Iran, I cannot help but worry for Israel's saftey and question if a progressive/dovish pro-Israel group will be able to lobby to keep Israel and her citizens (Jewish and non-Jewish) safe.

by ira13ping 2006-10-11 10:50PM | 0 recs
Isreal will be safer if they get along with their

Bombing people is not a good way to convince them not to bomb you.

by delmoi 2006-10-11 11:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Isreal will be safer if they get along with th

Gimme' a break.

by ira13ping 2006-10-12 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: fair enough

AIPAC threatened a Democratic  congresswoman from WI (or it could have been MN) earlier this year. They have crossed the line. AIPAC has been involved too closely with American policy makers and have received privileged information in the past.

I can never condone an organization like this.

by Pravin 2006-10-12 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

Yeah, just what we need, ANOTHER Israel lobby.

Instead of trying to get the U.S. to "solve" the Israeli-Palestenian conflict (we do such a good job in these things) just commit the U.S. to a position of supporting Israel, but not unconditionally & out of scope with other liberal democracies. International bodies like the U.N. & NGOs are the ones who should be solving the Israeli-Palestenian affair.

If this thing is going to happen, it would be nice if the new organization could maybe peel away the more liberal/Democratic friendly corners of AIPAC away (such as the ones that only give money to pro-choice Democratic women & such) and get them tojoin the new kids. That way they would have power leverage.

And whatever can be said of Soros, blaming jews for the anti-semitism expressed against them is just perverse & plain wrong.

by Epitome22 2006-10-11 11:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

Yeah, I really wasn't to pleased with Soros when he said that either.  It seems like this potential group is already starting to peal away parts of the liberal/Democratic AIPAC factions.

by ira13ping 2006-10-12 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

israel is not all jews, and its actions are often unhelpful to the Jewish community.  

by Dameocrat 2006-10-12 11:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

Is that Mort Halperin, ABC Note Mark Halperin's father?  It can't be that common a name...

by Nina Katarina 2006-10-12 03:40AM | 0 recs
They should coordinate with the NJDC

The National Jewish Democratic Council.

They are currently running an ad attacking the GOP for making support for Israel a partisan wedge issue.

by Hesiod Theogeny 2006-10-12 04:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

This is terrific news and long overdue.

by Alice Marshall 2006-10-12 05:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

AIPAC does not set their own agenda. AIPAC represents the duly elected government of Israel, regardless of which party happens to be in power at that time. During the 1990's when the official Israeli government policy was in favor of the Oslo process, AIPAC supported it as well.

Without getting into a whole discussion on the Middle East situation, the current breakdown is directly linked to the PA and Yasser Arafat walking away from negotiations after Camp David and beginning the intifada, as well as the corruption within Fatah which led to the election of the current Hamas government.

The progressive community would do well to follow the lead of Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York whose progressive bonafides are unmatched, yet he is still a strong and vigorous supporter of Israel.

by Sy Gold 2006-10-12 07:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting Development on the AIPAC Front

Not true!  Several labor governments have complained about their Likud bias.  According to the "American Prospect article "Is it good for the Jews"

Rabin had an openly tempestuous relationship with AIPAC. Having witnessed the organization's closeness to Likud, Rabin demanded that he and not they be the ultimate arbiter of Israel's dialogue with the United States.

Rabin might have been able to get his way with the executive branch, but it was a different story with Congress. For the United States to play its designated role in the peace process, enabling legislation needed to be enacted. This took the form of MEPFA -- the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act of 1993. The conditionalities, certification, and reporting requirements that Congress tried and sometimes successfully built into MEPFA, were an overt attempt to sabotage the peace process.

Worse was to follow. At a particularly sensitive moment in the peace negotiations and with the 1996 presidential and congressional elections approaching, a number of AIPAC and Republican leaders moved to throw a wrench in the works -- the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. The act required the U.S. Embassy in Israel to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a given time frame. It inflamed Arab opinion and cornered both the Clinton and Rabin governments. It had been tried before (and again since), but never had it been used as so blunt a political instrument in U.S. and Israeli domestic politics. Israel cannot publicly oppose it but has never prioritized it. Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole announced the initiative at the 1995 AIPAC Annual Conference. The Likud cheered, using it to attack Rabin precisely as the incitement that ultimately led to his assassination was reaching its peak. Itamar Rabinovich, then the Israeli ambassador in Washington, has called it the "The Jerusalem Hijack," writing about "how embarrassing it was."  

by Dameocrat 2006-10-12 11:16AM | 0 recs

Diaries

Advertise Blogads