What Does it Mean if AIPAC Wins?

In reference to an earlier post, in which I noted the failure of a core J Street strategy -- to engineer American pressure on Israel to cease settlement activity -- I suggested that the Obama Administration's decision to try a non-confrontational approach on settlements meant that AIPAC has won this round against its would-be lobbying nemesis. Goldblog reader Yonathan Sapir asks: "Aipac wins, JStreet loses, but what about Israel?"

It's a good question. The answer is, I don't know. On the one hand, I'm obviously in the camp of people who believe that settlements are a moral, political and strategic disaster, so I of course want to see the Israeli prime minister take note of this disaster and act accordingly. On the other hand, I recognize reality and know that Israeli leaders hunker down when confronted by a hostile Administration, and then nothing happens at all. (I also recognize that Israelis have had hard and unpleasant experiences in recent times with withdrawals from South Lebanon and Gaza.)  In retrospect, I wish J Street had spent more time educating American Jews -- the sort of mainstream American Jews who belong to synagogues, give to Aipac and the ADL and the American Jewish Committee  -- about the price of settlements to the Zionist project, and only then advocated for policies that contradicted the desires of the sitting Israeli government (remember, this is the key aspect of the revolution J Street represented -- the idea that an American "pro-Israel" group would go against the wishes of the democratically-elected government of Israel if it believed that government was acting in a way that was harmful to American and Israeli interests.)

The other obvious truth here is that American Jews and their organizations are ultimately bit players in this drama -- Israelis are the ones who have to choose what sort of state they want to live in. And here's another obvious point: Will J Street even be around in its current form in coming days, now that it is enveloped in a scandal (more of a cover-up than a crime, in the traditional Washington style)?

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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