What Does it Mean if AIPAC Wins?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

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)?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/09/what-does-it-mean-if-aipac-wins/63778/