AIPAC's Uncertain Role in the Upcoming Hagel Nomination

By Jeffrey Goldberg

I'll have more on the nomination of Chuck Hagel later, but just one note for the moment: There's an assumption out there that AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel group on Capitol Hill, will be supporting an all-fronts effort to block this nomination, for all of the reasons being discussed: He's unfriendly to Israel, he's soft on Iran, and so on. But I'm not so sure AIPAC will be throwing itself into this fight.

AIPAC, unlike, say, the Republican Jewish Coalition, or the Bill Kristol Coalition, tries --  sometimes imperfectly -- to both be, and appear to be, bipartisan. The people who run AIPAC aren't stupid: They know that if they foment strong opposition to Hagel on the Hill, they will earn President Obama's enmity, whether or not they succeed or fail. Discussions inside the group -- and what the group is hearing from its friends on the Hill, and in the administration -- is that the president very much wants Hagel at Defense, and would be very upset if a group whose agenda he has more-or-less supported (a strong no to containment of Iran, maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge, siding with Israel at the United nations) tries to deny him the defense secretary he wants, and who is a personal friend.

The administration is worried most about AIPAC -- it does not generally pay attention to the editorials of The Weekly Standard -- and its emissaries have been working overtime to ensure AIPAC's quiescence. I could obviously be wrong, and information may come out in confirmation hearings that makes it impossible for AIPAC to sideline itself, but my guess at this moment is that the AIPAC will not mount a significant campaign on the Hill.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/01/aipacs-uncertain-role-in-the-upcoming-hagel-nomination/266876/