Iran Deal Loss Highlights Limits of AIPAC’s Influence

Iran Deal Loss Highlights Limits of AIPAC’s Influence
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, Washington, March 2, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

With the Iran nuclear deal well on its way to safe passage through Congress, the post-mortem tallies of winners and losers are already being written. And one name, seemingly more than any other, can regularly be found in the loser column: AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.

On the surface, this makes a lot of sense—AIPAC got steamrolled. By some estimates the organization will have spent as much as $40 million, much of it on television advertisements that have run in two dozen states, in trying to kill the deal in Congress. All these efforts have appeared to accomplish so far is to influence two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Benjamin Cardin, to come out in opposition to the agreement. While Republicans will vote en masse against the deal, that has far more to do with satisfying their base of evangelical voters, who are strongly supportive of Israel, and a partisan imperative to oppose President Barack Obama than it does with AIPAC’s lobbying campaign.

According to long-time critics of AIPAC—and of pro-Israel organizations, in general—the organization has been dealt a grievous blow. As Robert Wexler, president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, recently noted, “If the 800-pound gorilla challenges and loses, then the deterrence factor is seriously weakened.”

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