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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC; , ) is a lobbying group that advocates for pro-Israelmarker policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United Statesmarker. The current President of the AIPAC is David Victor, from Detroit, Michiganmarker. As an independent, not-for-profit entity, AIPAC is funded entirely through contributions from its members.

Describing itself as "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," AIPAC is a mass-membership organization whose members include Democrats, Republicans, and independents. The New York Times calls it "the most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel." It has been described as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, DCmarker, and its critics have stated it acts as an agent of the Israeli government with a "stranglehold" on the US Congress.

A Pentagonmarker analyst pled guilty to charges of passing US government secrets to two AIPAC staffers in what is known as the AIPAC espionage scandal. Both staffers were later fired.


Founded in the 1950s by Isaiah L. "Si" Kenen, AIPAC's original name was the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs. According to UCLAmarker political science professor and author, Steven Spiegel, "the tension between the Eisenhower administration and Israeli supporters was so acute that there were rumors (unfounded as it turned out) that the administration would investigate the American Zionist Council. Therefore, an independent lobbying committee was formed, which years later was renamed AIPAC."In his book describing the early history of AIPAC, Kenen wrote that AIPAC's Executive Committee decided to change their name from American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs to American Israel Public Affairs Committee "to enlarge constituency and support."

US Department of Justice files reveal that the Kennedy administration ordered the American Zionist Council to register as the agent of Israel under the Foreign Agents Registration Act; these files were declassified in 2008.

Michael Oren writes in his book, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, “Though founded in 1953, AIPAC had only now in the mid-70s, achieved the financial and political clout necessary to sway congressional opinion. Confronted with opposition from both houses of Congress, Ford rescinded his “reassessment”.”Michael Oren (2007). Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present (New York: W.W. Norton & Company) p. 336.

The infelicitous combination of Ford and Rabin produced the direst crisis in US-Israeli relations since Suez, with Ford pronouncing a “reassessment” of American support for the Jewish state. Rabin responded by mobilizing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee --- AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby --- against the president. Though founded in 1953, AIPAC had only now in the mid-70s, achieved the financial and political clout necessary to sway congressional opinion. Confronted with opposition from both houses of Congress, Ford rescinded his “reassessment.” George Lenczowski notes a similar, mid-1970s, timeframe for the rise of AIPAC power. “It [the Carter Presidency] also coincides with the militant emergence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as a major force in shaping American policy toward the Middle East.” He further notes that this period also coincides with a major shift in Israeli policies related to the election of Menachem Begin in Israel.

A US Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation revealed that AIPAC Founder Isaiah L. Kenen continued to receive funding from Israel for lobbying and public relations into the early 1960s.

AIPAC's web site states that it "has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement."

Aims and activities

AIPAC's stated purpose is to lobby the Congress of the United States on issues and legislation related to Israel.AIPAC regularly meets with members of Congress and holds events where it can share its views.AIPAC is not a political action committee, and does not directly donate to campaign contributions. Nevertheless, according to The Washington Post, "money is an important part of the equation." Like many other Americanmarker lobbying groups, AIPAC provides analyses of the voting records of U.S. Representatives and Senators with regard to how they voted on legislation related to its concerns. The Washington Post states that AIPAC's "web site, which details how members of Congress voted on AIPAC's key issues, and the AIPAC Insider, a glossy periodical that handicaps close political races, are scrutinized by thousands of potential donors. Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group, and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. ... Between the 2000 and the 2004 elections, the 50 members of AIPAC's board donated an average of $72,000 each to campaigns and political action committees."

AIPAC's aims include pressuring the Palestinian Authority to adhere to its commitments to fight terrorism and incitement against Israel, strengthening bilateral relations through shared intelligence and foreign military and economic aid to Israel, condemning the actions of Iran for pursuing nuclear status and questioning the Holocaust, and levying financial restrictions in order to hinder its nuclear development.

According to the Jewish News Weekly, "AIPAC never explicitly supported or lobbied for the Iraq war, but some in the pro-Israel community once saw the war as an effort that would more closely align the United States and Israel against a common enemy: Arab and Muslim radicalism. Additionally, it was considered churlish to deny support to the Middle East policy of a president who is so profoundly pro-Israel. Those views are now unraveling with the ongoing violence in Iraq." According to the Washington Post, "Once it was clear that the Bush administration was determined to go to war [in Iraq], AIPAC cheered from the sidelines". Some observers suggested the official silence owed to concerns that linking Israel to the war "could alienate friendly Arab states by suggesting that the war is driven by Israel's interests."

AIPAC's official position on Iran is to encourage a strong diplomatic and economic response coordinated among the United Statesmarker, its European allies, Russiamarker, and Chinamarker. In line with this approach, AIPAC has lobbied to levy economic embargoes and increase sanctions against Iran.But according to the Jewish News Weekly, in 2006 AIPAC "successfully pressed for the removal of a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have required the president to get congressional approval for war against Iran" because it would have "restrain[ed] Bush" in confronting Iran.

AIPAC also provides political leadership training to undergraduate student groups in an effort to build a stronger pro-Israel on and off campuses nationwide.

In March 2009, AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr appeared before the House Committee on Appropriations' Foreign Operations subcommittee to testify about the importance of U.S. aid to Israel. Kohr stated that "American assistance to Israel serves vital U.S. national security interests and advances critical U.S. foreign policy goals" and requested that Israel receive $2.775 billion in military aid in fiscal year 2010, as called for in the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel that allocates $30 billion in aid for the Jewish state over 10 years. Kohr stated that the military hardware Israel must purchase to face the increased threat of terrorism and Islamic radicalism is increasingly expensive due to the recent spike in oil prices which have enabled countries such as Iran to augment their military budgets. However, he added that Israel will also increase its defense spending as part of this effort.

AIPAC's views of its strengths and achievements

AIPAC claims its strengths lie in its national membership base and great research capacity to understand both Israel's interest and the interests of other countries affecting U.S.-Israel relationship around the world. Some of AIPAC's recent achievements can be found on their web site.


AIPAC advises members of Congress about the issues that face today's Middle East, including the dangers of extremism and terrorism. It was an early supporter of the Counter-Terrorism Act of 1995, which resulted in increased FBI resources being committed to fight terrorism, as well as expanded federal jurisdiction in prosecuting criminal activities related to terrorism.

AIPAC has also supported the funding of a number of Israeli military projects that have resulted in new additions to the arsenal of the United States Armed Forces. Israel's Arrow anti-missile system is now the most advanced working anti-ballistic missile system in the world. It is being mass produced at a Boeing plant in Huntsville, Alabama for use by both the United States and Israel. Additionally, the U.S. military has purchased Israeli-made tank armor, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other technologies for use in its operations.

AIPAC lobbies for financial aid from the United States to Israel, helping to procure up to three billion in aid yearly making Israel "the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II." Additionally, the result of AIPAC's efforts include numerous exceptional provisions that are not available to other American allies. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), these include providing aid "as all grant cash transfers, not designated for particular projects, and...transferred as a lump sum in the first month of the fiscal year, instead of in periodic increments. Israel is allowed to spend about one quarter of the military aid for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and services, including research and development, rather than in the United States."

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, which is highly critical of American support for Israel, has estimated total aid since 1949 at approximately $108 billion.

The New York Times described AIPAC on July 6, 1987 as "a major force in shaping United States policy in the Middle East." In 1997, Fortune magazine named AIPAC the second-most powerful influence group in Washington, D.C.


Former Senator William Fulbright, in the 1970s, and former senior CIA official Victor Marchetti, in the 1980s, contended that AIPAC should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). FARA requires those who receive funds or act on behalf of a foreign government to register as a foreign agent. AIPAC is a registered American lobbying group funded by private donations, and maintains it receives "no financial assistance" from Israel or any other foreign group.

In 2006, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesotamarker demanded an apology from AIPAC, claiming an AIPAC representative had described her vote against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 as "support for terrorists." McCollum stated that AIPAC representatives would not be allowed in her office until she received a written apology for the comment. AIPAC disputed McCollum's claim, and McCollum has since declared the incident over.

Steiner resignation

In 1992, AIPAC president David Steiner was forced to resign after he was recorded boasting about his political influence in obtaining aid for Israel. Steiner also claimed that he had
met with (then Bush U.S. Secretary of State) Jim Baker and I cut a deal with him. I got, besides the $3 billion, you know they're looking for the Jewish votes, and I'll tell him whatever he wants to hear ... Besides the $10 billion in loan guarantees which was a fabulous thing, $3 billion in foreign, in military aid, and I got almost a billion dollars in other goodies that people don't even know about.
Steiner also claimed to be "negotiating" with the incoming Clinton administration over who Clinton would appoint as Secretary of State and Secretary of the National Security Agencymarker. Steiner stated that AIPAC had "a dozen people in [the Clinton] campaign, in the headquarters... in Little Rock, and they're all going to get big jobs."

NY real estate developer Haim Katz told The Washington Times that he taped the conversation because "as someone Jewish, I am concerned when a small group has a disproportionate power. I think that hurts everyone, including Jews. If David Steiner wants to talk about the incredible, disproportionate clout AIPAC has, the public should know about it."

Espionage allegations

In April 2005, AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were fired by AIPAC amid an FBImarker investigation into whether they passed classified U.S. information received from Franklin on to the government of Israel. They were later indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel,.AIPAC agreed to pay the legal fees for Weissman's defense through appeal if necessary,but charges were subsequently dropped.

In May 2005, the Justice Departmentmarker announced that Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a U.S. Air Force Reserves colonel working as a Department of Defense analyst at the Pentagon in the office of Douglas Feith, had been arrested and charged by the FBI with providing classified national defense information to Israel. The six-count criminal complaint identified AIPAC by name and described a luncheon meeting in which, allegedly, Franklin disclosed top-secret information to two AIPAC officials.

Franklin pleaded guilty to passing government secrets to Rosen and Weissman and revealed for the first time that he also gave classified information directly to an Israeli government official in Washington. On January 20, 2006, he was sentenced to 151 months (almost 13 years) in prison and fined $10,000. As part of the plea agreement, Franklin agreed to cooperate in the larger federal investigation.


  • AIPAC has a wide base of supporters both in and outside of Congress. Support among congressional members includes a majority of members of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. According to American Prospect magazine, "AIPAC's 2002 annual conference included 50 senators, 190 representatives, and more than a dozen senior administration officials."

  • Historian Michael Oren argued in his 2007 bestseller, "Power, Faith, and Fantasy", that strong American support for Israel derives from Puritan-Republican roots of the United States itself.

  • Rep. John McCain said in his speech to the 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference "[T]here are ties between America and Israel that critics of our alliance have never understood, /../ that's because they do not fully understand the love of liberty and the persuit of justice."[27295]

  • Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) has argued that America supports Israel because they share fundamental values as "freedom-loving people" who "deserve to have a free and secure state.'" Nancy Pelosi similarly stated that "America and Israel share an unbreakable bond: in peace and war; and in prosperity and in hardship."


Protesters at AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, May 2005
Among the best-known critical works about AIPAC is The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by University of Chicagomarker professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard Universitymarker Kennedy School of Government professor Stephen Walt. In the working paper and resulting book they accuse AIPAC of being "the most powerful and best known" component of a larger pro-Israel lobby that distorts American foreign policy. They write:
"AIPAC's success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it.
AIPAC makes sure that its friends get strong financial support from the myriad pro-Israel PAC.
Those seen as hostile to Israel, on the other hand, can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to their political opponents.
The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S.
Open debate about U.S. policy towards Israel does not occur there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world."

AIPAC has also been the subject of criticism by prominent politicians including Representative Dave Obey of Wisconsin, former Senator Mike Gravel, and former Representative Cynthia McKinney.

Further reading

  • Kenen, Isaiah (1981). Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington. ISBN 0879751592
  • Smith, Grant F. (2008). America's Defense Line: The Justice Department's Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government. ISBN 0976443724
  • Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen M. (2007). The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. ISBN 0374177724
  • Oren, Michael (2007). Power, Faith, and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East, 1776 to 2006. ISBN 0393058263
  • Petras, James (2006). The Power of Israel in the United States. ISBN 0932863515


  1. AIPAC President David Victor. Main Website. Accessed February 1st, 2009.
  2. AIPAC, AIPAC website
  3. Learn about AIPAC. AIPAC Main Website.
  4. Guilty plea entered in Pentagon Spy Case Ynet News. 10/06/05
  5. The Israel Lobby Archive [1] Accessed November 14, 2008
  6. The Israel Lobby Archive [2] Accessed November 14, 2008
  7. AIPAC Web Site [3] Accessed April 18, 2007
  8. A Beautiful Friendship?The Washington Post, July 16, 2006
  9. AIPAC meeting wasn't supposed to be partisan, but ..., Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, March 16, 2007.
  10. For Israel Lobby Group, War Is Topic A, Quietly, Washington Post, April 1, 2003.
  11. A Beautiful Friendship?, The Washington Post, July 16, 2006
  12. AIPAC - Learn About AIPAC
  13. AIPAC head testifies on Israel aid by Eric Fingerhut, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), March 27, 2009.
  14. AIPAC - Learn About AIPAC
  15. Sharp, Jeremy M.: "U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel", Introduction, "CRS Report for Congress", Order Code RL33222
  16. Migdalovitz, Carol: "Israel: Background and Relations with the United States", page 29. "CRS Report for Congress", Order Code RL33476
  17. A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: $108 Billion, Shirl McArthur. Washington Report, July 2006, pages 16-17.
  18. Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. (November 11, 1998). AIPAC listed 2nd most powerful group on Fortune list.
  19. Ori Nir, Leaders Fear Probe Will Force Pro-Israel Lobby To File as ‘Foreign Agent’, The Forward, December 31, 2004.
  20. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Dec/Jan 1992/1993
  21. AIPAC President Resigns, Sheldon L. Richman, December/January 1992/93, Page 69.
  22. "2 Senior AIPAC Employees Ousted", Washington Post, April 21, 2005
  23. Ticker, Bruce. AIPAC Charges Offer Opportunity, Philadelphia Jewish Voice, September 2005. Accessed March 27, 2006.
  24. AIPAC to pay Weissman's legal fees Jerusalem Post, May 14, 2007.
  25. U.S. to drop Israel lobbyist spy case
  26. Rozen, Laura and Vest, Jason. Cloak and Swagger, The American Prospect, November 2, 2004. Accessed March 27, 2006.
  27. [ " United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, U.S. v. Lawrence Anthony Franklin "],
  28. "Defense Analyst Guilty in Israeli Espionage Case", Washington Post, Oct. 6, 2005
  29. Barakat, Matthew. "Ex-Pentagon Analyst Sentenced to 12 Years", Associated Press, January 21, 2006 Accessed May 18, 2007
  30. BBC News. "Analysis: America's new Christian Zionists". May 7, 2002

See also

External links

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