We attended yesterday’s AIPAC event at Temple Beth El.
GOP congressional candidate Adam Hasner was working the room before the speakers began. We did not see any of the other area members.
AIPAC’s Mark Kleiman was introduced by Rabbi Brockman to an audience that generally supports the group’s efforts.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbies the US government on behalf of Israel. Major accomplishments include $3.5 billion a year in foreign aid, 75% of which is used to buy goods and services from US companies. They also lobby for sanctions against Iran.
Kleiman asked the audience for their continued support. There will be over 70 new members of Congress in the coming term who will need to be “educated.” He also encouraged attendees to come to the next AIPAC annual conference and to bring friends. 13,000 people came to the last one, and half the members of Congress.
Kleiman then introduced the main speaker, Aviv Ezra from the Israeli embassy, who greeted us with a “Shalom all y’all.” This was apparently a reference to his experience in Georgia but didn’t seem to hit with this audience.
Ezra described how the embassy focuses on Israel’s strategic relationship with the US, in areas like:
Foreign policy: Iran, peace process, Arab spring (Islamic awakening)
Defense cooperation: Missile defense, Qualitative Military Edge, Foreign Military Financing
Civilian cooperation: Energy, Homeland Security
Ezra also mentioned the recent congressional effort to boost Israel. The House passed HR 4133 411-2 and the Senate passed a similar measure on a voice vote. President Obama signed it about a week ago. Among other things, it gives US taxpayer dollars to Israel for certain military efforts such as the “Iron Dome” system for shooting down short-range rockets.
He discussed in some detail Israel’s “Active Defense”
Iron Dome (short range rockets)
David Sling (medium range/cruise)
He talked about benefits of these efforts for the US, including technology sharing and jobs for Americans working on the projects.
There were some anti-Obama members of the audience. One asked about an Obama effort to remove a satellite intelligence information sharing provision from the recent legislation. Ezra downplayed this and said that the Obama administration has been cooperative with Israel on strategic matters.
He stressed that Israel does not want to be a political football in the US, as it enjoys strong bipartisan support (evidenced by the 411-2 vote).
He mentioned other concerns, such as Egypt now allowing Iran ships thru Suez; Mubarak did not allow this.
I was able to ask Kleiman about a specific issue. I’ve heard that the US gives more aid to Israel’s enemies than to Israel. He did not think it was more but maybe about even in dollar terms. But he also mentioned that US aid to Israel includes military aid, while aid to Israel’s enemies is generally non-military. He also thinks US aid to Israel is more effective – they get more value for each dollar.
I did not get to ask whether it’s wise for our country, which is $16 Trillion in debt and has been running deficits of over $1 Trillion for several years, should be giving money to other countries. Maybe next time.