AIPAC breaks with Obama

Throughout its history, the American Israel Public Affairs Council, or AIPAC, has been studiously nonpartisan, aiming to reinforce the broad consensus in support of Israel that has characterized both major political parties.  But Barack Obama’s Iran policy has been so egregiously insensitive to Israel’s concern for its survival that the organization has been forced to take a position on Congress’s role and on limits on the administration’s flexibility, as the Israeli leader prepares to speak to the group today.  Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee report in the Wall Street Journal:

The leadership of the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. publicly broke Sunday from the White House over the issue of Iran policy during the first of a three-day policy conference in Washington attended by 16,000 of its members.

Leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, outlined a strategy moving forward of working through Congress to disrupt any nuclear agreement with Tehran that is deemed too weak in denying the country a nuclear weapons capability.

This would be achieved, they said, both by seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran and to block the White House’s ability to lift standing U.S. sanctions, which would be required as part of any comprehensive agreement.

“Congress has a critical role” in determining this deal, Howard Kohr, Aipac’s executive director, said in opening remarks aimed at rallying the group’s membership. “Congress’s role doesn’t end when there is a deal. Congress must review this deal.”

Mr. Kohr and other Aipac leaders believe any final agreement with Iran must involve the complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, something Obama administration officials have said is no longer on the negotiating table.

Aipac also is seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran if there is no agreement by a late March deadline and to legislate an up-or-down vote in Congress. The White House is opposing both legislative actions.

AIPAC has been ahead of the White House in seeking to pressure Iran via Congress before:

Aipac was central in lobbying for sanctions imposed on Tehran’s central bank in 2012 that were initially opposed by the White House.

Mr. Obama’s aides, including then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner , had cautioned that passage of this legislation could lead to spike in global oil prices and undermine the U.S.’s economic recovery. Despite the White House’s opposition, 99 senators voted in favor.

In recent months, Obama administration officials have cited the same central bank sanctions as crucial to bringing Iran’s leadership to the negotiating table. Mr. Kohr and other Aipac leaders on Sunday said the penalties never would have been introduced without the organization’s lobbying of Congress.

Of course, now the Obama administration wants to back off sanctions on Iran on the dubious theory that they would be counterproductive – as if the mullahs are waiting to respond to signals of goodwill with limitations on their own ability to wipe out Israel, their oft-stated goal.

The sad truth is that Barack Obama has single-handedly ended the bipartisan consensus in support of Israel with his deliberate insults to PM Netanyahu (at their first meeting in the White House, he abruptly left the Israeli leader to go have dinner upstairs, and there was no kosher food available) and his criticism of and opposition to many of the PM’s policies.

Hat tip: Clarice Feldman and the Washington Examiner.