Bibi Killed AIPAC Long Before Bernie Came Along

If the professional employees, donors and lay leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee could vote in the Knesset election on Monday, I’m pretty sure they would send Benjamin Netanyahu packing.

No matter how many standing ovations Netanyahu has received over the years at AIPAC’s annual conferences, the pro-Israel lobby’s staffers admit – in strictly off-the-record conversations – that Bibi has fatally undermined their ability to drum up bipartisan support for Israel. They would happily never see him at their conference again, and can’t wait to host Benny Gantz as Israel’s new prime minister.

As my colleague Amir Tibon pointed out this week, on the Republican side, Netanyahu has made AIPAC superfluous by fostering many other players and multiple avenues of influence there. On the Democratic side, he has squandered most of the goodwill toward Israel with his obscene embrace of President Donald Trump, contrasted with his open disdain of then-President Barack Obama.

AIPAC’s leaders are aware that while he is still happy to fly to Washington and bask in their delegates’ adulation, in private Netanyahu has said he doesn’t “need AIPAC.” He has Trump, Sheldon Adelson and the evangelicals, whom he regards as much more effective.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 64

Bernie, Bibi and the brutal occupation: Listen to Gideon LevyHaaretz Weekly Ep. 64

To add insult to injury, Netanyahu has said he only needs AIPAC to balance out Jewish liberal groups, like J Street, that are critical of his policies. How humiliating for the grand old lobby to be equated to a young upstart with only a fraction of its resources and membership.

Fortunately for AIPAC, this year’s policy conference coincides with the Israeli election and Netanyahu cannot attend. If only, they whisper, he would lose, be caught up in his corruption trial for years to come and, just like another disgraced Israeli premier, Ehud Olmert, never be invited again.

Even so, it is probably too late. Netanyahu has killed AIPAC. It will never regain the influence it once had. The next Israeli prime minister will be incapable of helping it restore its former glory, certainly not the lackluster Gantz.