AIPAC holds secretive conference focused on US Congressional elections

AIPAC holds secretive conference focused on US Congressional elections
AIPAC held a large conference focusing on congressional elections that was closed to the press, amid growing criticism of Israel in the US.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
14 January, 2023
This year's AIPAC policy conference was closed to the press [Getty]

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, held a large conference this week that was reportedly focused on congressional elections.

The conference brought together “1,000 of our top political leaders to strategize for the 2024 election cycle,” an AIPAC official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, one of the few news outlets to cover the event.

The two-day Washington gathering (separate from its annual conference in March) that took place on 9-10 January was closed to the press. However, prior to the meeting several political leaders issued public statements sharing their positions and plans for what they would discuss at the meeting.

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Representatives Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, said they would discuss maintaining bipartisan support for Israel, at a time when vocal critics of the country are increasingly influential in the Democratic Party.

“We are working to make sure that the US-Israel relationship remains bipartisan and durable,” JTA reported Gottheimer as saying.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin reportedly spoke at the conference. In addition, newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly scheduled to hold a video conference in which he would discuss, among other things, his disapproval for the US nuclear deal with Iran.

This is one of the first large-scale AIPAC gatherings after the Covid-19 pandemic, and also one of the first without the fanfare that typically surrounds their conferences.

It is unclear why such a large conference would have such a low profile this time. However, given its stated focus of congressional elections, it's possible the group didn't want to bring attention to some of its recent controversial positions in the 2022 election cycle.

In the midterms, AIPAC endorsed dozens of Republicans who didn't accept that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Moreover, the lobby group, with the help from its newly established Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and super PAC, campaigned against progressive Democrats, including Andy Levin, a popular Jewish congressman who has said US aid to Israel should be conditional on its human rights record. 

"What AIPAC is doing and supporting is not popular among American voters. To me it makes sense that they're trying to pull a lot of this out of the public arena," Beth Miller, government affairs manager at Jewish Voice for Peace-Action, told The New Arab

She noted that their campaign advertisements tended to not mention Israel, yet if they supported a candidate that won would often claim a victory for US public support for Israel.

"For something that in the past has been public, this is a significant deviation," Adam Shapiro, director for advocacy for Israel-Palestine at Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN) told TNA

Pointing to the group's recent endorsements of US election-denying candidates, he said, "Even within the pro-Israel community, some of the stuff AIPAC has been doing is indicative that there's a crisis or internal friction within AIPAC."