Founded in the year 1959, the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC)’s main aim is to develop and maintenance of America’s support for Israel through powerful well organized and wealth backed lobbying. This comes against the background of the anarchy being witnessed in Iraq that has resulted in America entering a new frontier of strategy.
Now more than ever, America has embarked on a phase of intellectual excitement over its national security strategy. Questions on its security keep on rising day by day. What are America’s goals and interests in foreign countries? How should these be pursued by America? Furthermore, what sort of military does it need to achieve this? (Sikkink, 45).
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is driven by maintaining America’s support towards Israel. It is a wealthy organized and the most influential lobby group in the Washington. AIPAC was founded in the year 1959 and has steadily grown with each passing year to be a force to reckon with in terms of policy development in the United States. Its offices are spread across the country and have within its membership over 85,000 keyed up persons (Goldstein, 56).
It has employed a staff of 165 and its annual budget is estimated at close to $33.4 million (Rubenberg 66). AIPAC is at the top of a huge complex grouping of Jewish associations and Political Action Committees (PACS) across America, (nationwide to the confined, who are all dedicated to upholding Israel’s privileged position in the nation’s capital).
First established in1954 and known as the American Zionist Public Affairs Committee but later changed the name to American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 1959. AIPAC has always been regarded as one of the most effective and sophisticated lobbying groups in Washington. It wields great influence over the public life of America by tracking political, financial, and military attitudes and policies.
Rubenberg states that AIPAC’s membership consists of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents priding itself as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby” and has been able to have power over American foreign policy in relation to matters concerning the Middle East and Israel (235). Over the last half century or so, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has strived to maintain and strengthen the existing US- Israel ties. It has proved to be a powerful and vital tool for both democratic and republican political leaders in enacting of public policy that strengthens the fundamental U.S.-Israeli relationship (Lind, 245).
American political leaders (both democrats and republicans) work hand in hand with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee together with congress and the executive in securing America’s influence in the Middle East (for example: stopping Iran’s banned nuclear program). Achieving, America’s interests abroad and securing financial support for Israel is a major and important goal for the committee.
AIPAC has got policy analysts that regularly review hundreds of periodicals, journals, speeches, and reports and meet with foreign policy experts and supplies the information obtained by U.S. politicians, elected officials, and government agencies (Goldstein, 47). The data being passed on is usually connected to matters in Israel and the Middle East.
Consequently, the organization carries out regular meetings with U.S. legislators and their support staff. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also promotes Israel in American college campuses and maintains leadership development programs that educate and train young U.S. Jewish leaders in pro-Israel political advocacy.
On the issue of American public policy, over the last 15 years AIPAC has been able to push forward more than a dozen bills and resolutions condemning and imposing tough sanctions on Iran. The rise of global terrorism provides the U.S. and other nations of the world with added incentive to create new controls on the multi-billion dollar global small arms trade (Sikkink, 73). AIPAC’s role in America’s foreign policy toward regulating the trade in small arms also secures the critical security assistance to Israel each year to ensure that Israel remains capable of facing increased terrorism threats from the Middle East.
As a result of reallocating its resources in different priorities, the U.S. can comprehensively address the conditions that breed violence and widespread criminality (for example, economic inequality, the chronic lack of good governance and human rights, and the increasing divide between cultures and civilizations) (Lind, 86). The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also has got many other aims such as supporting America’s effort to help Israel achieve peace by upholding the principles that hold the best prospects for Israel- Arab peace in letters to the president signed by 328 House members and 76 senators (Sikkink, 145).
Looking at the relationship between America and Israel, it comes off as one where both parties are in it for different reasons. Despite the two countries being the greatest friends and allies, arguments are arising on what motivates the American-Israeli ties. Israel has looked upon America for inspiration on countless of situations, both financial and militarily, and not forgetting diplomatic support. On the other hand, Americans, have looked upon Israel with a particular admiration for its victorious attempt to go after the Western self-governing custom, its extraordinary economic growth, and its strong-minded resistance against its inflexible enemies from the Middle East and ever looming terrorist threats.
The strategically positioning of Israel in the Middle East has made it both a burden and an advantage for the United States in its quest to regulate small arms trade (Goldstein, 127). For that reason, ignoring the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s influence on US policies and omitting them from policy making decisions will be detrimental to America’s quest for regulating small arms trade and promoting its interests abroad.
Without a doubt, the influence AIPAC holds over American policy decisions cannot be underestimated in any way (Lind, 105). They use their influence on America as a weapon for their war against the Palestinians, Iranians and the Middle East as a whole due to the looming threats posed against them by the Arab world (Sikkink, 85).
In the face of these circumstances, there are rising allegations that this powerful Jewish lobby group has managed to influence the US foreign policy to a point where it has managed to distort the United States foreign policy ideologies and replaced it with Jewish to serve Israeli interests (Goldstein, 23).
Doubt has also been cast at what exactly changed US policy towards Iran to atrocious. Goldstein states that due to the influence of the Jewish lobby in American politics, the United States is not capable of piling pressure on Israel. Consequently, the American president holds back against piling pressure on Israel because maintenance of the U.S-Israeli relationship through the Jewish lobby group (AIPAC) in Washington is of greatest importance and significance for both parties (144).
America’s foreign policy on arms trade
AIPAC supports a new direction for American policy in the Middle East – diplomatic solutions over military ones, multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution; and dialogue over confrontation with wider international support (Lind, 45). According to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s claims, the political action committee is the first and the only federal political action committee. Moreover, they aim to provide the most considerable political and financial aid to candidates vying for federal office, those that consider that a new way in American strategy will move ahead U.S. interests in the Middle East and encourage genuine peace and security for Israel and the region (Rubenberg 282).
The political affairs committee only advocates for providing support for Israel, though the principles are a very stable approach as it only advocates for a show of unlimited United States support towards Israel in terms of military, economical, and political support. Israel has enjoyed most of American foreign assistance since 1976, according to a Congressional Research Service report, Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance report in 2001 (Rubenberg 12). The report states that American aid forwarded to Israel amounted to about $81.3 billion. Israel needs military help to be able to defeat its enemies. It wants Republicans and Democrats together to provide political cover for Israel when it attacks Lebanon or bombs the Gaza.
The lobby group (AIPAC) does not object when Israel exercises a military alternative on its neighbors, as this kind of actions plus political cover from the United States will bring peace to their country (Stohl 35). This is in regardless of the fact that the United States is in an unending dilemma economically while Israel is one of the richest countries in the world and is enjoying a financial bang (Sheffer 127).
The American-Israeli Political Action Committee believes that Washington should continue indefinitely in its role as Israel’s patron, security guarantor, and financial supporter, all this is for the good of Israel (Sheffer 127). Stohl states that “the overarching policy framework governing U.S. arms exports today is contained in a Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) established by President Bill Clinton in 1995 (45).
Inbar states that America has been blamed on numerous accounts of being an innocent bystander and at times “an honest broker” whenever conflicts between Israel and its neighbors emerge (128). This may be due to the incessant Israeli attacks on the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian towns on the West Bank. Israel feels more threatened day by day by the Middle East and has to work on protecting its people.
The United States takes a different approach towards its foreign policy towards arms trade and military activities. It is to a certain extent against countries especially in the Middle East arming themselves, to a point where peace is threatened. On the other hand, it takes a different position when Israel is the focus. In its role as Israel’s primary arms supplier, the United States could exert significant potential leverage over Israeli behavior in the conflict if it wishes to do so, but this is not possible (Sheffer 127).
The American-Israeli Political Action Committee ensures that Israel’s actions and interests are not affected by providing material and revenue support for politicians who are responsible with policy making decisions in America. An understanding of America’s importance towards Israel through being a supplier of arms, aid, and military technology to Israel is vital in getting to clearly understand America’s foreign policy (Rubenberg 322).
America’s foreign policy on arms trade has been boosted by its support of The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) process, but members are still doubtful of the impact of its support. Stohl states that “The U.S. position on the ATT is rooted in political, social, and cultural contexts in which arms trade issues operate in the United States. The United States views arms exports as a means to further political, security, and diplomatic objectives and has a strong political and cultural history around weapons” (40).
America has got a very delicate and unequivocally record on the issue of arms trade. Lind states that it possibly has the best “export controls, end-use monitoring, and brokering laws worldwide” (98). Furthermore, the United States has shown ability of providing support to other countries especially Israel to improve their end-use monitoring, and brokering laws. However, America’s silence on international instruments weakens, slows or halts key international initiatives.
Inbar states that this unexplained silence towards countries such as Israel explains the United States willingness to “transfer arms to countries with dubious human rights and nonproliferation records when policymakers believe that such transfers would further other key foreign policy goals, like the ’Global War on terror’” (153).
America has much at stake in regards to the Arms Trade Treaty and due to its significant role and important part in the whole ATT issue, the American-Israeli Political Action Committee sees this as the best entity to safeguard their interest, thus we can see the influence being generated by the American-Israeli Political Action Committee in Washington. A 2008 congressional report on research service stated that sales from arms globally amounted to over $55-billion in that year (Inbar 67).
Stohl states that International relations pile pressure on countries to come with ways of checking the trade in arms while still being aware of the ever looming terrorist threats in the Middle East (47). Israel in particular is at a very vulnerable position thus the need to have countries that share the same interests, and what a better partner if not the United States (Inbar 99).
And to achieve this, the presence of a powerful lobby group such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is vital to the survival of Israel in the midst of the Middle East chaos (138). As seen in this paper the main aim of the lobby group is to counteract actions being committed by the Middle East, especially Iran and Palestine.
AIPAC, (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), can be termed as the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in Washington and a good number of U.S. lawmakers do not take it into account at their own risk. It is aimed at maintaining America’s support towards Israel politically, economically and militarily).
Furthermore, it is the wealthiest and most influential lobby group in the United States. The extent of its power has created a situation where it more or less controls American foreign policy in the Middle East. This is seen from the way America handles different countries or actions by countries in the Middle East. America put sanctions over Iran for the last 15 years, however, on the other hand, turns a blind eye when Israel engages in the same actions as Iran or other Middle East Arab countries.
AIPAC has worked with Congress and the Executive Branch on numerous critical initiatives with the support of its members nationwide. It is mainly aimed at securing vital foreign aid for Israel to pass legislation aimed at stopping Iran’s illicit nuclear program. Israel and America enjoy favorable strong ties today. And each the country has got their purpose and serves its interests in this relationship. Nevertheless, in some cases, the interference by Israel (through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in the policies of America is a burden to the United States.
Israel has the power to influence all the decisions and the policies that are made by the United States through the lobby group which wields considerable influence over American politics. It is widely known in the United States and around the world to be an influential group that has and supports only the interests of the Jewish community in the United States and Israel. Therefore the American Israel Politic Action Committee has got its importance and significance and numerous positive advantages and goals; however both of these countries (America and Israel) have got their hidden agendas that make them maintain these strong ties.
The joint respect experienced by both countries is hardly a new occurrence. The deep power of Jewish tradition on the Founding Fathers can be seen in the American Constitution. Though Israel can be termed as a destructive power for America as a result of its incessant conflicts with the Arab world, the United States still supports Israel as a result of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Then why is this relationship so strong? This has turned out to be a great question for anyone to answer.
In a nutshell one can conclude that America does not like to conflict with Israel because in some cases America needs the support of Israel in case of wars and other conflicts between countries. And what’s more, Israel can afford to be in conflict with America and with other countries.
So it is true that America supports and helps Israel out of fear and the need of support at times. America wants to have Israel as great power on its side in case any other great powers like China and Japan decide to show aggression against America. Therefore they continue to tolerate Israel’s actions and its influence in policy decision making through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Goldstein, Judith. Ideas and foreign policy: beliefs, institutions, and political change. New York: Cornell University Press, 1993. Print.
Inbar, Efraim. US-Israeli relations in a new era: issues and challenges after 9/11. Charleston: Taylor & Francis. 2009. Print.
Lind, Michael. The American way of strategy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Rubenberg, Cheryl. Israel and the American National Interest: A Critical Examination. Illinois: University of Illinois Press. 1989. Print.
Sheffer, Gabriel. U.S.-Israeli relations at the crossroads. New York: Routledge. 1997. Print.
Sikkink, Kathryn. “The Power of Principled Ideas: Human Rights Policies in the United States and Western Europe.” International Organization (1993): 139-170.
Stohl, Rachel. “U.S. Policy and the Arms Trade Treaty.” Ploughshares Working Paper (2010): 1-54.