The “growing allure of isolationism” in American politics threatens U.S.-Israeli relations and is “extremely dangerous” for Israel’s security and wellbeing – this was the stark message delivered Sunday by AIPAC President Michael Kassen on the first day of the pro-Israel lobby’s annual Policy Conference.
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In what sounded at times like an uncharacteristic “adapt or die” alarm to the American Jewish community, Kassen warned the Conference’s 13,000 delegates about the dramatically changing political circumstances that will challenge AIPAC’s ability to maintain current levels of U.S. support for Israel.
Kassen said that over 40 percent of U.S. lawmakers elected to the Senate and Congress in the past four years are new to their jobs, and that many of them had never visited Israel “or travelled outside the U.S.” He said that “important roles in Congressional Committees that are vital to Israel are increasingly held by people who have no foreign policy experience whatsoever.”
“The nation’s leadership is changing,” Kassen said, “and its life experience is changing as well”. He said that of the new members arriving in Congress, “more had been born after the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis than those who still have memories of the creation of Israel. Their association with Israel is different,” he said.
Kassen said that AIPAC must recognize “the growing allure of isolationism among our new leaders” and their desire to “disengage” from complex foreign issues. This tendency, he said, is “extremely dangerous” for Israel and its future.
Kassen also noted the rapidly changing demographics of the American electorate. In 30 years, he added, there will be 400 million Americans, and more than half of them will be minorities.
Kassen called on the delegates to increase their activities on behalf of Israel, especially their engagement with new members of Congress, as well as their political donations. He commended the fact that “each year, AIPAC looks more than America”, but he said that AIPAC must recognize “the need to reach beyond traditional Jewish base of support.”
Kassen’s warnings were largely greeted by silence among the thousands of his listeners, in contrast to declarations of the strength of U.S. support for Israel, which were received with standing ovations.