American Israel Public Affairs Committee

views updated May 29 2018


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a national advocacy group that lobbies for U.S. support to the nation of Israel. Founded in 1951, AIPAC has grown into a 65,000-member organization that is recognized as one of the most influential foreign policy groups in the United States. AIPAC has lobbied Congress for U.S. foreign aid to Israel since 1951, when it helped defeat several efforts to cut aid for the resettling of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust refugees in Israel. In addition, it has lobbied for U.S. military aid to Israel and has helped preserve the special relationship that has existed between the United States and Israel since the United States recognized the nation of Israel in 1948.

AIPAC has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Members of its staff maintain an active presence in the halls of Congress, attending committee sessions and reviewing legislation that may affect the relationship between the United States and Israel. AIPAC estimates that it monitors 2,000 hours of congressional hearings annually. Its research staff members analyze periodicals and documents in five different languages, amassing a large archive of information on hundreds of issues, including foreign aid, antiterrorism initiatives, and programs that promote United States-Israel strategic cooperation. AIPAC staff members also work with key officials in developing legislation and policy, presenting concepts and information that are moved into the legislative process. AIPAC lobbyists hold one thousand meetings annually with congressional offices.

AIPAC also works with aspiring politicians. During the 1994 elections, representatives of AIPAC met with 600 congressional candidates. As of the early 2000s, nearly half of the members of Congress had been elected since 1990, and AIPAC had worked to educate these new legislators about the relationship between the United State and Israel and the key issues critical to maintaining that relationship. After the 1994 election, AIPAC staff met with every freshman representative.

AIPAC regional staff members travel to more than 600 communities a year to train AIPAC members to be effective advocates for United States-Israel relations. AIPAC works in every congressional district, especially those districts with little or no Jewish population. AIPAC conducts small meetings and statewide workshops, giving its members the opportunity to become involved in grassroots lobbying.

The influence of AIPAC remains strong. The 1998 foreign aid appropriation bill contained $3 billion for Israel. Of that amount, $1.8 billion was for military aid and $1.2 billion was for economic aid. An additional $80 million was appropriated to help settle Jewish refugees in Israel. AIPAC has also maintained congressional support for Israel's position in the Middle East peace process, arguing that attempts to distance the United States from Israel's position only encourage its Arab neighbors to ask for unilateral concessions. AIPAC believes that the peace process will only achieve results if the close working relationship between the United States and Israel continues.

Following the september 11th attacks in 2001, AIPAC has stepped up its agenda to make sure that the United States continues to ensure Israel's security by working with Congress to isolate and financially constrict such groups as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. AIPAC has continued to support U.S. efforts to isolate and pressure Palestinian authority chairman Yasir Afarat to stop bombings and suicide missions within Israel. Through its Web site, the organization also kept its members updated on protective measures taken by the Israeli people as the United States initiated war with Iraq in 2003.

further readings

American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Available online at <> (accessed May 30, 2003).

Bass, Warren. 2003. Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S. Israel Alliance. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Wright, John R. 1995. Interest Groups and Congress: Lobbying, Contributions, and Influence. New York: Addison-Wesley.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee

views updated May 23 2018


Umbrella organization, founded in 1954, to lobby the U.S. Congress in support of Israel.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC; originally known as the American Zionist Public Affairs Committee) was established in 1954; the name of the organization was changed in 1959. Isaiah L. Kenen (19051988), the organization's executive director and chief lobbyist from 1959 to 1974, is credited with shaping AIPAC and overseeing its emergence as the leading Jewish-sponsored pro-Israel lobby in Washington, D.C. Kenen also served as chairman of AIPAC in 1974 and 1975 and as honorary chairman from 1975 to 1988. In these capacities, Kenen created the biweekly bulletin Near East Report, which he edited from 1957 to 1973, and introduced the widely distributed annual guidebook Myths & Facts. The latter was discontinued in 1992.

Thomas A. Dine, who served as AIPAC's executive director from 1980 to 1993, succeeded Kenen. Under Dine's tenure, AIPAC's membership rose from 11,000 to more than 50,000, and the organization's annual budget from $750,000 to more than $3 million. By 2003 AIPAC had 65,000 members nationwide and was regarded as one of the most effective and sophisticated lobbying groups in the United States.

In general, AIPAC serves as a watchdog group, tracking political, financial, and military attitudes and policies toward Israel in U.S. public life. AIPAC policy analysts regularly review hundreds of periodicals, journals, speeches, and reports and meet with foreign policy experts in order to track and analyze current events and trends related to Israel and the Middle East.

As a registered Washington lobby, AIPAC is prohibited from contributing funds to political candidates and elected officials. However, the organization does have a long-standing history of supplying U.S. politicians, elected officials, and government agencies with information and data on Israel and Middle East affairs. (In fact, during his tenure with AIPAC, Kenen drafted statements and speeches on Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East for many politicians, including Harry S. Truman, Hubert H. Humphrey, and John F. Kennedy.) To this end, the organization conducts regular meetings with U.S. legislators and their support staff. AIPAC also promotes Israel on U.S. college campuses and maintains leadership development programs that educate and train young U.S. Jewish leaders in pro-Israel political advocacy.

see also american council for judaism; american jewish committee; zionist organization of america.

Mark A. Raider

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American Israel Public Affairs Committee