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AIPAC draws 13,000 for policy conference, lobby

By RYAN BENDER | March 7, 2013

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) gathered 13,000 of its worldwide members — Republicans, Democrats, Jews, Christians and Hopkins students alike — in Washington, D.C. this past weekend for the largest pro-Israel lobby conference of the year.

AIPAC, America’s pro-Israel lobby group, is a bi-partisan organization with a mission to strengthen cultural, technological, military and government relations between the United States and Israel. This pro-Israel conference affords Congress at least one venue for reaching across the aisle in support of a cause that promotes American national security and the proliferation of stability and democracy in the Middle East.

To conclude the conference, thousands of attendees took to the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. They urged congressmen to support tougher sanctions on Iran, bi-lateral peace negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments in the future, increased military and humanitarian aid to Israel for projects like the Iron Dome missile defense program and other objectives aimed at securing a stable and peaceful Middle East.

The speakers at the policy conference included Vice President Joe Biden, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senator John McCain, Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, to name a few. 2,000 students from universities across the United States took part.

Bi-partisan congressional and international attendance at the AIPAC conference was significant, including 65 Senators, 274 House representatives, 33 White House representatives, 77 Israeli government officials and ambassadors and representatives from more than 65 countries.

Major speakers focused on two chief topics throughout the weekend, the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel and the United States and the ongoing political turmoil in the Middle East caused by the revolutions of the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria.

Biden underscored that preventing a nuclear Iran was not just important to Israeli security, but also to United States and global security.

“[It would] trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and make the world a whole lot less stable,” Biden said.

After doubts over President Obama’s willingness to prevent a nuclear Iran, Biden reaffirmed Obama’s commitment to Israel and his mission to avoid that possibility.  Biden’s comments came as a much needed reassurance after weeks of questions over Obama’s controversial nomination of Chuck Hagel to defense secretary.

The nomination of Hagel, who has pushed for direct negotiations with Iran and Hamas, criticized AIPAC’s influence in Washington, and opposed Iran sanctions in the past, led Democrats and Republicans alike to publicly criticize the nomination.  Politicians and think tank analysts in Washington said that the Hagel nomination slashes any credible US threat to Iran and makes the Obama administration appear weak on the global stage.

Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn also gravely remarked on the danger of a nuclear Iran.

“I find it deeply disturbing that the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism is so close to acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The results of the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria were also cited as reasons to maintain a strong relationship between the United States and Israel.

“The Middle East is a gestalt, everything depends on everything else,” Barak said.

He also emphasized that the global community needs to focus on rebuilding regional security following the many regional revolutions. He asserted radical Islamist terror, border security, missile defense and Iran as the critical motivations for regional peace.

Other speakers noted that an unstable Syria has lead to humanitarian disaster, with over 70,000 Syrians killed so far.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke live via satellite, and illustrated how the Syrian unrest could lead to the proliferation of chemical weapons, antiaircraft weapons and other deadly and sophisticated arms to terrorist groups which threaten the United States, Israel and Europe.

In addition to these political attendees, talents such as singer Hagit Yaso, winner of Israel’s Kokhav Nolad, akin to American Idol, and Richard Kind, Hollywood television and movie actor, entertained the massive audience and showed their support for the American-Israel relationship.

 


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