10 reasons to attend AIPAC 2016
By Dr. David M. Novick
1. The issues are urgent. Iran was the most pressing issue at this year’s policy conference. Iran’s nuclear weapons quest is a direct threat to American interests and an existential threat to Israel. Two years ago, a combination of tough diplomacy and mounting sanctions brought Tehran to the negotiating table.
Nevertheless, Iran continues to develop more advanced centrifuges and could produce enough enriched uranium to make a bomb in two to three months. Iran consistently violates its treaty obligations by clandestinely procuring material for nuclear and missile programs.
AIPAC believes that Iran must dismantle its centrifuges and allow unrestricted access to inspectors. Furthermore, given Iran’s decades of cheating, these constraints must last for decades.
This year, AIPAC supports the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act of 2015, which will impose additional sanctions if a deal is not reached, and which calls for Congress to vote on any agreement. The challenges in 2016 could be greater, and your help will be needed.
2. You will experience history as it happens. Every year, the prime minister of Israel and top American officials are invited to address the policy conference. This year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to us on the day before his historic speech before a joint session of Congress on March 3. Mr. Netanyahu thanked President Obama for all that he has done for Israel, including efforts “that cannot be divulged.” He clearly stated the purpose of his visit: “To speak up about a potential deal with Iran that would threaten the existence of Israel.”
He pointed out that the Iranian regime is devouring country after country in the Middle East and exporting terror, in addition to its nuclear program. To thunderous applause, Mr. Netanyahu said, “The days when the Jewish People are passive against threats to annihilate us – those days are over.”
Susan Rice, the U.S. National Security advisor, addressed the conference at a later session. She stressed that the friendship between the United States and Israel is not negotiable, and that Israel’s security is sacrosanct.
To a standing ovation, she said, “A bad deal is worse than no deal.” To less applause, she said that we have already succeeded in halting Iran’s nuclear progress, they have built no new centrifuges, talking about sanctions now would harm the ongoing negotiations, and that a 10-year deal was better than other options. There was much to discuss after these two speeches.
3. Israel is surrounded by threats. All of Israel’s borders have potential conflicts: Hezbollah in Lebanon (100,000 rockets), Hamas in Gaza (rockets and tunnels), Islamic Jihad in the Sinai, and ISIS cells all over. Rather than negotiating peace with Israel, the Palestinian Authority is using international organizations to attack the Jewish state.
The killing in Syria continues. Legislation promoting military assistance to Israel to counter these threats is essential, and your presence at the policy conference advances this goal.
4. It’s educational. You can attend seminars given by top experts on virtually any aspect of Middle East diplomacy, the relation of Israel to its neighbors or to other key countries such as China, India, and Turkey, and America’s role in world affairs.
In addition, exhibits highlight exciting new developments from Israel in technology and the arts. For example, HopeSpot is a smart balloon that can direct crowds at large events or in emergencies, and Zeekit is an Israeli web service that allows users to upload photos of themselves and try on clothing virtually. An exhibition of paintings sponsored by the Israeli Society for Autistic Children was shown this year.
5. It’s empowering. The highlight of the conference is the last day, when delegates meet with every member of Congress to ask for their support on the most important issues affecting the United States-Israel relationship. With this lobbying, we are not just watching history unfold, we are making it happen. The entire group from Ohio, more than 200 this year, meets with our two senators.
This year, four delegates representing Dayton met with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner. In other years, the Dayton delegation has ranged from one to eight people. By attending the 2016 policy conference, you can significantly increase the size and impact of our group.
6. It’s inclusive. This year, a record 16,000 pro-Israel activists attended the conference. There are thousands of students, and increasing numbers of pro-Israel Christians, African-Americans, and Hispanics. There are liberals and conservatives, and everything in between; the only political requirement is support of Israel.
Critics falsely try to paint AIPAC as a right-wing organization, but I can attest from personal experience (this was my 10th policy conference) that the entire political spectrum is represented.
AIPAC does not endorse candidates for office either in the United States or Israel and does not presume to advise the government of Israel on positions it should take vis-à-vis the Palestinians or on other key issues.
7. It’s bipartisan. Not only does the AIPAC delegation include large numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and independents, but when members of Congress are invited to speak, there is always a comparable speaker from the other party.
8. AIPAC is the pro-Israel organization. AIPAC has the size, resources, and know-how to promote the security of the state of Israel. AIPAC is widely regarded as one of the most effective lobbies in the United States.
AIPAC does not try to tell Israel how to conduct its diplomacy, unlike J Street, a so-called alternative group. This year’s J Street conference features Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, who recently compared Israel to ISIS. Erekat cannot credibly be called pro-Israel.
9. Attending the policy conference shows commitment. Taking time off from work and other responsibilities and traveling to Washington, D.C. at our own expense sends a message to our elected representatives, to the people of Israel, and to our friends and neighbors at home that we are committed to sustaining the strong bond between the United States and Israel.
10. The 2016 presidential candidates will be there. Whether or not the major parties’ nominees are known, the candidates will be at the policy conference. You’ll hear their views on Middle East politics and be able to size them up based on your own experience. See you in Washington, D.C., March 20-22, 2016.
Dr. David Novick is a gastroenterologist. He lives in Oakwood.