2016-03-30 / Home

AIPAC’s plans to ‘come together’ undone by Trump

By RON KAMPEAS JTA


Lillian Pinkus, AIPAC’s first female president in a decade, speaking at the organization’s conference in Washington, D.C., March 21. 
Screenshot from YouTube. Lillian Pinkus, AIPAC’s first female president in a decade, speaking at the organization’s conference in Washington, D.C., March 21. Screenshot from YouTube.

WASHINGTON—

Hear out Donald Trump. Ignore Donald Trump. There were two distinct approaches to the Trump moment at AIPAC’s annual conference here, and there were mutual warnings that one or the other side would get burned.

The burn came fast, and it came to those who said listening to the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nod was the right thing to do.

After days of repeated warnings to its activists not to disrupt Trump, and to treat speakers with respect, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee leadership JTA issued an extraordinary apology—but not to Trump. Instead, AIPAC said it was sorry for its members who had applauded his insulting remarks about President Obama during Trump’s speech at the Verizon Center. Many members roared and leapt to their feet when Trump suggested Obama was “the worst thing to ever happen to Israel.”

“While we may have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the president of the United States and our President Barack Obama,” Lillian Pinkus, the lobby’s newly installed president, said from the AIPAC stage, joined by other AIPAC lay and professional leaders.

“There are people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night and for that we are deeply sorry,” Pinkus said, her voice choking. “We are deeply disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with or condone.”

The evident anguish in the aftermath of Trump’s remarks undid the hopes that his speech would not undo the prominent Israel lobby’s careful claims to bipartisanship, even as its Iran policy is more or less aligned wholly with Republicans. The Trump moment came during a conference with a slogan, “Come Together,” that AIPAC had hoped would signal a new day of bipartisanship.

Complaints that the lobby had given Trump a platform at its largest annual assembly without expressing official displeasure at his most controversial remarks about immigrants and Muslims led many to wonder how AIPAC would function in an election in which the likely GOP nominee has alienated much of the organized Jewish community.

[Local attendees to the AIPAC Conference also faced the dilemma of whether to stay, or walk out, when Trump spoke. In a message to his congregation, Rabbi Aaron Krupnick of Cong. Beth El, wrote: “I had been asked before we came if I was going to walk out on Donald Trump. I told everyone that I firmly believe that we in the pro- Israel community must have a strong partnership with whoever wins the election and so I stayed.” He also wrote that Hillary Clinton, John Kasich, Trump, and Ted Cruz expressed “what I thought was heartfelt support for the State of Israel and each spoke unequivocally of Israel as ‘The Jewish State.’”]

(Voice Editor David Portnoe contributed to this article.) .

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