Ever since the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lost its battle to prevent negotiations with Iran by imposing new sanctions on Tehran, the media has been reporting that the lobby is not the powerhouse in Washington that it once was.
Now a poll conducted by Zogby Analytics for Avaaz, a group that promotes democratic activism world wide, provides the data that demonstrates that AIPAC's decline is real although it remains strong. The poll conducted Feb. 25-28, surveyed 165 Capitol Hill staffers, journalists and other Washington officials, asking them about AIPAC's influence and its reputation in general.
The findings are not startling except when contrasted to perceptions of AIPAC's image prior to the past year. Here are a few of them:
-- More insiders thought AIPAC's influence is falling than rising.
-- 40 percent think AIPAC is more an ally of the Republican party in contrast to 18% who believe it is closer to Democrats. (AIPAC itself says it is strictly nonpartisan.)
-- 74 percent have seen Members of Congress take a position on an issue that was not in the public interest as a result in full or in part, because of AIPAC's influence?
-- More than 50 percent of those agreed with the statement: "AIPAC is the National Rifle Association (NRA) of U.S. Middle East Policy."
Read the poll results in full for the complete picture but, even a quick take makes it clear that AIPAC is now perceived by Washington insiders as a pressure group (like the NRA), primarily allied with the Republicans, which uses its influence to get Members of Congress to take positions not in the public interest. And it is perceived as on the ropes.
This is good news for the Obama administration which has already defeated AIPAC on Iran because it suggests that it can prevail on the issue of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace as well. In fact, AIPAC's weakened condition suggests that now is the time to strike.
Most likely AIPAC's slow decline is irreversible. However, it makes sense to seize this moment, when it is clearly vulnerable, to push hard for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
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