The FBI's decision in early May to arrest Lawrence
Franklin, the Pentagon analyst accused of disclosing classified information
about U.S. forces in Iraq, has put in the spotlight the work of an influential
pro-Israel lobbying outfit, the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), as well as its many supporters in and
outside government, including Paul
Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, and Douglas
According to an FBI affidavit, Franklin related information about possible
attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq to two AIPAC employees during an FBI-monitored
lunch in June 2003. Franklin was allegedly upset that his hardline stance on
Iran was being overlooked, and he hoped AIPAC would be able to attract attention
to his views.
According to the New York Times (May 5, 2005), supporters of the "influential
circle in the Pentagon," whose members were leading advocates for war in
Iraq and have long-standing ties to AIPAC, blame the FBI's investigation on
"the continuing struggle inside the administration over intelligence,"
arguing that individuals who supported the Iraq war have been unjustly targeted.
Although the two AIPAC employees had not been charged (as of early May 2005)
and the lobbying group was informed that it was not under investigation, the
Franklin case has brought some unwanted attention to AIPAC, as well as to the
larger issue of U.S.-Israeli relations. Many observers have long suspected that
key supporters for the Iraq war inside the administration – including Wolfowitz
and Feith – were at least in part motivated by their views on Israeli security.
These views were also in line with the stance of AIPAC and several other pro-Israel
Of all the U.S. lobbies, few wield more influence than the pro-Israel interest
groups. According to some estimates, there are about 500 national and local
organizations that collectively make up the pro-Israel lobby. And of those,
AIPAC arguably carries the most weight – "the most effective general interest
group over the entire planet," Newt Gingrich once said of AIPAC. Extremely
active in securing weapons deals for Israel, in lobbying for sanctions against
the country's Middle East rivals, and in promoting the political agenda of whatever
government happens to be in power in Israel, AIPAC has long played a highly
public role in American policymaking in the Middle East.
AIPAC has also been active in pushing U.S. intervention in the region. In
fact, its efforts to persuade U.S. lawmakers to go after Iraq date back to the
first Gulf War. In an interview shortly after the 1991 Gulf War began, Thomas
Dine, then the president of AIPAC, told the Wall Street Journal that
his organization had been busy behind the scenes building support for the war.
"Yes, we were active," said Dine. "These are the great issues
of our time. If you sit on the sidelines, you have no voice."
According to press reports, in 1990 alone pro-Israel groups gave nearly $8
million in campaign contributions. Among those on the Democratic side of the
aisle who received PAC cash and later supported the decision to go to war was
Sen. Harry Reid, an influential Democrat who had received $150,000 from pro-Israel
PACs during his Senate election bid (a dozen years later, in 2002, Reid would
again support the use of force against Iraq). Other Democrats who voted for
the 1991 Iraq war resolution and received lobby cash included Sen. Richard Bryan
and Sen. Howell Heflin. According to the Wall Street Journal, the entire
Alabama delegation in both the House and Senate voted for the resolution. Although
at first glance "this can be ascribed to the conservative, pro-military
character of the state," opined the Journal, it is clear that "pro-Israel
PACs have also cultivated Democrats [in the state] in recent years."
A key AIPAC supporter at the time who actively worked to get congressman onboard
the war resolution was Rep. Stephen Solarz. Solarz, who later became a supporter
of various Project for the New American
Century initiatives (he signed the notorious Sept. 20, 2001, PNAC letter
calling for war against Iraq "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly
to the [9/11] attack"), personally lobbied Sen. Al Gore, who voted for
the resolution, as well as several other fence-sitters among the Democrats,
who Solarz accused of being "tragically shortsighted" in their view
of the Israeli-American relationship. Solarz also pushed AIPAC to play a more
public role in supporting the use of force, as well as several other pro-Israel
lobbies, including the Reform Jewish Movement.
Once war was under way, AIPAC immediately set about to capitalize on the growing
U.S. public support for Israel in the wake of Saddam Hussein's Scud missile
attacks on the country. According to the Washington Report on Middle East
Affairs (WRMEA), by the end of January 1991, AIPAC had rushed off a letter
to its supporters outlining a postwar campaign. Reported WRMEA: "Counting
on the American public's newfound understanding of Israel's vulnerability, AIPAC
will press for a new package of security aid for Israel far larger than any
previous package. Second, the lobby will encourage the United States to strengthen
its friendship with Israel and avoid 'pandering toward Arab states hostile to
the West and Israel.' Third, it will request millions of dollars more in housing
loan guarantees to settle Soviet Jews. And finally, it will work to ensure that
any diplomatic efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict will be based on
'close cooperation and trust between the United States and Israel.'"
Within a few short months, however, newspapers were reporting that AIPAC and
the rest of the pro-Israel lobby had suffered a "damaging reversal"
and that Israel was "no longer an automatic ally." It seems that the
administration of George H. W. Bush was more interested in maintaining relations
with other Arab states and pushing for a comprehensive Middle East peace deal
than it was in keeping the lobby happy.
Despite these setbacks, AIPAC was again in the thick of things during the lead-up
to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to press reports, AIPAC membership jumped
nearly 50 percent, to some 70,000, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, in part
through ties the group had made with the Christian Right, which reflected a
key strategy promoted by many neoconservatives and foreign policy hardliners
during the 1990s. In late 2002, as talk about war heated up in Washington, AIPAC
held a "national summit" in Atlanta to discuss the possible war and
to strategize with supporters. Among the speakers at the conference were Paul
Wolfowitz, Tom Ridge, and Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition.
Commenting on the burgeoning relations between the Christian Right and the
pro-Israel lobby, Reed said: "I don't think there's any question that since
September 11 and the attack on the United States there's been a renewed dialogue
and a new relationship between the Jewish community and the Christian community
because of their shared friendship to Israel and their mutual opposition to
Not long after President Bush declared an end to the war in Iraq in May 2003,
AIPAC focused its attention on a new target – Syria. AIPAC helped lobby for
passage of new U.S. sanctions against Syria, long a key goal of neoconservatives
and Likud supporters both in the United States and Israel. Reported the Deutsche
Presse-Agentur (Nov. 14, 2003),
"In his speech this month about the need for the Middle Eastern countries
to move toward democracy, U.S. President George W. Bush won some praise but
his words were also met with apprehension among Arab countries in the region.
… The basis for such worries … was that Bush's speech was preceded by suggestions
from the so-called neoconservatives. They were the spearhead of the drive that
led to the invasion of Iraq. For example, one of them, Richard Perle, chairman
of the Defense Policy Board, talked [while in Israel] about the Syrian government's
failure to stop infiltration of guerrillas into Iraq. He coupled that with the
observation that Syria's military strength was feeble. This occurred at the
same time that the Israeli lobby in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC), was using its muscle on the U.S. Congress to pass the Syria
Accountability Act. This would impose U.S. sanctions on Syria unless Syria ended
its occupation of parts of Lebanon, cut its ties to Palestinian groups the United
States regards as terrorists, and stopped its alleged developments of chemical
and biological weapons."
AIPAC has also lobbied heavily for U.S. funding of various Israeli weapons
programs, including its Arrow missile defense system. Its Web site explains:
"Since 1990 the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Ballistic Missile
Defense Organization have cooperated to develop missile defense technology to
counter the threat of long-range missiles, which are being developed by countries
such as North Korea and Iran. This military cooperation between the U.S. and
Israel has resulted in the deployment of the Arrow missile defense system, and
the continuing development of the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL)."
After the Senate voted in 2002 to include money for the Arrow system and other
Israeli military priorities in a defense spending bill, AIPAC proudly reported,
"In a vote of 95-3, the Senate last week passed the fiscal year 2003 Defense
Appropriations bill, which provides substantial funding for U.S.-Israel strategic
cooperation. The Arrow Missile Defense Program received $80 million above the
administration's request for a total of $146 million. Additional funding includes
the following: $23.5 million for the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL);
$64.9 million for the Litening II Targeting Pod; $35 million for Bradley Reactive
Armor Tiles; $22 million for the Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; and $20 million
for the Improved Tactical Air-Launched Decoy (ITALD). Learn more about these
defense programs by visiting our interactive strategic showroom."
Several high-profile Bush administration folks have had financial interests
in many of the weapons systems pushed by AIPAC, including Jay Garner, the former
"mayor of Baghdad," whose SYColeman
produced parts for the Arrow missile system. Garner also has strong ties to
the neoconservative Jewish Institute
for National Security Affairs.