Netanyahu Speaks, but Today’s the Day
Activists head to Hill with some partisan rancor
Every fifth-grader knows that the United States Congress holds the power of the purse—which means that whatever Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in his speech later this morning to a special joint meeting, money will be somewhere on his mind. He promised in last night’s keynote before a capacity crowd at the AIPAC Policy Conference that he will focus on the “great convulsion” shaking the Middle East and outline his vision for a Israeli-Palestinian peace—but even if he makes no mention of the $3 billion aid package to Israel currently being considered in the Capitol, thousands of AIPAC delegates will be making it their top talking point in scheduled meetings with their representatives later in the day. Also on their list of requests? Cutting off American funding for the Palestinian Authority if the money is going to help Hamas, in the wake of its recent unity deal with the ruling party, Fatah.
This all comes in the context of the ongoing Republican-led fight to cut billions from the overall U.S. budget. So it’s worth noting that one of the people who attended a private, bi-partisan meeting with Netanyahu yesterday was casino mogul Sheldon Adelson—one of Bibi’s leading backers in Israel, thanks to his financing of the free right-wing daily Israel Hayom, and a key Republican donor who has given millions to former House Speaker, and now presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich. According to Ben Smith, the meeting devolved into charges from the Democrats in the room (like Debbie Wasserman Schulz and Steve Israel, two Jewish representatives that happen also to be the heads of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, respectively) that, in the aftermath of President Obama’s twin speeches last week, Republicans are turning support for Israel into a partisan wedge issue. Bibi, wisely, stayed out of it: “The [Republican Jewish Coalition] and [National Jewish Democratic Council] argued between them,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled told Smith. “The Prime Minister stressed bipartisanship … and the importance of keeping Israel a bipartisan issue, as has always been the case.”