American Lobby in Israel Struggles to Show Progress

The obscure Israel American Public Affairs Committee doesn't have much to show for its efforts in improving America's image in Israel.

 

usisraelBy Jay Pinho

On a balmy, breezy Thursday in Jerusalem, David Levy leaned back in his desk chair and sighed. “We’re just not getting anywhere,” he finally said.

Levy is the president and co-founder of the Israel American Public Affairs Committee (IAPAC), an obscure lobbying group founded in Israel in 1972 with the express aim of “securing the United States’ borders, strengthening Israeli-American bonds, and affirming the US’s right to exist.”

The organization has spent close to $100 million since its founding on efforts to improve the image of the United States among Israeli citizens. And yet, IAPAC has agonizingly little to show for its efforts. Dozens of interviews with Israelis conducted by The Morningside Post throughout the country reveal a citizenry overwhelmingly apathetic towards its North American patron. “Why chase the bus when you’re already on it?” asked one Israeli.

A West Bank settler explained, “It simply doesn’t make sense to change things at this point. We receive billions of dollars in foreign aid already. And every time we announce new construction in Judea and Samaria, the Americans send us five new F-16s and an Iron Dome or two. Am I missing something?”

Recently, IAPAC scored a historic victory when the Knesset announced it would release an official statement expressing its gratitude for the billions of dollars in military aid it receives annually from the United States. After months of wrangling, IAPAC and the Knesset agreed on a one-line document in Hebrew which translates roughly as, “Not bad. A little more would be nice, but what are you gonna do?” Levy was thrilled.

Lately, Levy has begun pursuing a more aggressive approach. He has taken to labeling almost anything anyone in Israel says about the United States that is even remotely critical, ambiguous, or otherwise nuanced as “anti-American.” To date, the accusation has seemed not to sting, however.

One woman told The Morningside Post, “I don’t really know any anti-Americans. I guess we just don’t get why receiving billions in foreign aid, barely-conditional support for our military actions and diplomatic positions, increasing American isolation in global organizations, and more American military deaths from suicide bombers radicalized by the occupation means we have to like the U.S.”

Levy, however, was undeterred. “I’m too busy to get depressed,” he said. “This month we’re trying to get the Likud Party to subsidize the cost of Eric Cantor’s office in the King David Hotel, and I really think we’re gonna close the deal this time.”

This article first appeared in the May 1st issue of The Morningside Post.

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Jay is a dual-degree master's candidate in international affairs at L'Institut D'Études Politiques (Sciences Po) and Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. He blogs at The First Casualty and tweets as @jaypinho.

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