JERUSALEM (Jun. 7)
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has once again found itself in the uncomfortable position of being scolded by the Israeli government.
The latest embarrassment came Sunday, when an AIPAC member accompanying an AIPAC-sponsored congressional delegation from Florida criticized Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s peace policies at a meeting here.
The Foreign Ministry promptly lodged a protest with AIPAC over what it saw as an attack on the Rabin government.
Tom Dine, AIPAC’s executive director, apologized, explaining that the man who made the comments, Harvey Friedman, was not speaking for the influential pro-Israel lobby.
The incident occurred during the delegation’s meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin. According to an informed source, Friedman spoke out against any potential territorial concessions planned by Rabin in the course of the peace talks.
“Where does Rabin get the chutzpah to give up territory?” Friedman was quoted by the source as saying.
He said Beilin was “shocked by the statement” and passed a complaint on to Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Itamar Rabinovich, who in turn passed it on to Dine.
“It was an unfortunate incident portrayed by the press as an AIPAC statement, but it was not,” said Leonard Davis, director of AIPAC’s Jerusalem office.
“It was clear from the individuals and officials involved that they understood it to be an individual statement” not reflecting the lobby’s position, said Davis.
The Foreign Ministry said it has accepted AIPAC’s explanation. A spokesman said the episode should not be blown out of proportion.
With Dine’s “clarification of the Friedman criticism of Rabin, we see the end” of the episode, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “We shouldn’t enlarge it; it’s over.”
The relationship between AIPAC and the Rabin government began on shaky ground when, shortly after he was elected last June, Rabin singled out AIPAC for criticism, charging it had overstepped its role in U.S.-Israeli relations.
The Prime Minister’s Office later issued a statement expressing appreciation for AIPAC’s work in Washington on behalf of Israel.