WASHINGTON (Jul. 19)
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, beleaguered in recent weeks by the forced resignations of its executive director and one of its vice presidents, has received important endorsements from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Itamar Rabinovich.
Both Israeli officials, in letters to AIPAC President Steve Grossman, offered supportive words and thanks to the embattled lobbying organization.
“I consider AIPAC to be an important friend of Israel, and I am a friend of AIPAC,” Rabin said in his letter to Grossman, dated Monday. The letter praised AIPAC’s work with members of Congress on behalf of Israel.
Last summer, Rabin had harsh words for AIPAC, accusing it of not playing a constructive role in U.S.-Israeli relations. But at AIPAC’s annual policy conference in March, the prime minister told AIPAC members that he valued their work.
In recent weeks, AIPAC’s image has been damaged by the successive resignations of Thomas Dine, its respected executive director, and Harvey Friedman, a vice president responsible for major fund-raising.
Dine resigned after he made published comments seen as reflecting anti-Orthodox sentiments, while Friedman resigned after calling Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin a “little slimeball.”
Rabinovich wrote to Grossman on July 12, praising the lobby for fostering improved relations between the United States and Israel.
TIES ‘NOW BETTER THAN EVER’
“We know that without AIPAC’s relentless efforts and devotion, the important relationship between Israel and the United States, which is now better than ever, wouldn’t have fared as well,” the ambassador wrote.
Rabin’s letter included mention of a recent letter to President Clinton signed by 78 U.S. senators, commending the president and Secretary of State Warren Christopher for their work on the Middle East peace process and their support for maintaining Israel’s aid levels.
The prime minister pointed to the letter and the support in the House of Representatives for the recently adopted foreign aid bill as examples of what he called AIPAC’s “effective” work.
AIPAC has continued working closely with members of Congress in the wake of the Dine and Friedman resignations. Last week, AIPAC called a meeting with a group of Jewish senators and representatives.
The five senators and about 22 representatives met with Grossman and AIPAC’s acting executive director, Howard Kohr, on July 13 to discuss working together to foster U.S.-Israel relations, AIPAC said.
A Capitol Hill source familiar with the meeting said its main purpose was to give members a chance to ask questions about recent events affecting AIPAC and give AIPAC officials a chance to reassure them about AIPAC’s future.
The source also said that during the meeting, many members urged the AIPAC officials to fill the executive director’s position with someone familiar with Capitol Hill.