Aipac Accuses ZOA President of Endangering U.s., Israeli Interests

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is accusing a hard-line Jewish group of endangering American and Israeli interests by lobbying Congress to put conditions on U.S. aid to Jordan.

AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, has urged the Zionist Organization of America to end its campaign against aid to Jordan, according to a letter obtained by JTA.

ZOA has urged lawmakers to condition aid to Jordan — which is expected to total more than $300 million this year — on the arrest and extradition of Abu Daoud, a Palestinian who admitted in a recent book that he planned the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, which killed 11 Israeli athletes.

ZOA President Morton Klein says he will not back down and is accusing AIPAC of being soft on terrorism.

“Linking aid is a very good way” to convince countries to fight terrorism, Klein said.

The exchange is the latest in a string of conflicts between Klein and AIPAC, which has been entrusted by the organized Jewish community to be its voice on Capitol Hill on Israeli matters.

Abu Daoud had lived in the West Bank for three years until June, when Israel barred his return from Jordan. The move came after his book was published and Germany filed an international arrest warrant for him.

Despite reports that Abu Daoud has left Jordan for an unspecified destination, Klein said that when he started his campaign, he had information that Abu Daoud was still there.

In any case, he said he still holds Jordan responsible for not arresting him while he was living there.

Klein’s successful campaign convinced 42 members of Congress to send a letter to President Clinton threatening U.S. aid to Jordan.

“We call upon you, Mr. President, to demand that King Abdullah of Jordan honor the Interpol arrest warrant and immediately turn over Daoud to Germany for prosecution,” the lawmakers wrote in a June 30 letter to Clinton.

“Failure to do so could adversely affect future aid to Jordan,” the lawmakers wrote.

It was the success of the ZOA campaign that led AIPAC to urge Klein to call off his lobbying efforts.

“The gratuitous attack on Jordan’s eligibility for U.S. assistance intimated in your campaign is damaging not only to Jordan itself, but also to important American and Israeli interests,” AIPAC President Lionel Kaplan and Executive Director Howard Kohr wrote in their July 28 letter to Klein.

“Jordan is a valued U.S. ally and a vital strategic partner of Israel; it works closely with Israel’s security forces to combat terrorism,” the AIPAC letter said.

U.S. aid is critical for Jordan’s “integrity and stability,” said AIPAC, noting that both Labor and Likud governments have strongly supported this assistance.

AIPAC believes that Abu Daoud “needs to be brought to justice and punished for his heinous crime, but harmful pressure on Jordan is not the way to achieve this goal,” the letter said.

This is not the first time that ZOA has tangled with AIPAC.

In 1994, the pro-Israel lobby accused ZOA of putting U.S. aid to Israel in jeopardy by lobbying in an inappropriate manner during a congressional committee vote on foreign aid.

Klein maintained at the time that he had done nothing inappropriate.

Concerned about such unilateral efforts, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, an umbrella organization, directed ZOA and all other member organizations to coordinate all future lobbying efforts with AIPAC.

Since that time, AIPAC has opposed several ZOA-led efforts on Capitol Hill, including a campaign against aid to the Palestinian Authority, one to press for Palestinian compliance with peace accords with Israel and recently, an effort to force the Palestinian Authority to extradite suspected terrorists to the United States.

AIPAC officials refused to comment on their letter to Klein, but congressional aides said it would likely be heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill.

One longtime congressional aide said the letter to ZOA shows that AIPAC is trying to reclaim turf lost on Capitol Hill, where it has faced increasing competition in recent years.

AIPAC joined the fray over aid to Jordan after Jordan’s ambassador to the United States failed in his own effort to address congressional concerns expressed in the letter to Clinton.

“I also would like to express deep regret and dismay over attempts by groups such as the Zionist Organization of America to tarnish Jordan’s record and even to question its commitment to peace,” Marwan Muasher wrote in a letter last month to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

“In fact, it is we who call into question ZOA’s motives behind such actions, particularly when considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans and members of the American Jewish community recognize the Kingdom’s record in fighting terrorist and in spearheading efforts to bring about peace in the region.”

Muasher reiterated in the letter a promise to arrest Abu Daoud if he tries to re-enter Jordan.

In a three-page letter responding to AIPAC’s charges, Klein said the Jordanian pledge “demonstrates that the ZOA’s methods are effective.”

He also appeared in his letter this week to be on a new collision course with AIPAC, raising new concerns about the presence of Hamas in Jordan.

Klein asked whether the continued presence of Hamas offices there is not a matter “of legitimate concern for an American Jewish organization to raise.”

AIPAC responded to the question, saying that Israeli governments have supported U.S. aid to Jordan with “full knowledge” of the Hamas office.

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