Lee Rosenberg: The times and the political landscape are changing


AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg starts the annual conference’s second day by citing giant Jewish prophets such as Isaiah, Herzl and implicitly Dylan to warn the assembled: The political landscape, it is a-changing.

He breaks it down into three components:

Demography: Americans are moving south and west. Major congressional delegations in the Northeast and Midwest — New York, New Jersey and Ohio — are depleting.

Congressional turnover: This is the most startling warning — AIPAC can no longer rely on incumbency. In part because of the noted demographic trends, a third of the Congress has turned over in two years.

Incumbency has been AIPAC’s friend: Keep supporting Israel, the deal goes, and we’ll help keep you in office. That tradition has made it easy to build long-term relationships and to inculcate lawmakers with an institutional pro-Israelism.

As Rosenberg put it, dramatically: "Knowledge and institutional memory — gone! Continuity — gone! Relationships — gone!"

Money: The cost of congressional elections is skyrocketing, but the number of major pro-Israel donors is remaining static. "It’s not sustainable," he said.

AIPAC is launching programs to train AIPAC activists not only in activism but in the importance of fundraising, he said.

Rosenberg’s speech is followed by testimonials from four formerly "apathetic" activists, who are then joined by a cross-country crowd on stage.

One of them delivers the message:

"If you only contribute tio AIPAC and not to politics as well, we are actually shortchanging our work. AIPAC and political giving go hand in hand."

Recommended from JTA