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JULY 6, 1987

Pro-Israel lobby sways U.S. policy

Group turns opinions into political power

New York Times News Service


WASHINGTON -- After several decades of growth in size and sophistication, the leading pro-Israel Lobby in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has become a major force in shaping United States policy in the Middle-East.

Operating from tightly guarded offices just north of the Capitol, the organization has gained the power to influence a presidential candidate's choice of staff, to block practically any arms sale to an Arab country, and to serve as a catalyst for intimate military relations between the Pentagon and the Israeli army. Its leading officials are consulted by State Department and White House policy makers, by senators, and generals.

The committee, known as AIPAC, is an American lobby, not an Israeli one -- it says its funds come from individual Americans -- and it draws on a broad sympathy for the cause of Israel in the administration, Congress, and the American public. As a result, it has become the envy of competing lobbyists and the bane of Middle East specialists who would like to strengthen ties with pro-Western Arabs.

It tends to skew the consideration of issues", a senior State Department official said. "People don't look very hard at some options. "This narrows the administration's internal policy discussions, he said, precluding even the serious study of ideas known to be anathema to AIPAC, such as the



THE PALM BEACH POST TUESDAY, JULY 7, 1987 3A

Lobby's influence on Israeli policy due to skill in Congress

New York Times News Service

 

WASHINGTON -- The Reagan administration notified Congress at 5:57 p.m. Friday, May 29, of its intention to sell 1,600 Maverick antitank missiles to Saudi Arabia.

Within half an hour, lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the only group registered to lobby Congress on legislation affecting Israel, were on the telephone to legislators about the proposal.

Over the next 13 days, the committee mobilized its nationwide network of supporters with a series of memorandums and telephone calls urging them to lobby Congress.

Though it is unclear whether the committee, known as AIPAC, can take all the credit, more than 260 members of Congress co-sponsored resolutions to block the sale, prompting President Reagan to withdraw it.

To some, like Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the incident demonstrated that the lobbyists from AIPAC were, in his words, "extremely effective" on Capitol Hill.

AIPAC's influence over the executive branch is a result, in part, of its skills in lobbying Congress.

Interviews with dozens of lawmakers, politicians and present and former AIPAC officials provide a picture of how the lobby actually works -- how it seeks to inform and influence members of Congress, both in Washington and back home.

The AIPAC lobbyists "are professionals in every sense of the word," said Hyde, a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees who has often clashed with them over arms sales and other issues. "They bring clarity of purpose with passionate commitment to everything they do. They are never ambiguous. The president's foreign policy should be so effective."

The AIPAC lobby is a well-oiled machine, a model for other lobbies in a technological age, and there is no evidence to suggest that its effectiveness has been diminished by the disclosure of Israel's role in either the Iran-Contra affair or the case of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the Washington intelligence analyst convicted last year of spying for Israel.

According to members of Congress, AIPAC is one of the most successful lobbies on Capitol Hill for these reasons: It has a simple, coherent message and is motivated by single minded devotion to a cause. Unlike business lobbies, the AIPAC lobbyists are not seeking financial benefits for their members.

Though AIPAC does not endorse or give money to candidates, it is perceived as influencing many campaign contributions. Israel's friends in Congress are often rewarded with such contributions from individual AIPAC members and from pro-Israel political action committees.

Many in Congress are predisposed to help Israel. Morris Amitay, former executive director of AIPAC, said that any legislation deemed important to Israel starts with "a consistent, reliable base" of 200 supporters in the 435-member House and 40 to 45 of the 100 senators.

A lobby is only as good as the quality of the information it supplies to members of Congress, and lawmakers say that AIPAC generally supplies timely and reliable information.

Thomas Dine, executive director of AIPAC and one of its six registered lobbyists, is continually urging the 55,000 members to become citizen lobbyists. "Issues are won or lost on Capitol Hill not because of what takes place in Washington, but because of what constituents want", he said in an interview.


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