Guest Column

By Abe Schear

Abe Schear for Atlanta Jewish Times

Abe Schear

The largest annual AIPAC conference just concluded, and it was fascinating, perhaps more so than most. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a frequent attendee, gave his much-anticipated speech, but it was subordinate to his speech to Congress and thus lacked drama (though he was the topic of the conference).

That said, in an analysis of the rest of the conference, AIPAC has surely made an interesting and useful pivot. Wonderful segments highlighted Israel’s fascinating and globally important technology sector as well as the strategic and historical importance of the American-Israeli relationship.

Programs that highlighted AIPAC’s message as right for Israel, right for the United States and right for the world included Atlanta City Council member Ceasar Mitchell (perhaps our next mayor). Evening programs included films and concerts, and, while the 16,000 delegates squeezed into one room, the thousands of student delegates seemed to be better integrated into the event. And this was not an election year!

The first time Barack Obama spoke at AIPAC, at a dessert reception in 2007, he was a relative unknown and spoke in a room adjacent to Hillary Clinton’s reception. In 2008, the day after soon-to-be-President Obama secured the nomination, he and Hillary Clinton spoke back to back, highlighting the importance of Israel and of AIPAC.

Next year’s March AIPAC conference will be in the middle of the campaign season and promises to be well attended by delegates and by politicians. It will for sure be an interesting opportunity to hear from those who will continue to shape the relationship between the United States and Israel.