Over the next three days, journalist Simona Fuma will be guest blogging from the AIPAC Policy Conference.
So the big issue at this yearâ€™s policy is Iran: specifically the threat that Iran could have a nuclear weapons capability as early as next year. All attendees received a glossy pullout with the word â€œURGENTâ€ splayed above a photo of Iranian president Ahmadinejad in a white lab coat inspecting his nuclear facilities.
AIPAC is pushing for legislation that would impose economic sanctions on companies that provide refined petroleum to Iranâ€”this would be crippling to the countryâ€™s economy, since Iran produces a lot of oil but it doesnâ€™t have the refining ability to make its cars go. Despite the talk of sanctions, there were rumblings that Israel may need to go further. â€œThere is nothing to do militarily and we are not capable of it,â€ a grave Ephraim Sneh, told about 200 well-dressed conference attendees in one of this afternoonâ€™s breakout sessions. Nevertheless, he told the rapt crowd: â€œI consider [a preemptive strike] as a last resort.â€
The former deputy defense minister and Labor Party Knesset member said that if necessary, Israeli could develop the capability to strike Iran in a short period of time. During the 1976 Entebbe hostage crisis, he said by analogy, â€œSomeone asked me, â€˜those hostages, can we bring them back?â€™ Seventy-two hours later I was with them in the airplane flying back home.â€
And what about living with a nuclear Iran, practicing deterrence? Sneh outlined six reasons why this would spell disaster for Israel: He said immigration to Israel would come to a halt under the shadow of a nuclear Iran; Israelis with skills and education would leave the country; there would be a sharp reduction in business investment; terrorist regimes would walk taller while moderates in the region would be cowed; and, finally, Israel would not be able to act, say by taking military action in Gaza, due to the fear of an Iranian nuclear reprisal.
During this morningâ€™s plenary session, Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the assembled multitudes that â€œIf we [the United States] and Israel are not totally on the same page, next year, if not handled properly, there could be a serious face-to-face argument between Israel and the US.â€ His remark was greeted with silence, but his message was clear: While pushing for sanctions, Israel activists in the US need also prepare for the fallout should a military strike occur.
Coming up next: Why are there so many Angelenos at the AIPAC conference?
Pronounced: k’NESS-et, Origin: Hebrew, Israel’s parliament, comprising 120 seats.