Ha'aretz, August 4, 1998
Labor accuses AIPAC of being 'extreme right-wing' groupDelegation headed by Barak begins Washington mission
By Nitzan Horowitz, Ha'aretz Correspondent
WASHINGTON - At a meeting yesterday with 12 leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a delegation of senior Labor MKs harshly criticized the committee's support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and its opposition to the peace process.
MK Yossi Beilin, who before his arrival in the United States said that AIPAC had become "an extreme right-wing organization that threatens the American peace team," said at yesterday's meeting that "he does not feel at home" with the committee.
Beilin insisted that AIPAC today is a right-wing organization "looking for battles at the expense of Israel's security." Beilin attacked an April letter from U.S. senators to President Bill Clinton, organized by AIPAC, saying that it harmed Israel's security.
MK Shlomo Ben-Ami told the AIPAC delegates that they "do not understand Israel's security needs and interests, thereby creating a situation in which the U.S has a hard time protecting these interests."
The remaining members of the Labor delegation, MKs Ehud Barak and Ephraim Sneh, chose a softer tone. Barak started off expressing his support and appreciation for AIPAC's goals and activity. He then expressed concern over recent strategic developments in the Middle East, such as Iran's stocking up on weapons of mass destruction. Barak believes that the American Jewish lobby has an important role to play in fighting such dangerous developments.
However, Barak did not spare his criticism from AIPAC either. "I travel across the country and look into the eyes of the people who will be killed. They will not be killed due to security interests but due to the blindness, and you share some of the responsibility for this blindness," Barak told the AIPAC delegates. He said that if an arrangement is not reached with the Palestinians "the blame will be yours too."
The AIPAC leaders participating in the meeting argued in response that the organization does not interfere in the relationship between Israel's opposition and government, and only acts on behalf of Israel's interests. They rejected the claim that they had become a right-wing organization and noted that former prime minister Golda Meir had in her time also asked AIPAC to organize a senators' letter to the administration.
In response, Barak said that Meir admitted later that "you had helped her avoid a solution but did not help her avoid the great catastrophe of the Yom Kippur War."
To maintain contact with the opposition and work out their differences directly, Beilin suggested that AIPAC form a branch that will keep in touch with Israel's opposition, like the branches in charge of contacts with the administration and Congress. According to Beilin, the AIPAC delegation accepted his proposal.
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