Looking back at the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., it drew more attention than I can recall it getting in the past. It demonstrated the wonder of democracy, the amazing story of the State of Israel, the scariness of the crowd and the importance of leadership and the importance of apologizing.
On May 16, that passion will again be on display as AIPAC’s Minnesota Annual Event will bring together supporters and politicians of all stripes to the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis.
This year, Jeremy Bash, the former chief of staff to Leon Panetta in both his roles as secretary of defense and CIA director will be speaking. Bash is a founder and managing director of Beacon Global Strategies LLC.
Donald Trump gave an impressive speech, especially if you are pro-Israel. It was one of the first times that he actually gave a speech. However, when he deviated from his prepared comments, he reverted back to what I believe is his natural way of doing things: Being a dangerous bully that will not be good for the country or the world. He attacked President Barack Obama, with the sole intention of riling up the crowd. The crowd fell for this inappropriate comment and applauded. It wasn’t wise – and it wasn’t representative of AIPAC’s normal way of doing business, which is bipartisan.
AIPAC does represent a very broad tent of the pro-Israel community and all who come to the table are appreciated. However, due to the crowd’s poor behavior, the leadership of AIPAC took bold steps and got up and spoke the next morning. They received a standing ovation for basically scolding us for our behavior.
“There are people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night, and for that, we are deeply sorry,” said Lillian Pinkus, president of AIPAC. “We are disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with nor condone.”
I commend the leadership of AIPAC for taking responsibility and leading this group of highly intelligent, moral, caring people to a higher level. Mistakes are made and bad behavior occurs, but it’s how you handle that mistaken, bad behavior that is paramount.
Yes, we’d all like to try and avoid having poor judgment, but it’s part of life. My hope is that AIPAC is judged more on how it might have handled misconduct rather than the misconduct itself. I commend the AIPAC leadership, I commend the idea of AIPAC, I commend the U.S.-Israel relationship.
In my mind, Rep. Keith Ellison demonstrates the wonder of democracy. He would not be considered a pro-Israel proponent, but in all of his years as a member of the House of Representatives, he has always kept his door open to the pro-Israel community to listen and learn, to communicate, to express his feelings and to listen to ours. In addition, he knows the art of saying “no.”
The State of Israel is an amazing story, demonstrated in numerous ways:
- By the innovations that were rolled out at the AIPAC conference.
- By hearing a teenager who was born with no eyes and who was left by parents and taken in by Israeli society, singing the song “Someday.”
- By the stories of Eddie Jacobson, who in essence was the ambassador for the State of Israel to the United States in 1947. We heard interviews of Harry Truman telling the story of his relationship with Eddie Jacobson.
I recognized how crucial relationships are, and that what’s really important in life is collecting relationships, not collecting things.
Steve Lear is a principal at Affiance Financial and, among other things, is founder of the Speakers’ Bureau of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, specializing in a presentation entitled: “The Challenge of Peace: Israel and the Middle East.”