Lisa Goldman reports: The frenzied lobbying in Washington over the international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program has drawn attention to two unprecedented ruptures — both of which potentially have significant long-term consequences for Israel’s place in U.S. domestic politics.
For decades, unconditional support for Israel had been a point of unshakable bipartisan consensus inside the Beltway, even as bipartisanship on most other issues became a distant memory. A majority of Jewish voters continue to choose the Democrats; deep-pocketed Jewish donors remain vital to the electoral prospects of candidates from both parties, but partisan distinctions meant little when it came to Israel. And the pro-Israel lobbying establishment, first and foremost the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has always worked hard to span the aisle on Capitol Hill, while political leaders from both parties routinely pay tribute to the lobbying group at its annual convention.
The Iran nuclear deal has thrown that consensus into crisis, leaving Jewish Americans divided between a Democratic-voting majority that polls show support the Iran deal (in numbers proportionally larger than the wider U.S. population) and a conservative minority that includes some very powerful donors, and supports the GOP-led opposition to the deal. And AIPAC’s leading role in campaigning against the deal has prompted President Barack Obama to publicly challenge the group in a manner unprecedented for a U.S. leader over the past two decades. [Continue reading…]