More than 1,000 pro-Israel activists from across the United States will meet in Los Angeles for the Oct. 30-31 National Summit on Foreign Policy and Politics of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
They will join former President Bill Clinton, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, members of Congress, Israeli military leaders and journalists, scholars and top AIPAC officials in analyzing key issues facing Israel in the Middle East and in its relations with the United States.
Among forum and panel topics are terrorism threats against Los Angeles and other American cities, attitudes of the Latino community, Iran's nuclear program, Israel's disengagement from Gaza, innovative Israeli technology, challenges on American college campuses, the role of European Jewry and development of the Negev and Galilee.
For a Hollywood break, participants will take a studio tour and join a panel discussion with producers of "The West Wing" and "Commander in Chief."
Attendance at the two-day meeting at the Westin Century Plaza Hotel is limited to members of AIPAC's Capitol Club, who annually contribute $3,600 or more.
The meeting comes at a time when the influential pro-Israel lobby finds itself the object of much unwelcome media attention.
Two former top AIPAC officials in Washington, D.C. are currently facing trial in federal court on charges that they conspired with a former Pentagon analyst to communicate secret information to an Israeli diplomat.
AIPAC has dismissed the two officials, but is paying for their defense in accordance with its bylaws.
The legal charges have not impacted the organization's clout in Congress nor its membership and fundraising figures, AIPAC officials maintain.
On the contrary, they say, since the beginning of the second intifada five years ago, AIPAC membership has almost doubled from 55,000 to 100,000, and its annual operating budget has risen from $17 million to $40 million.
Over the last two years alone, membership has grown by some 25 percent and conferences across the country have scored record attendances, according to AIPAC officials, who are not obliged to document this information.
They attribute the rise mainly to the violence of the initifada and the impact of Sept. 11, factors that emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
While figures regarding AIPAC could not be independently verified, a number of key L.A. Jewish activists asserted in interviews that the indictments of the two ex-AIPAC officials have not, so far, had a detrimental effect on support for the organization.
About half of the attendees at the summit meeting are expected to come from the Southern Pacific region of AIPAC, which has an estimated 10,000-15,000 members in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii.
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