March 15, 2007
Many guests at AIPAC event, but one is unwanted—Iraq
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Democrats said they were stunned by what they considered Israeli intervention in the U.S. political process.
They weren't the only ones. Officials close to Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who attended the event and gave a closed-door briefing, said he felt Olmert had crossed a line.
Peretz believes Israelis "should not interfere in a democratic process, especially in a country where there is such sensitivity about the democratic process," the officials said.
AIPAC was circumspect. The organization sees the Iran issue "differently" than does Olmert, Block said.
"We're interested in ensuring that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons by ensuring that every sanction is used," he said.
To be sure, that was the tone set at the conference.
"Stiff sanctions and targeted divestments -- these will be our focus as we work to keep the pressure on Iran," AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr said, speaking at the same session as Cheney.
The focus was a new sanctions act, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), its ranking member.
"Chairman Lantos' legislation prohibits Iranian-owned state banks from using the American banking system," Pelosi said in her remarks. "In terms of diplomacy, it proposes that we use our influence with Russia and China to encourage them to join the world community in opposing Iran's nuclear program."
Pelosi delivered her own limited broadside against the Iraq war, saying "any U.S. military engagement must be judged on three counts -- whether it makes our country safer, our military stronger or the region more stable. The war in Iraq fails on all three scores."
That earned her light applause and a few boos.
In the end, however, delegates dropped whatever they felt about Iraq as they ascended the steps of Capitol Hill.
"We lobby on U.S. and Israeli issues," said Eric Zoller, 30, of West Orange, N.J. Touring his state's congressional offices in the Cannon Building for House members, he said Iraq was "no issue."
Benny Schechter, 51, a wholesaler from Coral Gables, Fla., noted Olmert's appeal to make Iraq an issue -- but he rejected it.
"This is not an issue that we want to raise," Schechter said after meeting with Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas).
Stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons is the bottom line, Schechter said. "If that happens, the war in Iraq means nothing," he said. "We have a limited time and we need to pick what issues are important."
Rachel Mauro and Gabe Ross in Washington contributed to this story.
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