A delegation of 20 Oregonians joined nearly 13,000 pro-Israel political activists attending the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 2-4. Activists were addressed by U.S. and Israeli government officials including Vice President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. High-ranking members of Congress from both sides of the aisle spoke of the United States’ unflagging bipartisan support for Israel and our mutually shared values and interests. Policy Conference attendees heard from Israeli movers and shakers about cultural, scientific and technological successes, and were treated to live demonstrations of cutting-edge Israeli innovations in action, including robotic prosthetics to help paraplegics walk again; new technology to prevent the transmission of HIV; advances in superconductors; and new ways to help those without sight to “see” through the use of sound.
Policy Conference offered attendees a variety of in-depth expert-led educational symposia on Iran, Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah and Hamas, the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, the Iron Dome missile defense system, and many other political and historical topics. Speakers included noted authors, journalists, scholars and government officials such as Elliott Abrams, Bret Stephens, Dennis Ross, Michael Oren, Ron Prosor, Michael Singh, Robert Satloff and Avi Jorisch.
On March 4 AIPAC activists held meetings on Capitol Hill with every member of Congress. Topics of discussion included preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, strengthen- ing U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation and continuing security assistance to Israel. Delegates lobbied House members to pass the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act (HR 850) and the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act (HR 938). HR 850 (and its cor- responding resolution in the Senate, SR 65) would strengthen enforcement of current U.S. sanctions on Iran and expand sanc- tions targeting Iran’s human rights violations. HR 938 declares Israel to be a major strategic partner of the United States, and contains a variety of provisions for cooperation in defense, and enhanced collaboration between U.S. and Israeli scientific institutions in the areas of cyber-security, energy, water, homeland security, agriculture and alternative fuel technologies.
The Oregon AIPAC delegation filled the offices of Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and held individual meetings with all five of Oregon’s House members (Reps. Greg Walden, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici, as well as Vancouver, WA, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler). Oregon delegates this year included AIPAC State Chair Brian Yablon; council members Ken Kwartler, Steve Rosenberg, Sharon Ungerleider, Steve Sirkin and Stan Shulster; Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Michael Cahana; students from the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Lewis & Clark College, and Reed College; and others.