Michael Totten trots out a very tired claim:
AIPAC, though, is as much a grassroots organization as it possible for a lobbying group to be in this country. And it would get nowhere if its insistence on a close and special relationship between the United States and Israel didn’t resonate powerfully with American public opinion [bold mine-DL]. Imagine how successful a group like AIPAC would be if it lobbied for, say, a tight relationship with the Russians or with Hamas.
This is a ridiculous overstatement. Lobbying groups exist partly to magnify and maximize the influence that their particular constituency has on legislation and policymaking. There is a significant but small part of the population that AIPAC and groups like it represent. Everyone else is either badly underrepresented or entirely unrepresented in Washington when it comes to these issues. More to the point, most of the public doesn’t have strong or well-formed views on any of the relevant questions, so most of them are not concerned that their views go unrepresented. Depending on the poll, the actual “pro-Israel” constituency ranges from 15 to 25% of Americans. American public opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is overwhelmingly in favor of the U.S. not taking sides. Obviously, U.S. policy does not reflect what the majority wants on this issue, just as public opinion is frequently irrelevant to many other foreign policy decisions. The 2010 Brookings poll broke down support for a “pro-Israel” tilt:
The difference between Republicans, on the one hand, and Democrats and Independents on the other, are striking on this issue: 46% of Republicans want American diplomacy to lean toward Israel, in comparison with 14% for Democrats, and 11% for Independents.
Put another way, roughly half of the GOP is completely at odds with more than 60% of Americans on this question. It is preposterous to claim that the public endorses the “lockstep,” “not one inch of space” rhetoric about the U.S.-Israel relationship that AIPAC demands and receives from national politicians. The reality is that this issue doesn’t matter very much to most Americans. Far from having their views “resonating powerfully” with public opinion, “pro-Israel” activists benefit from the general indifference of most of the public to foreign policy issues that do not concern them directly. “Pro-Israel” activists tend to be more active, intense, and politically engaged than everyone else, and there is minimal political opposition to their preferred policies because most Americans are uninterested. So it’s not true that the “insistence on a close and special relationship between the United States and Israel” resonates powerfully with most Americans, but neither do most Americans care enough to object to that relationship.