The AIPAC 2016 Policy Conference was my first. I was not sure what to expect other than knowing that the list of speakers read like a Who’s Who of the Washington, D.C., establishment, plus a guy from New York City. This included Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
With some 18,000 people attending this highly organized spectacle, it was difficult to get from one venue to another, including the D.C. Convention Center and the nearby Verizon Arena. At times it felt like we were being herded like cattle, due in part to the highly justified security situation.
The conference itself had dozens of break-out sessions, on topics ranging from Israeli beer tasting to the upcoming U.S. elections and Iran. Presenters during these sessions were authorities on their topics. Needless to say, attendees came away with a lot of useful information.
With so many people attending the conference in such large venues, we relied upon several large projected screens so we could see the speaker – he or she looked like an ant from afar. I found it inspiring to be a part of such a large crowd.
The conference included time for networking with colleagues and meeting new people. The discussion always centered on Israel.
Going to Washington would not be the same without a visit to Capitol Hill. Our group met with Rhode Island’s Rep. Jim Langevin as well as staff of Rep. David Cicilline and Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. (Both Cicilline and Whitehouse were in Cuba and the Senate was in recess). Issues discussed included Iran, in particular its current ballistic missile tests and sanctions, plus the need for direct peace negotiations with the U.S. not the United Nations, as the facilitator,.
All in all, the conference met the hype and expectations.
MARTY COOPER is the Community Relations Director for the Jewish Alliance. firstname.lastname@example.org