[video] JTA interview w/State Rep. Josh Mandel at AIPAC Policy Conference

This not quite three-minute interview conducted by JTA at the AIPAC Annual Policy Conference includes the following exchange between the interviewer and State Rep. Josh Mandel (R-Lyndhurst, 17th) (whom JTA calls its “favorite Jewish Republican/Iraq war veteran”):

JTA: What do you think is the most important issue or two, as a Republican lawmaker at the level you’re at, when you kind of take a look at the whole scene-what do you think are sort of the key issues that you think the party needs to be holding onto and building on?

MANDEL: It varies state to state. I think different states have different issues in which they’re focusing and also within different constituencies, there are different issues.  So what certain citizens might feel in the Northeastern part of Ohio might be a different feeling in Southeastern Ohio or Northwestern Ohio. Same thing in New York or Chicago or…

JTA: So if I’m a Jewish Republican in Cleveland or in the Cleveland area, what am I thinking, like, what do you think are the issues for that constituency?

MANDEL: Again, I mean, even, you know, among my constituents I hear a lot of different issues, but I think many people I come across are especially concerned with the safety and security of our country. There is a radical Islamic threat facing our country and democracies worldwide and I think people are very concerned about that.

You can see the context of the AIPAC event, and the specific questions asked here:

FYI: The Cleveland Jewish News published this interview with Josh just before the elections last fall. In it, he states that the economy is the number one issue he was hearing about when knocking on doors in the 17th.

You can follow the AIPAC conference closely at the JTA blog – they’re doing a great job, including a live-blog of Biden right now.

Finally, today is the day when the approximately 5000 AIPAC delegates in D.C. for the conference go to their Congressional legislators and lobby.  This year, they will be asking them to support the creation of a “viable Palestinian state”:

While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is refusing to explicitly endorse a two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian conflict, participants at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference will this week be urging their elected representatives to press President Barack Obama for precisely that.

The pro-Israel advocacy group’s annual conference culminates each year with a mass lobbying effort, in which the thousands of participants from across the United States spread out across Capitol Hill for meetings with their respective members of Congress and encourage them to endorse policies and positions that AIPAC believes will advance the American-Israeli interest.

In this year’s lobbying effort, to take place on Tuesday, the AIPAC thousands will be asking their congressmen to sign on to a letter addressed to Obama that explicitly posits the need for a “viable Palestinian state.”

It is expected that the overwhelming majority of the congressmen will sign it.

Read the Jerusalem Post article for more details and a really curious/fun writerly flourish from a New York Times reporter about AIPAC’s relations with J Street:

Many of the Aipac attendees are planning to fan out on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to brace lawmakers with their views. Aipac’s spokesman, Josh Block, said there were 508 appointments at Congressional offices.

The conference’s literature is filled with suggestions for lobbying as in “don’t be late” and “be direct” in making your case.

Aipac officials say the key to their success is linking their supporters across the country with their local elected lawmakers. “Relationships matter” is a slogan plastered around the convention hall. Aipac does not make political donations but encourages its members to do so.

Last year, some prominent American Jews, asserting that Aipac’s generally down-the-line support of Israeli policy was neither helpful to Israel nor wise, founded a counter group called J Street. J Street, which is only a tiny percentage of the size of Aipac, is vocal about supporting lawmakers who might disagree with some Israeli policies. Aipac officials have tried to treat J Street as if it were lint.

Whoa! “As it if were lint”!? I’ve written the reporter for clarification – does he really mean, “as if it’s something that’s sticking to it but needs to be picked off and flicked away”?  Wow!

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