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D.C. elite say pro-Israel lobby losing influence, likened to NRA

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Vice President,Joe Biden,Israel,Lobbying,Palestinians,AIPAC

A new and unusual survey of Washington political insiders reveals that the once-invincible pro-Israel lobby is losing steam, possibly opening the doors for moderate Middle East peace voices to get a chance at influencing American policy.

The survey provided to Secrets found that of those expressing an opinion, three times as many believe that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has more influence than it should, a possible indicator that Washington may be tiring of decades of hardline U.S. negotiating tactics on behalf of Israel.

The poll conducted by Zogby Analytics for Avaaz, an AIPAC critic that backs Jewish peace groups, comes at an interesting time for the Israel lobby. It just wrapped up another successful Washington summit, but the group's influence has been questioned in the media, especially after it got in a tussle with Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic Party.

Avaaz official Ian Bassin said that the poll “shows a growing number of the Washington establishment see a damaging, partisan lobby on the decline.”

AIPAC said it wouldn't comment on the Avaaz/Zogby poll conducted Feb. 25-28, which quizzed 165 Hill staffers, NGO and think tank leaders, journalists, and government officials with a handful of questions.

Essentially, the Washington insiders were asked to size up AIPAC. Here’s what Zogby found:

– 31 percent said AIPAC has more influence than it should, 30 percent said it was “just the right amount,” and only 8 percent said it has less than it should have. Some 33 percent had no opinion.

– More insiders thought AIPAC’s influence is falling than rising.

- Only 18 percent felt that AIPAC's influence increased the chance of peace in the Middle East, with 27 percent feeling AIPAC's influence decreases the chance for a resolution and one in five (22 percent) saying that AIPAC's lobbying has no effect on the chances for a resolution to the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Nearly a third had no opinion.

- About 45 percent of respondents said they have at least once seen a member of Congress take a position on an issue that was not in the public interest because of AIPAC's influence.

- More than 50 percent of those expressing an opinion agreed with the statement: "AIPAC is the National Rifle Association (NRA) of U.S. Middle East Policy."

The poll also found evidence of a perception of AIPAC's political bias, with respondents seeing it aligned with the GOP more than Democrats by a two to one margin.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.