Elections are to special-interest groups what spinach is to Popeye. So it was no surprise that the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at the beginning of this month produced the usual pandering. Barack Obama, Arab-Israeli peacemaking on hold, said that when the chips were down “I have Israel’s back”. When Mitt Romney’s video address began, one wicked tweet wondered whether the Republican candidate would promise to make his inauguration speech from Jerusalem. In the event, he promised only to make Jerusalem his first port of call as president.
In recent years, however, mighty AIPAC has had to cope with an irritant: a small but dogged competitor. On March 24th a different group of American Jews will meet in downtown Washington at the conference of the organisation known as J Street. J Street is growing, though still a tiddler by AIPAC standards. It now has 50-odd staffers, and has lined up Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former prime minister, as next week’s keynote speaker.