AIPAC

AIPAC….M.J. Rosenberg says that Barack Obama got only a mild reception at this week’s AIPAC conference. Why? Not enough Arab-bashing:

For the far right in the pro-Israel community, it is more important that a candidate hate Arabs than love Israel. It’s true. At AIPAC, professions of love for Israel are politely applauded but only Arab bashing (and Palestinian bashing in particular) brings the crowd to its feet.

….So ignore the crazies, Senator. They are a tiny minority of the pro-Israel community (not to mention of Americans in general).

The overwhelming majority of American Jews support the two-state solution, venerate the memory of Rabin rather than the likes of Netanyahu, and will support a candidate who promises not a Bush-like hands-off policy but leadership to end the deadly conflict.

I don’t know if M.J. is right about Arab-bashing, but it wouldn’t surprise me. After all, how do you get a big cheer at a Democratic convention? Bash Republicans. How do you get a big cheer at a Republican convention? Bash Democrats. Bashing the bad guy always gets a big response.

But put that aside for a moment. I’m curious about something else. The AIPAC conference has inspired a bunch of blogging about AIPAC’s hawkish views on the Middle East and its remarkable success as a lobbying organization. Members of Congress cross them at their peril, as demonstrated by AIPAC’s success last week in removing legislative language that would have required the president to get congressional approval before launching an attack on Iran. AIPAC is routinely named one of the top two or three most effective lobbying groups in DC.

So here’s my question, and I hope everyone will excuse my ignorance in asking it: Where does AIPAC’s clout come from? Does it represent a big part of the pro-Israel community or is it just a small but very motivated group? Is M.J. right when he suggests that an “overwhelming majority” of American Jews oppose AIPAC’s hawkish line? If so, where are these folks? Is this overwhelming majority not politically active?

I’m more interested in things like hard polling data on this question than I am in shouting matches. Anybody know a good source of reliable information?