The empty front hall of the Washington Convention Center during afternoon breakout sessions.(The author)
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Afternoon Nap

Break-out sessions take over AIPAC

Marc Tracy
March 04, 2012
The empty front hall of the Washington Convention Center during afternoon breakout sessions.(The author)

The plenary sessions and tomorrow night’s gala are when the news is made at AIPAC. This afternoon and tomorrow afternoon are many, many breakout sessions spread all around the Brobdingnagian Washington Convention Center. It is somewhat frustratingly scheduled: There was only 15 minutes between the end of the morning plenary and first set of sessions, and only 15 minutes between the first and second sets; there is no lunch-break; and there are an epic number of panels, many of which seem interesting, but none of which seem worth devoting two hours to, especially since there are so many other interesting ones. Such are the compromises of hosting more than 13,000 people. There are, however, cafeterias serving kosher fare “Packed Exclusively for AIPAC.”

Plus, there are people to see, to catch between panels, to meet. And, predictably, the most interesting panels are off-the-record: I was dying to cover famed pollster Frank Luntz’s session, but it is closed to reporters. Amusingly, many of the panels are repeated over the two sessions. For example, Elliot Abrams and Martin Indyk are going mano-a-mano on “A Final Settlement: The Past and Future of Peace Agreements” during both sessions, like repertory theater. Next year, I’ll sit in on both sessions of the same panel.

The Occupy AIPAC protests across Mount Vernon Place are not insubstantial, but neither are they huge, and they certainly haven’t been disruptive to the conference itself.

Oh, and if you haven’t bought a copy of Nextbook Press’ David Ben-Gurion biography by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who spoke this morning, we suggest heading down to the bookstore in the AIPAC Village.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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