W hen Jewish American tycoon Sheldon Adelson ascended the stage at the Israeli American Council’s annual conference this week, he said he was reminded of AIPAC’s glory days, back when the pro-Israel lobby was just developing its foothold.

The comments sparked speculation whether he was simply noting the meteoric development of IAC — which is taking an increasingly central role inside the community of Israeli-Americans — or predicting that IAC may soon become a force that could compete with AIPAC, at a time when some Jewish Americans have lost confidence in the latter, for its perceived failure to lobby Congress against the Iran nuclear agreement, and also for AIPAC president Lilian Pinkus’s apology to the group’s 2016 policy conference for candidate Trump’s criticism of President Obama.

Either way, it’s hard to ignore IAC’s phenomenal growth rate. From 650 participants in its first conference, that number doubled in the second year. Last year, there were 2,000 participants, and this year, according to CEO Adam Milstein, the conference drew 2,700. The number of IAC branches has likewise burgeoned, with 15 branches currently scattered across the US and an additional five new branches planned for the coming year.

For this year’s event, the IAC booked Washington’s massive Walter E. Washington Convention Center, a statement in itself. In an interview with Mishpacha, CEO Adam Milstein explained that the group has distinguished itself by its unconditional support for Israel. “We’re a very unique community — Americans of Israeli descent,” he clarified. “Our platform is to support the State of Israel unconditionally. Our support doesn’t depend on whether or not Israel reaches a peace agreement with its neighbors, opens the Kotel for heterodox services or agrees to non-Orthodox conversion.

“We love Israel, and at the same time, we acknowledge that it’s a democratic country. It elects its own leaders; its people serve in the army, and they know the price they’re willing to pay for peace.”

Milstein and the members of IAC believe it’s not their place to dictate policy to Israel. “Israelis must be allowed to determine their own destiny,” he said, “Even I, who did serve in the IDF, am not in a position to tell Israelis what to do when it comes to concessions for peace, because whatever agreements are reached are going to affect the people living in Israel more than they’re going to affect me.”

The IAC was formed in response to what Milstein terms the failure of previous pro-Israel advocacy efforts. “The Jewish American community has invested millions in pro-Israel advocacy, in education, and in leadership training, yet many of those programs have failed,” he says. “They’ve been watching what we’re doing, and are impressed with our success. In fact, they’ve been joining some of our programs! I guess they figure that if their efforts to connect young American Jews to Judaism and to Israel have failed, maybe the IAC can be a game-changer. So, I believe that in five to ten years we will be the home for the pro-Israeli community across the US. And I am talking about a community — not a one-mission organization, such as AIPAC.”

Does Milstein see his organization posing a challenge to — or perhaps even overtaking — AIPAC’s mammoth lobby? “Absolutely not,” he emphasizes. “I’d say that we see ourselves as a complementary organization, not a competitor. We do things they don’t usually do, and in areas of mutual interest, we collaborate. This Friday, I met the heads of AIPAC to discuss how we can deepen our cooperation. The fact that we have many mutual supporters makes us like family. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 684)