AS TWO MEN AT THE PODIUM called out names in rapid succession, senators and members of Congress rose from their candlelit tables to acknowledge the cheers of 7,000 pro-Israel activists gathered to fete them. The scene was the vast Washington Convention Center; the occasion, the gala banquet capping the annual three-day conference of Washington’s most powerful lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. With more than half of Congress attending, and America’s top politicians fumbling to score crowd points with awkwardly delivered Hebrew phrases and fulminations concerning Iran, the reading of the names has become a yearly demonstration of AIPAC’s clout. Banquet speakers included Joe Biden, Newt Gingrich, and John Kerry, looming on gigantic screens that lined the hall. Representing Israel were President Shimon Peres (whose address was interrupted by a half-dozen Code Pink activists) and, via satellite link, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a dog and pony show no other group—not the American Medical Association, not the National Rifle Association, not AARP—could hope to match.