One of the organizations that organize and sponsor these trainings is the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). The AIEF is a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. AIEF is AIPAC’s charitable arm and makes grants to AIPAC as well as funds trips to Israel for politically influential Americans, including U.S. Congress members, for meetings with the Israeli political and military elite. In 2017 alone, AIEF sponsored 147 congressional trips to Israel and spent $2.16 million, more than any other interest group sponsoring congressional travel.
The Sheriffs Department of Alachua County, Florida, is among the departments that have sent delegates to Israel. Stephen Oelrich served as Sheriff of Alachua County between 1992 and 2006, and served as a board member of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA). The NSA is a trade association that represents thousands of sheriffs, deputies and other public safety and law enforcement officers. The NSA offers police training and other services to these officials and builds networking relationships among local, state and federal law enforcement, in part to share homeland security programs and projects. One of the primary ways the NSA helps sheriffs’ offices, departments and associations nationwide is to find and prepare applications for state and federal homeland security grant funding, one of the sources that provide funding for trainings in Israel to local, state and federal law enforcement and public agencies.
As Sheriff, Oerlich traveled to Israel for a training with the Israeli police and private security experts, sponsored by AIPAC’s AIEF and the NSA. Sheriff Oerlich went on to become a Republican member of the Florida Senate from 2002-2012.