Obama and Peres
U.S. President Barack Obama with President Shimon Peres in the White House. Photo by Reuters
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America's Republicans aren't the only ones racing for the White House. Soon they may be joined by Israel's president and prime minister.

Both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may end up in Washington in early March to attend AIPAC's annual policy conference, an unprecedented situation. Under these circumstance, it isn't clear which of them would merit a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

AIPAC - the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, considered the major pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States - is holding its annual conference March 4-6. While Israel's president and prime minister are always invited, traditionally one of them attends, while the other sends a recorded message to the conference.

This year, Peres was expected to attend, with AIPAC planning to turn the conference into an event honoring Peres for his life's work. AIPAC has been working on a documentary film on Peres's life, intending to screen it at the gathering.

Netanyahu's office, meanwhile, had informed AIPAC that the premier would send the recorded message. But a few days ago, Netanyahu made it known that he was weighing whether to attend the conference in person after all.

As if in response, The President's Residence made an official announcement yesterday that Peres would be attending the conference, which is seven weeks away. The President's Residence usually announces Peres' foreign trips only a week before they take place.

Yesterday's announcement said that Peres would utilize his trip to Washington "to hold a round of diplomatic meetings with senior administration officials," with the president's people seeking a meeting with Obama.

Having Peres and Netanyahu in Washington at the same time could create an embarrassing situation if Obama is forced to choose which of the two to meet. Instead, the White House might schedule meetings with both of them, a day or two apart, which would also be unusual.

Netanyahu's office said yesterday his attending the conference was still being discussed, adding, "there's no contradiction between Netanyahu's trip and Peres' trip and we believe this will be resolved with good will."

The President's Residence said Peres' trip "was being completely coordinated with the prime minister's bureau and Peres and Netanyahu even discussed it. There's nothing to stop both of them from going."