WASHINGTON – Three of the Democratic presidential nominees will send video messages to this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, which began on Saturday.
The pro-Israel lobby announced that it will air speeches by former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg. In addition, one candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, will give a speech at the conference itself.
The video messages by Biden, Klobuchar and Buttigieg are important for AIPAC because of the headlines that were generated last week by Senator Bernie Sanders’ announcement that he won’t appear at AIPAC out of principal.
Sanders accused AIPAC of giving platform to leaders who spread bigotry. AIPAC, in return, called his statement “shameful” and said that Sanders has never spoken at the AIPAC conference during his three decades in politics.
AIPAC is fighting to maintain its image of a bipartisan organization with strong ties to leading politicians in both parties. If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, his attack on the organization could hurt its standing with Democrats. Previous Democratic presidential nominees, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, spoke at AIPAC’s conferences when they were running for president.
Biden’s video message will be especially important for AIPAC because of the former VP’s impressive victory on Saturday night in the South Carolina primary. Biden has spoken at many AIPAC gatherings in the past, including in 2016, when he represented the Obama White House. It’s very likely that if it wasn’t for the Super Tuesday vote taking place in 15 states on Tuesday, Biden would have arrived to the conference this year as well.
This year’s conference is also taking place while Israel is preparing for its own election on Monday, and as a result, no prominent Israeli politicians will be at the conference in Washington. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will send a message via satellite and so will Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz. Last year, Gantz spoke at the conference and Netanyahu was also scheduled to do so but cancelled his speech after a rocket was fired from Gaza at central Israel.
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The Trump administration’s top representatives at the conference will be Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump himself has not attended any of AIPAC’s conferences since he entered the White House in 2017. Obama, for comparison, spoke at AIPAC both in 2011 and 2012.
Trump’s last appearance at the conference was in 2106 when he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination. After his speech, AIPAC had to apologize to the Obama White House for the fact that Trump used AIPAC’s stage for personal attacks on the 44th president.