WASHINGTON – Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, will speak this weekend at the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington.
AIPAC, the leading lobbying group supporting Israel in the United States, announced Bloomberg's participation on Tuesday, two days after the current frontrunner in the Democratic race, Senator Bernie Sanders, said he would not attend the conference.
Bloomberg is the first Democratic candidate to announce that he will speak at the AIPAC gathering. By choosing to speak at the conference, the former New York mayor is drawing a clear distinction between himself and Sanders, offering Democratic voters two different approaches regarding Israel.
Last year, Sanders supported leveraging U.S. aid to pressure the Israeli government to stop expanding settlements in the West Bank. Bloomberg, however, is expected to stress his support for Israel and continued U.S. military aid to the country and back the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It remains to be seen, however, if and how Bloomberg would criticize the Trump administration's Middle East plan, which was unveiled in January and could be implemented by the next Israeli government. It includes full Israeli annexation of all Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
AIPAC also announced this week that Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the conference, as he has done every year since Trump took office. At the moment, it seems unlikely that Trump will come to AIPAC, something he has not done since his 2016 campaign.
This year, the policy conference is slated for the weekend before Super Tuesday on March 3, a key date for the Democratic nomination process.
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AIPAC has been struggling to bring prominent Israeli politicians to speak at the conference this year, as it will take place on the same day as Israel's third national election.