Obama’s trip to Cuba may put kibosh on Netanyahu attending AIPAC event

Biden expected in Israel in March.

February 28, 2016 04:36
1 minute read.
 Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington,. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not travel to Washington for this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference because US President Barack Obama is scheduled to be in Cuba at the time.

The AIPAC conference is scheduled for March 20-22 in Washington, and the dates of Obama’s visit to Cuba – the first by an American president in 88 years – are from March 21-22.

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US Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is expected in Israel during the first half of March in what would be his second trip here as vice president.

His first visit, in March 2010, was largely derailed by the announcement during his stay of the planned construction of 1,600 housing units in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, beyond the Green Line.

Netanyahu, who has been invited to address the AIPAC conference, has not yet formally announced that he will attend, and one of the considerations is whether a meeting with Obama can be arranged, something that seems difficult given the timing of the president’s Cuba trip.

Israeli prime ministers do traditionally make an effort to attend the AIPAC policy conference, coupling a speech to the organization with meetings in the White House with the president. There have been years, however, in which the prime ministers do not attend and instead address the conference via video hook-up from Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert, for instance did so in 2006 and 2007, as did Netanyahu in 2009 and 2013.

If Netanyahu does, in fact, decide to go to Washington, it is unlikely that he would meet any of the presidential candidates, since, to maintain a neutral stance, if he met one, he would have to meet all seven – five Republicans and two Democrats – something that would prove logistically challenging to arrange.

A final announcement on whether Netanyahu will attend the AIPAC event is expected by the end of the week.

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