Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, U.S., March 6, 2018.
(photo credit: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)
Some of the Democratic candidates for the US presidential elections said on Thursday they would not attend the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. next week.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former House of Representatives member Beto O'Rourke and Senator Kamala Harris of California, all of whom announced they would run for the Democratic primaries next year, decided not to attend the conference. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who considers running for president as an independent candidate, will also avoid attending the conference.
The absence of these Democratic candidates comes as the organization MoveOn called on the Democratic presidential candidates not to attend this year's conference, claiming that AIPAC worked to derail the nuclear agreement with Iran, on which former President Barack Obama worked hard, and on the grounds that the lobby uses "anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric." According to MoveOn, by boycotting the conference, Democratic candidates will be able to show that they are truly progressive.
On the other hand, the fact that the Democratic candidates will not attend the conference gives US President Donald Trump an opportunity to emphasize his ties with the Israeli government.
On Thursday, Trump announced in a historic step that the time has come for the US to recognize Israel's sovereignty on the Golan Heights.
AIPAC has refused to comment on the absence of the presidential candidates, but noted that some of the Democratic candidates in the current primaries have already attended the conference, including Harris, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Josh Orton, a senior adviser to Bernie Sanders, confirmed that Sanders would be absent from the conference, and said that Sanders, a Jew who had harshly criticized Israeli policy in the past, "is very concerned about the stage that AIPAC gives to leaders who have expressed extreme positions and who oppose the two-state solution."
The Democratic Party's disagreements over the US-Israel relations were evident last month when New Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is the first Muslim Congresswoman in US history, claimed that AIPAC lobbyists pay Congress members to support Israel. Her words drew harsh criticism from both parties, and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also scolded her for the antisemitic statements. Omar eventually apologized.
Omar's remarks since her swearing in to Congress in January underscore the deepening crack in the Democratic Party between its old establishment members, who are closer to the Center camp, and the radical Left camp that is growing stronger within the party. Three of the top stars of this growing camp are Omar, Rashida Tlaib, who is the first Palestinian Congress member in history, and New York parliamentarian Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
US President Donald Trump accused the Democratic Party two weeks ago of becoming an anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli party.
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