As AIPAC curtain rises, some lawmakers point finger at Democrat absentees

Nikki Haley: "AIPAC is a bipartisan group whose mission is 'to strengthen, protect and promote the US-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.'"

Tamar Ben-Ozer of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Outstanding Musicians program sings Israel's national anthem at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, March 1, 2015 (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
Tamar Ben-Ozer of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Outstanding Musicians program sings Israel's national anthem at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, March 1, 2015
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee's annual conference is set to open its doors again on Sunday, and as leading Democratic figures have chosen to skip the event, others praised the forum for building bridges.
Meanwhile, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a tweet on Saturday night that she is "honored and excited" to take part in the event.
"I’m a Zionist. And I stand with @AIPAC. Where support for Israel is bipartisan and bring us all together. Honored and excited to participate again this year," she wrote on Twitter.

In contrast, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, John Delaney, Julián Castro Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, all leading Democratic presidential candidates, have said they are skipping the event, though some confirmed they were not invited to address the delegation.
In all, 23 Democratic party members are set to address the event, according to AIPAC's website, including leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and influential members Elliot Engel (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Adam Smith (D-WA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
Some 21 Republicans will address the conference, including Ted Cruz (R-TX), as well as former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (R-SC).
Haley chastised those who are choosing to skip the event in a tweet over the weekend, pointing out the group's mission to "protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship."
"AIPAC is a bipartisan group whose mission is “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.” What does it mean if not one Democrat Presidential candidate has chosen to attend? We should ask them.
"AIPAC is a bipartisan group whose mission is 'to strengthen, protect and promote the US-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.' What does it mean if not one Democrat presidential candidate has chosen to attend? We should ask them," she wrote on Twitter.
AIPAC describes it conference as a "rich educational experience and inspirational booster shot.
"Attendees will hear keynote speeches by American and Israeli leaders, attend intimate educational sessions, and be wowed by moving stories of US-Israel partnerships, Israeli heroism, and groundbreaking Israeli innovations that are changing our world," according to the AIPAC website.