Pence, Pompeo, Friedman to attend AIPAC

Announcement comes amid public clash between pro-Israel lobby and leading Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has announced he will not attend

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington in March. (photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington in March.
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence will attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference next week and address the audience, the pro-Israel lobby announced Monday night. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to attend, as well as US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, it said.
The announcement comes amid the public clash between AIPAC and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The leading Democratic presidential hopeful on Saturday tweeted he would not attend AIPAC’s conference in Washington, claiming the organization gives a platform “for leaders who express bigotry.” AIPAC said his comments were “truly shameful.”
It was not clear which leaders Sanders was referring to. The annual conference will take place March 1-3.
Sanders pledged that if elected president, he would do “everything possible” to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israelis in a manner that supports the rights of both parties.
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said: “Jewish voters overwhelmingly oppose [US President] Donald Trump and will vote against him in November, regardless of who is the Democratic nominee for president.”
Candidates should be judged on their positions, “not on whether they attend any particular conference,” she said in a statement on Monday. “JDCA will support the Democratic nominee, whoever that may be, in November and strongly opposes the use of Israel as a political wedge issue.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, on Monday said he would attend the conference.
“I’ll use that platform to talk about bipartisan support for a strong US-Israel relationship, bipartisan support for a two-state solution and my bill that passed the House unanimously – a bill that strengthens the security of Israelis and Palestinians by putting into statute the Israeli security assistance negotiated by [former] president [Barack] Obama and by eliminating roadblocks to Palestinian humanitarian assistance,” he said in a statement.
“Thousands of the participants will be proud Democrats like me, who strongly support Israel and also reject bigotry in all forms, and progressive Democrats like me, who know you can care deeply about Israel and a brighter future for Palestinians while advocating for two states living side by side in peace and security as a result of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Deutch said.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Virginia) tweeted that she strongly condemns Sanders’s tweet “and encourage my colleagues to join me in attending this bipartisan policy... Hurling insults and derogatory remarks like this is not productive to maintaining bipartisan support for a strong US-Israel relationship.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organization on Monday advised its member organizations to attend the AIPAC conference.
“AIPAC brings together a bipartisan diversity of all sectors of society from across the political spectrum,” is said in a statement that did not mention Sanders. “Boycotting this important opportunity for dialogue is irresponsible and counterproductive.”