Republican front-runner Donald Trump will address the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC later this month, the organization said Friday.
Until the confirmation on Trump, leading Democratic presidential contender and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was the sole candidate listed as speaking. AIPAC has invited all major party presidential candidates to speak.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a regular presence at the conference, announced earlier this week that he would not be attending, citing a reluctance to insert himself into the American election season. Instead, the prime minister is expected to deliver a speech via satellite from Israel.
Trump has drawn criticism from his rivals for the Republican nod for saying he would remain neutral in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace and for saying both Israelis and Palestinians are responsible for the collapse of the peace process.
The billionaire’s last appearance at a Jewish event caused some controversy, with him telling the Republican Jewish Coalition in December that, “I’m a negotiator like you folks were negotiators.”
At another point in his speech, he said: “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”
The list of speakers at the AIPAC conference, which runs from March 20-22, includes senior House leaders from both parties, among them House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
AIPAC said Thursday that Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), the majority leader, and Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), the minority whip, will join Ryan as speakers at the event.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) March 11, 2016
Hoyer becomes the first Democratic lawmaker who supported last year’s Iran nuclear deal to be tapped as a speaker by the prominent pro-Israel group. The bitter debate over the deal pitted Israel’s government and AIPAC against the White House and much of the Democratic Party. Clinton also supported the agreement.
Until Thursday, all the congressional Democrats listed as speaking at the conference had been among the minority who opposed the sanctions-relief-for-nuclear-rollback agreement.
Hoyer is a stalwart of pro-Israel lawmakers, leading trips of freshmen Democrats every two years to Israel under the auspices of AIPAC’s educational affiliate, the American Israel Educational Foundation. He is often joined on the AIPAC conference stage with an equally senior Republican to proclaim that while they differ on almost everything else, they agree about support for Israel.
Also speaking is Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, the lead Democratic lawmaker opposed to the nuclear deal.
JTA contributed to this report