WASHINGTON — In a bid to ease soaring tensions with Israel over a potential Iran nuclear deal, the White House has decided against snubbing America’s leading pro-Israel lobby and will send both President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and UN ambassador to address its annual policy conference.
The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee announced Thursday that the Obama administration has confirmed that national security adviser Susan Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Power will speak to its conference this weekend.
US officials had floated the idea of sending a non-Cabinet level official to show displeasure with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress in which he will argue against an Iran deal.
Rice’s selection came two days after an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS in which she faulted both Netanyahu and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, who extended an invitation to the prime minister to address Congress on Iran next week, for creating the current “destructive” tension between Washington and Jerusalem.
“What has happened over the last several weeks, by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu, two weeks in advance of his election, is that on both sides there has now been injected a degree of partisanship which is not only unfortunate; it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship,” she said.
“The relationship between Israel as a country and the United States as a country has always been bipartisan,” Rice noted, emphasizing that keeping US-Israel ties free of local politics was in the best interest of both countries.
Despite what has been characterized by some as a growing partisan divide on issues related to Israel, AIPAC will host prominent members of both parties’ congressional delegations during its three-day conference. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R- CA), Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will all address the plenary sessions of the annual meeting.
AIPAC officials said Thursday that although the finalized schedule has not been published, they expect that more than half the Senate and two-thirds of the House of Representatives will be in attendance over the course of the conference.
Organizers said that this year’s policy conference is sold-out in attendance for the first time ever. The over 16,000 participants make 2015 the largest conference in the AIPAC’s history.