Biden, Klobuchar to address AIPAC by video after group departs from 2016 rules
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Biden, Klobuchar to address AIPAC by video after group departs from 2016 rules

Pro-Israel lobby allows Democratic presidential candidates to speak remotely due to Super Tuesday primaries; Netanyahu and Gantz to speak via satellite

Democratic US presidential candidate, former vice president Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Independence, Iowa, January 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Democratic US presidential candidate, former vice president Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Independence, Iowa, January 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Two more Democratic presidential candidates are now on the speakers’ list at this year’s AIPAC conference, after the Israel lobby group allowed former vice president Joe Biden and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar to deliver video messages.

Additionally, AIPAC confirmed Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Blue and White party head Benny Gantz, will speak via satellite.

Four years ago, the group rejected an offer from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to deliver a message by video during his first campaign to be the Democratic presidential nominee. At the time, it explained that it had changed its rules to bar all video speeches that year.

But this year, with the major conference for Israel supporters coinciding with Super Tuesday, when 14 states hold their primary elections, only one candidate, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, had been confirmed to speak before Friday.

Sanders cited his concerns about AIPAC when declining to speak at this year’s conference, saying that the organization gives a platform to “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

AIPAC harshly condemned Sanders’ comment, and Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the remark “shocking.”

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said earlier she would not attend, and did not push back against a question that criticized AIPAC earlier this month.

But Klobuchar and former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg had explained that their busy campaign schedules had informed their decision not to attend. Meanwhile, Biden had previously said that he would be open to speaking but had not said whether he actually could.

In this November 6, 2018, file photo, Sen. Amy Klobuchar waves to supporters after winning re-election during the Democratic election night party in St. Paul, Minnsota (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien

The confab will include several members of the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Leading Congress members from both the Democratic and Republican parties are also set to attend.

Trump himself addressed the gathering in 2016 as a candidate, but has not returned to the annual venue since.

An AIPAC spokesperson said the Super Tuesday overlap had made video conferencing an option this year but did not respond to questions about when the option had been made available to candidates.

The conference opens on Saturday night and is expected to draw nearly 20,000 people.

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