Bloomberg first Democratic party candidate to confirm speech at AIPAC

Powerful pro-Israel lobby announces former NYC mayor’s appearance after rival Bernie Sanders snubs event; Pence, Pompeo also set to attend

Democratic presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Democratic presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

US Democratic Party presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg will address the 2020 AIPAC Policy Conference next week, the powerful pro-Israel lobby announced Tuesday.

Bloomberg joins a growing list of powerful political figures from both the Democratic and Republican parties who are set to speak at the conference, but is the only Democrat vying for the party’s nomination that has confirmed he will attend.

Bloomberg’s decision to speak at the event puts him at odds with the party frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, who on Sunday snubbed the event and said he would not attend.

In the past the annual event has been regarded as a required stop for those seeking the White House. The 2020 conference will take place in Washington, DC, from March 1 to 4.

On Sunday, Sanders said on Twitter that he would not attend the confab, emphasizing that he was “concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” Sanders and Bloomberg are both Jewish.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has already said she would not be attending.

A spokesman with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee told The Times of Israel earlier this week that the organization was still “in the process of finalizing speakers.”

Bloomberg, Sanders, Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer, the remaining Democratic party candidates, squared off in a debate in South Carolina on Tuesday ahead of the state’s primary.

From left, Democratic presidential candidates Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer, at a South Carolina debate, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The left-wing IfNotNow organization quickly condemned the announcement of Bloomberg, writing on Twitter that he “is a racist billionaire trying to buy the election. He’s a former Republican & has proven himself out of touch with the Democratic base. Proudly speaking at AIPAC is in line with Bloomberg’s outrageous campaign strategy. No other candidate should join him there.”

AIPAC, in a bid to display its bipartisan bonafides in the wake of the Sanders controversy, announced Monday a number of Democratic speakers for the conference, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the US House Democratic Caucus and one of the House managers in the impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump.

Also speaking will be Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Democratic representative and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

AIPAC on Sunday excoriated Sanders for rebuffing the lobby group, which has taken pains to remain bipartisan but is increasingly seen by some as a conservative bastion. “Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann told The Times of Israel.

“By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel. Truly shameful,” Wittman added.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign event at Valley High School in Santa Ana, Calif., Feb. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

AIPAC said that US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the conference, representing the Trump administration.

Both Pence and Pompeo have spoken at the last three policy conferences since joining the administration.

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

While the addition of Pence would appear to rule out an appearance by Trump, who is running for reelection in November, an AIPAC official did not rule out the president joining the confab.

“We will continue to make speaker announcements in the next few days,” the official said on background.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy are also slated to speak.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) and US Vice President Mike Pence (L) at a luncheon at the State Department in Washington, September 20, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

Over the last several years, AIPAC has been supportive of the Trump administration and its policies toward Israel, such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The organization has been quiet, however, on the White House peace plan unveiled last month, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has vehemently rejected the plan. “No, no and no to the ‘Deal of the Century,’” said PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

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