In first, settler leader to address upcoming AIPAC conference

Yesha Council chief foreign envoy Oded Revivi to take part in panel discussion; US Israel lobby reiterates support for two-state solution, takes no position on settlements

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Yesha chief foreign envoy Oded Revivi speaks at the umbrella council's event in Washington, DC in support of the settlement movement on March 5, 2018. (Courtesy: Yesha Council)
Yesha chief foreign envoy Oded Revivi speaks at the umbrella council's event in Washington, DC in support of the settlement movement on March 5, 2018. (Courtesy: Yesha Council)

A senior leader of the Yesha Council is set to appear at the upcoming AIPAC Policy Conference, marking the first time a representative of the settlement umbrella organization has been invited to the powerful lobby’s annual summit.

Oded Revivi, the Yesha Council’s chief foreign envoy, is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion in one of the conference’s side events, as opposed to the main stage, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the 18,000 registered participants.

“It’s been a relationship that has been built for the last two years, in which we have addressed quite a lot of delegations that AIPAC brings to Israel,” Revivi told The Times of Israel this week. “I think they realized we have an added value in contributing to the discussion and the dialogue happening at the conference.”

Revivi’s invitation to the Policy Conference, which will take place March 24-26 in Washington, was first reported by the Israel Hayom daily.

Oded Revivi addressing an AIPAC delegation in the West Bank town on Efrat (courtesy Efrat municipality)

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann confirmed the fact that Revivi is the first senior settler leader to appear at the conference, but suggested that his invitation does not indicate a shift in the organization’s longstanding positions.

“At every policy conference, we have scores of speakers from across the political spectrum — including those with diverse views on settlements — and this year is no different,” he told The Times of Israel.

“We have a longstanding position that a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace can best be achieved through direct negotiations between the two parties, resulting in a Jewish state living side-by-side in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state. We do not take a position on settlements,” Wittmann added.

According to its website, AIPAC “strongly supports a two-state solution” with a Jewish State of Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state. The group reaffirmed this position less than half a year ago in a tweet:

But Revivi, who is also the mayor of the West Bank town of Efrat, said it was “not quite true” that AIPAC supports a two-state solution.

“When you get into discussions with them, they’re not that clear. They tend to say that what’s on the website is not really such a clear-cut statement,” he said.

Revivi himself is staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood, but has also long rejected a unilateral annexation of the West Bank.

“Today the question is not whether it’ll be a one-state or two-state solution. It has to be something that hasn’t been brought to the table in the past. We need a new initiative that will take us to think out of the box and try to find a solution that could create a better future,” he said.

At the AIPAC conference, Revivi will be one of three speakers on a panel discussion entitled “Catch 67: The Left, The Right, and the Legacy of the 6-Day War.” He will share the stage with Polly Bronstein, the founder and CEO of the dovish Darkenu organization; and social activist Shir Nosatzki.

“This panel is an example of presenting a diversity of views — including people who work to maintain dialog between left and right,” an AIPAC official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Netanyahu is expected to address the conference’s main stage on March 26, a day after his main rival in the April 9 elections, the Blue and White party’s candidate for prime minister, Benny Gantz.

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