(Washington, D.C.) — I’ll be attending the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington this weekend (March 2-4), and will blog and Tweet from the world’s largest annual gathering of pro-Israel activists.
It’s been several years since I’ve attended the full conference, and not just the Gala on Monday night. But given the enormous strains between the U.S. and Israel, and the high stakes of what’s ahead in 2014 and 2015, I felt this year I should attend to try to better understand the mood of the American Jewish community, and hear first-hand the keynote speeches as well as the numerous break-out sessions with top policy experts.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming from Israel to address the expected audience of some 14,000 people. Secretary of State John Kerry will represent the Obama administration.
The Iran nuclear threat will likely be the Prime Minister’s top agenda item. Pressing Israel to make deep concessions as part of the “framework agreement” will likely be Kerry’s.
“The Obama administration and an influential pro-Israel lobby will square off starting this weekend on issues ranging from Iran to the Middle East peace process,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “The start of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference on Sunday provides a high-profile forum for debate over two of President Barack Obama’s key foreign policy initiatives: the Mideast peace process and negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The start of the conference kicks off a busy month of diplomacy for Mr. Obama: He meets Mr. Netanyahu on Monday. Two weeks later, he will sit down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, and then travel to a summit in Saudi Arabia.”
“AIPAC is a powerful voice in Washington that traditionally has sought to maintain cordial relations with sitting U.S. administrations,” the Journal noted. “But the group has aggressively pressed Congress in recent months—against the White House’s wishes—to pass new and tighter sanctions against Iran, so far unsuccessfully.”
More excerpts from the Journal article:
- AIPAC is also seeking to set terms for international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program that are more stringent than ones Obama administration diplomats have outlined.
- These divisions are expected to boil to the surface during the meetings from March 2-4.
- The White House is sending Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to address an estimated 14,000 AIPAC members. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak on Tuesday.
- U.S. officials said Mr. Obama hopes to work with Messrs. Netanyahu and Abbas in the coming weeks to sign a framework agreement that will guide talks aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state. Such an agreement would allow for U.S.-brokered diplomacy to extend beyond an initial April 30 deadline set by Israel and the Palestinians.
- Ahead of its conference, AIPAC distributed a position paper to congressional offices that demands a dismantling of virtually all of Iran’s nuclear sites in order for an agreement to be reached and sanctions lifted. Mr. Netanyahu has promoted a similar line.
- The administration “must hold out for an agreement under which Iran dismantles its nuclear infrastructure, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and the heavy water reactor and production plant,” the paper said.