Officials Deny Reports that White House Will Boycott AIPAC

There were reports on Friday that the White House was considering snubbing the annual AIPAC conference which starts on March 1, but officials in Israel dismissed those reports Saturday night.

The Associated Press (AP) had reported that the White House is mulling ways to undercut Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress, and that one of those ways was not to send senior administration figures to attend the annual conference.

An AIPAC official said Friday that the group has not yet received any reply to its invitation for administration officials to attend. The official stressed that last-minute RSVPs are not unusual, but added the White House has been signaling for some time that a Cabinet-level guest may not coming.

Instead, reported AP, the administration is toying with the idea of sending newly installed Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken to speak to the conference, according to officials familiar with internal discussions on the matter.

An Israeli official involved in the conference denied the report on Saturday night, however, saying, "News of boycotts against the conference are being heard mainly in Israel and so far we are not aware of any sanction."

Netanyahu’s Congress speech has raised the level of tensions between Israel and the United States. The White House made clear that neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Netanyahu while he is in Washington, citing the proximity of his visit to the elections in Israel.

Last Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Kerry will “probably be out of town” during Netanyahu’s speech.

Vice President Joe Biden has also announced that he will be travelling abroad and would not be attending the speech.

Earlier on Saturday, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, who is running for the Knesset in Moshe Kahlon's party, responded to the reports of a boycott of AIPAC by the administration.

"Boycotting AIPAC is boycotting the friendship with Israel. If the U.S. administration decides to boycott AIPAC – it will actually decide to boycott its strategic alliance with Israel. AIPAC is a strategic asset of the State of Israel, and we must not let its status be affected,” he said.

"Today, there is no doubt that Netanyahu is determined to travel to the United States to speak, so it is our responsibility to ask what will happen the day after? How do we rebuild our strategic alliance with the U.S.? As Ambassador, the Americans always asked me one question: Where we are going on the diplomatic level,” added Oren.

Arutz Sheva will have full coverage of the AIPAC conference, including interviews, photos and live video, beginning next Sunday.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191638

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