Two leading Democratic presidential hopefuls have said that they will not be attending the upcoming AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference, in what appears to be another high-profile rejection of the pro-Israel group.
Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar each said they will not take part in the annual confab, which takes place in Washington DC on 1-4 March. Klobuchar cited the fact that that the conference coincides with Super Tuesday on 3 March for her absence while Buttigieg said that a “travelling conflict” prevented him from taking part.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is the only Democratic candidate confirmed to speak at the conference, according to the Jewish News Syndicate.
The announcement of the presidential hopefuls’ absence from the annual conference, which attracts as many as 20,000 delegates, comes five days after their rival Bernie Sanders announced that he was going to boycott the event in a tweet denouncing the pro-Israel organisation as a platform for leaders who “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights”.
Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, has also said she will not be attending the annual convention.
IfNotNow, a progressive American Jewish group, celebrated Buttigieg’s and Klobuchar’s announcements, calling it a “watershed moment” in a statement, reported by the Times of Israel.
“Even moderates in the Democratic Party are now refusing to attend a conference by a right-wing lobby that allies with bigots just to shield the Israeli government from any consequences for denying the Palestinian people freedom and dignity,” the group said.
The growing list of absentees is likely to be seen as another sign of the growing rift between the right-wing pro-Israel group and progressive Democratic candidates.
Early in the month US Congresswoman Betty McCollum launched into an unprecedented condemnation of the Israeli lobby group by describing AIPAC as a “hate group” that was “weaponizing anti-Semitism.”
Democrats have also locked horns with AIPAC over the $3.8 billion in annual US aid to Israel. Progressive candidates have called for American tax payers money to be used more wisely by conditioning aid to change in Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.
The recurring clash between Democrats and AIPAC is said to indicate that the pro-Israel group is losing the battle to preserve Israel’s bipartisan status in America.