Secretary of State John Kerry will be out of town — somewhere, according to the State Department — and unable to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.
Kerry spoke to AIPAC last year, an annual event that draws thousands of pro-Israel lobbyists to Capitol Hill. President Obama last addressed the conference in 2012, when he was seeking re-election.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu is scheduled to speak at the conference, which runs March 1-3 at the convention center in D.C. It coincides with Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress.
“I expect we certainly will have representation. I don’t think we’re at a point of announcing who that will be yet,” State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said today when asked about the conference.
And why won’t Kerry be there?
“I think the more likely reason is that the secretary is probably going to be out of town, which I don’t think surprises any of you, given his overseas travel schedule. We’re still working out the next couple of weeks,” Psaki said.
Vice President Joe Biden has also announced unspecified travel plans that will keep him from being in the chamber when Netanyahu speaks. “Is everyone fleeing?” a reporter asked.
“We’ve all spent days, if not months on a plane. I don’t think it’s should surprise anyone that the chief diplomat might be overseas,” Psaki retorted.
“I believe the vice president is attending the inauguration for the new government of Panama, I believe. I can’t remember the specifics, but it’s a set date. And again we, as you know, always have a fluid schedule. And as we have more information, we’ll let you know. I expect we’ll be certainly represented there,” she continued. “I think, again, the secretary of state never speaks at this every single year. I expect we’ll have a representation there. I would leave it at that.”
The new Panamanian leader was inaugurated last summer.
“Perhaps that’s not the right information. I’m sure you can check the vice president’s schedule on his Web site,” Psaki said. Biden is heading to Uruguay “the first week in March,” according to the White House, for their presidential inauguration and will also hold meetings in Guatemala.
“Might you invent a country that he could go to if — if there isn’t any?” a reporter asked of Kerry.
“I don’t think inaugurations for new leaders are invented,” Psaki snapped before asking for a change of subject.