The Obama administration has selected its representative to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference beginning Sunday in Washington.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice will be facing a highly skeptical crowd to pitch the White House case for the twice-extended Iran nuclear negotiations and impending deal framework.
In addition, UN Ambassador Samantha Power will be addressing the conference.
The White House made clear Monday that President Obama isn’t interested in attending the giant conference, which sold out for the first time ever. More than 16,000 pro-Israel activists will be converging upon the Washington convention center.
Obama last addressed the conference in 2012, when he was stumping for re-election votes.
In 2013, Vice President Joe Biden address AIPAC. 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.
Last week, the State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke at the conference last year, will be out of town at an undetermined location.
The conference coincides with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress. That’s also the lobbying day of the conference, when thousands of pro-Israel activists will flood Capitol Hill.
Netanyahu will address AIPAC Monday morning.
In an interview with PBS aired Tuesday, Rice called Netanyahu’s congressional address “destructive.”
“The relationship between Israel as a country and the United States as a country has always been bipartisan. And we’ve been fortunate the politics have not been injected into that relationship. What has happened over the last several weeks, by virtue of the invitation issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu on two weeks in advance of his election is that on both sides there has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship,” Rice said.
“It’s always been bipartisan. We need to keep it that way. We want it that way. I think Israel wants it that way. The American people want it that way. And when it becomes injected or infused with politics, that’s a problem.”
Aboard Air Force One en route to Miami yesterday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Rice “was referring to is how reducing the U.S.-Israeli relationship to just a relationship between two political parties is destructive to a relationship between our two countries that for generations had been strengthened through bipartisan cooperation, not just in this country but in Israel.”
“I think it is entirely consistent with what the president has already said, that the U.S.-Israel relationship has been strengthened because you have seen leaders in both parties in both countries signal their strong support for that relationship,” Earnest added. “And allowing this relationship to be subjected to party politics does weaken the relationship. It’s not good for that relationship.”
Other speakers at AIPAC include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
More than half of the Senate and two-thirds of House lawmakers are expected to attend, according to AIPAC organizers.