AIPAC conference opens big


WASHINGTON (JTA) — AIPAC launched its annual policy conference with its highest attendance ever.

More than 7,500 people are expected to attend the three-day conference, which began Sunday and will culminate in a massive lobbying blitz on Tuesday afternoon. Conferences in recent years have drawn upward of 6,000 people.

Scheduled speakers included U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, congressional leaders and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet — the grouping that guides Middle East peace-making.

Activists will lobby for enhanced Iran sanctions and the signing of two Congressional letters aimed at underscoring close U.S.-Israel relations, urging the Obama administration to move past recent tensions with Israel over the announcement of a planned eastern Jerusalem housing project during a visit two weeks ago by Vice President Joe Biden.

The conference dinner Monday evening, which usually attracts half the congressional membership, the national lay Jewish leadership, administration officials and others is said to be the largest kosher dinner served in the United States each year. Netanyahu is this year’s keynote speaker at the dinner.

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