Susan Rice, Samantha Power to speak at AIPAC conference


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Susan Rice, the U.S. national security adviser who said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress has been “destructive” to the Israel-U.S. relationship, will speak at the AIPAC conference.

So will Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said Thursday, three days before the March 1-3 conference launches.

Rice’s appearance suggests that the administration is separating its unhappiness with Netanyahu, whose March 3 speech to Congress has infuriated Obama administration officials, from AIPAC. Netanyahu plans to speak against the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers now underway. Obama backs the talks.

AIPAC has not weighed in on the propriety of how the speech was organized — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu without informing the White House or Democrats — but is encouraging lawmakers to attend.

Rice earlier this week told a TV interviewer Charlie Rose that the speech and how it was planned was “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the United States and Israel. Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer, also had failed to notify the White House of the invitation.

The appearance by Rice, as well as her successor as United Nations ambassador, Power, is also a signal that the Obama administration intends to continue its advocacy for Israel at the international body. There had been speculation that because of recent unhappiness with Netanyahu, both over the speech and his role in scuttling Israeli-Palestinian peace talks last year, the United States would not fight as hard to keep anti-Israel resolutions from advancing.

Congressional leaders will also address the conference, including Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R- Calif.), the House majority leader; Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House whip; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate majority leader; and Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Boehner, meanwhile, said at his weekly news conference Thursday that he “couldn’t disagree more” that Netanyahu’s speech was destructive to the relationship.

J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, meanwhile, is publishing ads in newspapers and on TV urging Netanyahu to postpone the speech.

Netanyahu will meet privately with the Senate leaders of each party, Haaretz reported, quoting an anonymous Israeli official. Netanyahu’s agreement to meet with Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the majority leader, and Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the minority leader, comes after he refused an invitation to meet with the chamber’s Democratic caucus in private.

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