(JTA) — Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg will speak at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, the first U.S. presidential candidate to be confirmed as a speaker.
Bloomberg’s participation in the conference, being held March 1-3 in Washington, D.C., was announced by AIPAC on Tuesday evening, just hours before he appeared on stage at a Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina.
The announcement comes two days after Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders announced he would not be attending, saying the pro-Israel lobby provides a “platform” for “leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”
Sanders and Bloomberg, the two Jewish candidates in the race, addressed questions about Israel and U.S. support for the Jewish state during the Tuesday night debate, with Sanders describing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “reactionary racist” and Bloomberg saying it was a mistake for the Trump administration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem without getting something in return from Israel.
During the debate, a tweet from Bloomberg’s account said: “To characterize AIPAC as a racist platform is offensive, divisive, and dangerous to Israel – America’s most important ally in the Middle East – and to Jews. How can Bernie profess he’s the path to unity when he’s already managed to polarize a people and a party?”
Vice President Mike Pence was also confirmed as an AIPAC speaker on Tuesday, as were other members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and David Friedman, the American ambassador to Israel. President Donald Trump has not attended an AIPAC convention since he was a candidate.
Among the Democrats speaking will be two high-profile New York lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus and one of the House managers in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.