White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday twice refused to say if the White House will be sending an administration official to next week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington.
The news further enhances the narrative of hostility by the Obama administration toward the U.S./Israeli relationship with the conference right around the corner.
“We’ll have more information on that soon. Obviously we’ve received an invitation from AIPAC and we’ll get back to them,” Earnest told reporters.
Earnest was then pressed as to whether it’s just a matter of figuring out who’s going, rather than if they’re sending anyone at all.
“Well, again, I think — we’ve received the invitation from AIPAC,” Earnest repeated. “We’re considering the invitation, and once we’ve made a decision, we’ll get back to AIPAC about who the speakers will be and we’ll be in a position to talk about it publicly.”
Earnest was pressed later during the briefing on the issue, this time by multiple members of the press corps.
“As far as AIPAC is concerned, there’s zero chance that someone won’t be going to AIPAC, right?” Fox’s Kevin Corke asked Earnest.
“Again, they have extended an invitation to the administration. Once we have decided how we’re going to respond to the invitation, we will let them know. And once we’ve let them know we’ll let all of you know,” Earnest said.
“But you will accept that someone’s going, right?” asked Major Garrett incredulously.
“I hear ya,” Earnest said. “It does seem that as a matter of common courtesy, it seems like we should respond to their invitation first, then we can talk about it publicly.”
Previously, the White House famously announced that it will not be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to town next week to speak before Congress at the behest of Speaker John Boehner.
The timing of the speech has drawn rebukes from some Democrats on Capitol Hill, along with both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who will both be overseas and absent from the address.