Vice President Mike Pence criticized Democratic presidential candidates who opted not to attend this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference during his speech at the event Monday.
A number of Democrats vying for the party’s nomination announced their intention not to attend the event last week after a progressive organization, MoveOn, called on politicians to boycott the committee.
Pence stated, “As I stand before you, eight Democratic candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference.”
“So let me be clear on this point: Anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land should not be afraid to stand with the strongest supporters of Israel in America. It is wrong to boycott Israel, and it is wrong boycott AIPAC,” he continued. “President Trump and I are proud to stand with all of you — today, tomorrow and always — to strengthen the ties that bind America and Israel.”
The Democratic presidential candidates who opted to skip this year’s conference include South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and California Sen. Kamala Harris.
.@POTUS promised that Israel will have the resources and tools to defend itself, by itself. Today, in the wake of the rocket attack near Tel Aviv, I’m proud to report that American support for the security of the state of Israel has never been stronger. #AIPAC2019 pic.twitter.com/PL9g5kVuZo
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 25, 2019
Harris, Gillibrand, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have all spoken at AIPAC events previously, with Klobuchar and Harris attending last year’s conference. None of their names, however, will appear this year. While Klobuchar has not made an appearance at this year’s conference, she also never made an official statement saying she would not go. (4 Democratic Presidential Candidates Have Spoken At AIPAC Before – None Will This Year)
MoveOn cited four reasons for the boycott:
- AIPAC advocated against the Iran Nuclear Deal.
- One of the speakers is Netanyahu, who was indicted earlier this year.
- AIPAC has “been known to peddle anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while giving platforms to Islamophobes.”
- AIPAC “has refused to condemn the antisemitism of Republicans,” and they specifically called out Steve Bannon.
It’s not clear that the candidates’ decision not to attend the conference is related to the boycott.