President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will not attend this year’s policy conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which begins on Sunday. The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration will instead send National Security Adviser Susan Rice and United Nations Representative Samantha Power.
The decision comes in advance of Tuesday’s speech to a joint session of Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The AP reports that dispatching Rice and Power to AIPAC could be seen as a muted response from a White House irked by Netanyahu’s appearance; officials had previously floated the idea of sending only sub-cabinet representatives to address the gathering of Israel supporters.
Rice told Charlie Rose this week that Netanyahu’s appearance, during which he is expected to continue recent criticism of Obama’s efforts to negotiate an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, could harm “the fabric of the relationship” between the nations by “inject[ing] a degree of partisanship.” Netanyahu, who is speaking at the invitation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner, turned down a request to meet with Democratic senators during his visit.