Olmert, McCain, Obama To Attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Convention

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 05/30/2008 - 10:10pm.

The McCain Campaign Warns, Obama's Policies 'Would Place Israel in Peril'...

All eyes at will be on next week's conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee will be on Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister whose political career appears to be unraveling, with his foreign minister and likely successor, Tzipi Livni, now calling for his resignation.


Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

Mr. Olmert is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday and address the lobby's annual conference. On Wednesday he is scheduled to meet with President Bush and senior members of the administration. No dates have been set yet for meetings between Mr. Olmert and members of Congress or the three major presidential candidates, who are also all scheduled to address the annual Aipac conference.

Rarely has an Aipac conference been the stage for high political drama in Jerusalem. Often Israeli premiers will address the group by video teleconference.

The Washington correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Shmuel Rosner, said his colleagues in the Hebrew press will likely use Mr. Olmert's visit to remind readers of his association with Morris Talansky, the Long Island businessman who testified this week that he handed the Israeli leader envelopes filled with cash.

"For Olmert to come here is a way for him to show that business is as usual," Mr. Rosner said. "But for the press this will provide a great opportunity to be reminded of the fancy hotel in which he resides and which friends he has in the United States. Do not expect him to get any envelopes of cash this week, but I am sure his political opposition will take this opportunity and make people use their imagination as to be reminded of the other dealings he had when traveling abroad."

The Aipac conference will also be the next stage in the American presidential contest, pitting senators McCain and Obama in the same forum to discuss America's relationship with the Jewish state. Both the Republican and Democratic likely nominees have traded barbs in the last month on issues of particular concern to supporters of Israel, such as America's diplomatic policy toward Iran.

A senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Obama, Denis McDonough, said his candidate was looking forward to speaking to Aipac. "He has an awful lot of friends in Aipac. It is an important opportunity to talk to his friends. He attaches great importance to this," Mr. McDonough said, adding that Senator Obama "sees it as his responsibility for voters to hear from him how strongly he feels about these issues."

The McCain campaign's director for national security and foreign policy, Randy Scheunemann, said, "Senator McCain is going to talk about his long and steadfast support for Israel and for policies that will make Israel more secure. And he will also contrast his record with Senator Obama, whose track record is uneven, and whose policies would place Israel in peril."

The annual conference for Aipac will also be an opportunity for the organization to flex its bipartisan strength on Capitol Hill. To make that point, the conference will hear speeches from the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate. The conference's annual dinner often features a majority of the Senate and at least half the members of the House.

Aipac's members will be asked next week to visit their local representatives in Congress to press for passage of $2.55 billion in aid for Israel, the first tranche of a new 10-year package, largely military aid for the Jewish state. While Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid, the assistance is pegged to side agreements that were part of the original 1978 Camp David Accord that made peace between Israel and Egypt. Egypt is the second-largest recipient of American aid. The proposed aid legislation this year also endorses the latest Israeli-American agreement that pledges the Jewish state should have a "qualitative military edge" for defense technology when compared to its Arab neighbors.

Among other pieces of legislation Aipac's members will push next week will be a new round of Congressional sanctions against Iran that would urge the American president to lead a new international effort to pressure countries not to sell Iran refined petroleum. While Iran is one of the world's leading exporters of crude petroleum, its infrastructure for turning the product into usable gasoline is old and limited.

The Aipac members will also be supporting a letter circulating in Congress to President Bush that thanks him for his leadership on Israel and urges him to continue to recognize Israel's right of self defense. "We urge you to continue your efforts to advance the Israel/Palestinian negotiations, to support Israel's right to self defense against the growing threats from Gaza, and demand that the Arab states do far more to support those negotiations," a draft of the letter says.

Eli Lake - Sun staff writer - May 30, 2008 - posted at http://www.nysun.com/foreign/

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 05/30/2008 - 10:10pm.