on the trail

New Hampshire activist asks Bernie Sanders if he’ll be attending AIPAC’s conference in March

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said on Wednesday that he has no objections to attending the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. next month, but it’s not on his schedule. 

Checking the calendar: “I don’t think I am [going]. I don’t think it’s going to be on my schedule, but you know, I have no objection to going,” Sanders told a Jewish student during a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire. This year’s conference is scheduled to take place March 1-3, concluding on Super Tuesday. 

Flashback: In 2016, Sanders was the only presidential candidate who declined an invitation to speak at the gathering, at the time citing a scheduling issue. Instead, he delivered remarks outlining his Mideast policy during a campaign stop in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Shifting views: As is AIPAC’s stated practice, candidates are only invited to speak on stage in an election year. Elected officials who attend usually schedule time with activists on the sidelines of the conference. Last year, Sanders snubbed the pro-Israel gathering. His spokesperson told the Huffington Post at the time that the senator is “concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution.”

Finding time: Last October, Sanders, who already a declared candidate, made an appearance at the annual J Street conference in D.C. Sanders told attendees that Israel will have to “fundamentally change” its relationship with Gaza if it wants continued military aid.

Read the full exchange below: 

Q: My name is Sarah. I’m Jewish. And I care a lot about Palestinian and Israeli human rights, and so last week I was disgusted and horrified as I’m sure you were too by the release of Trump’s so-called peace plan, because it promises to expand and extend permanent occupation and annexation in Israel/Palestine. AIPAC rushed to embrace the plan and their annual policy conference is coming up in a month and we know that what they do there, as they do every year, is use the opportunity to shore up support for unconditional military aid in the form of a blank check to fund occupation, and they do that by forming alliances with Islamophobes and anti-Semites and white supremacists and that doesn’t represent my values. I’m not going to the conference. You made it very clear last year that it doesn’t represent your values either and so you weren’t going last year. You’re not going this year, right?

Sanders: “Well if I do go — I don’t think I am, I don’t think it’s going to be on my schedule — but you know, I have no objection to going, but the question is what I say when I get there. That’s the point. And what I will say is something that I have said for years, and I speak as somebody who’s Jewish, and that is we need a foreign policy in this country, we need a Mideast policy which absolutely protects the integrity and the independence and safety of Israel, but also understands that the Palestinian people have needs and they have got to be treated with respect and dignity. And that is not the case right now. So that is my view. We will treat all people with respect and dignity.”

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