Biden and Klobuchar Will Speak via Video at Pro-Israel AIPAC Conference After Sanders and Warren Say They Won't Attend

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar have opted to address the 2020 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, while several other candidates pledged to stay away after calls from progressive groups to boycott the event.

AIPAC announced on Twitter Friday that the candidates would be delivering video messages to the conference. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is expected to take part in the conference in person. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg have all announced that they will not be participating.

Progressive Jewish group IfNotNow lashed out at Biden's decision, characterizing the former vice president's campaign as "out of touch."

"Biden's choice to speak at AIPAC, joining former-Republican Mike Bloomberg, reveals how deeply out of touch his entire campaign is," said IfNotNow co-founder Dani Moscovitch in a statement Friday.

"After the courageous choices by Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg to skip AIPAC, his decision is disappointing though unsurprising," added Moscovitch. "We know that he has spent his entire career backing AIPAC's pro-occupation agenda by protecting Israel from any meaningful consequences, even against the efforts of the Obama administration."

Biden and Klobuchar
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina on February 25, 2020. Win McNamee/Getty

AIPAC calls itself "America's pro-Israel lobby" and though the group identifies itself as bipartisan, critics have suggested the group is closely aligned to a conservative agenda. Past conferences have included a wide array of bipartisan lawmakers, including appearances by Biden and Klobuchar.

The group recently came under fire after launching advertisements that labelled Democratic members of Congress who do not support them as "radicals" that compared unfavorably to groups like ISIS. AIPAC later issued an apology for the ads.

Sanders is one of several critics who have accused the group of bigotry, which the senator cited as a reason he would not be attending the conference in a tweet on Sunday.

"The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people," tweeted Sanders. "I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference."

The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. 1/2

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 23, 2020

AIPAC called the tweet "shameful" in a statement, insisting that the senator was engaging in an "odious attack" on the "mainstream, bipartisan political event."

Sanders, who is Jewish, has been consistently critical of Israel's policies towards Palestinians. He also deemed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist" during Tuesday's Democratic debate.

Netanyahu will be addressing this year's conference via satellite link. The conference also features several Republican and Democratic representatives and senators, along with figures from the Trump administration including Vice President Mike Pence.

Newsweek reached out to Biden and Klobuchar for comment but had not heard back from either by time of publication.