Presidential Candidates Get Set to Court the Pro-Israel Vote

PHOTO: Pictured (L-R) are Hillary Clinton in Miami, March 9, 2016, Donald Trump in Tampa, Fla., March 14, 2016, Ted Cruz in Miami, March 10, 2016 and John Kasich in North Canton, Ohio, March 14, 2016.PlayAP Photo
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Presidential candidates are set to take turns courting the pro-Israel vote at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington D.C. on Monday.

All three Republican candidates and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton are scheduled to speak before the group. Bernie Sanders was invited, but he is not scheduled to appear.

Here are a few things to look out for as the hopefuls head to the nation’s capital:

Will the Donald Be Trumped by Rabbis?

Rabbis are reportedly planning to boycott Donald Trump’s pitch to AIPAC. The rabbis plan to hand out fliers ahead of Trump’s speech, and encourage attendees to either skip it or walk out silently, according to the Associated Press.

Trump has been blasted by his GOP rivals for his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last month, Trump said he would remain “neutral” and, if elected, give reaching an agreement, “one hell of a shot.”

Two rabbis who are helping to organize the anti-Trump effort wrote on their website, “As Jews, we must take a stand against hate.”

“We denounce in the strongest possible terms the bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny expressed by Mr. Trump, and violence promoted by him, at various points throughout his campaign,” the religious leaders wrote. “We refuse to stand idly by and let his hateful message become a part of the AIPAC Policy Conference.”

It’s a Debate for Cruz

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to use his speech to AIPAC to “highlight Trump’s positions -- or lack thereof” on Israel.

“While the AIPAC speaking opportunity is not a debate, Ted Cruz will use his speaking opportunity to highlight Trump’s positions -- or lack thereof -- in front of the thousands of AIPAC members in attendance,” according to a statement from the Cruz campaign.

Cruz spokesman Ron Nehring said: “If you won’t debate in Utah, we’ll bring the debate to you” -- a reference to the GOP debate in Utah on Monday night that was cancelled after Trump refused to attend.

“AIPAC would have allowed him to speak at any time. He chose to speak right in the middle of the debate because he's scared to debate,” Cruz said on “The Kelly File” on Wednesday night. "So, I'm going to be in D.C. for AIPAC as well and I'm happy to debate him there. We can debate foreign policy if he wants, but the problem is, he doesn't have even a basic modicum of knowledge."

Kasich’s Debut

When Ohio Gov. John Kasich takes the stage, he is likely to convey a message similar to the one he offered at the Republican debate hosted by CNN earlier this month.

Kasich said that “there’s no question” he agrees with the Israeli government that the Palestinian authority is inciting violence.

“I don't believe there is any long-term permanent peace solution,” Kasich said. “And I think pursuing that is the wrong thing to do. I believe that every day that we can have stability in that region, by supporting the Israelis and making sure they have the weapons and the security that they need with our 100 percent backing is the way to proceed in the Middle East in regard to Israel.”

Clinton’s Return to the AIPAC Stage

The Democratic front-runner and former secretary of state will most likely try to position herself as someone who can strengthen ties between Israel and the U.S., who can mend the fractured relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the White House.

Clinton might criticize Sanders for not showing and argue he doesn’t have the foreign policy cuts to be president.

Clinton previously addressed the AIPAC conference in 2008 and 2010.

No-Show Sanders?

AIPAC said it has invited all presidential candidates to speak, and the only candidate that isn’t scheduled to appear is Bernie Sanders.

Sanders released a copy today of the letter he sent to the AIPAC committee.

“Obviously, issues impacting Israel and the Middle East are the utmost importance to me, to our country and to the world,” Sanders wrote. “Unfortunately, I am going to be traveling throughout the West and the campaign schedule that we have prevents me from attending.”

Sanders also asked that a copy of his speech “that I would have given if I was able to attend” be shared among its members.

The Democratic candidate will be making his pitch to voters in Washington state, which holds its primary on March 26.

The Vermont senator is Jewish American, but considers himself culturally Jewish and “not particularly religious.”

Sanders supports the idea of a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, he has expressed more sympathy for the Palestinian people and condemnation of Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

“All I can tell you is I will make every single effort to bring rational people on both sides together, so that hopefully we can have through a level playing field, the United States treating everybody in that region equally,” Sanders told a crowd in Dearborn, Michigan, earlier this month when asked about the ongoing conflict. “I know that there are people of goodwill in Israel and in the Arab communities. This is not an easy task. But it is a task that we must pursue.”