Attendees of the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference will have the opportunity to hear from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the man trying to replace him in April’s elections in Lt. Gen. (Res.) Benny Gantz when the annual lobbying conference meets March 24-26 in Washington D.C.

The conference, which is regularly one of the largest annual pro-Israel gatherings in the U.S., anticipates having more than 18,000 attendees to hear keynote speeches by various American and Israeli leaders in both government and business. In addition to Netanyahu and Gantz, other notable confirmed speakers include Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Speaker of the House Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, among others.

Beachwood High School junior Joelle Rosenthal, a AIPAC high school activist is one of several local speakers.

Rabbi Steven Denker of Temple Emanu El in Orange said he plans to attend this year’s conference and is a member of AIPAC’s Cleveland committee. He said with anti-Semitism on the rise in the U.S. and around the world and support for Israel softening, effective support for the Israel-U.S. relationship is more urgent than it has been in decades past.

“Promoting nonpartisan support for the U.S.-Israel alliance is what AIPAC does,” Denker said in an email. “Regardless of your place on the political spectrum, continued engagement – whether by attending (AIPAC in Washington D.C.) or our Cleveland AIPAC event here on May 20 – is essential. ‘Walking away’ because of differences and disappointments with present administrations, here or in Israel, is exactly what foes of the state and the people of Israel are counting on.”

Tina Keller, @Akiva Cleveland associate director, said she will be bringing a delegation of 23 students from Beachwood High School, Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood, Cleveland Heights High School, Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Orange High School in Pepper Pike, Shaker Heights High School and Solon High School to AIPAC this year. She said the students would continue to update their focus on the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement against Israel to prepare themselves before heading off to college in the fall.

“There will be much conversation of the current congressional attitudes toward Israel, and a look ahead toward the candidates for the 2020 presidential election,” Keller said in an email of @Akiva’s focus for AIPAC.

Students have traditionally had a large presence at AIPAC. David Mack, a freshman at The Ohio State University in Columbus whose family resides in Shaker Heights, went to AIPAC in 2018 and plans to return again this year because he also felt it was important to show lawmakers the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

“I also hope to have my voice heard by my elected officials,” Mack wrote in an email, referencing the lobbying sessions held with U.S. lawmakers during AIPAC. “As someone who will be spending the summer in Israel, I want to do everything in my power to ensure this relationship is strong and maintained for many generations to come.”

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