Hilary Leila Krieger
The Jerusalem Post
January 18, 2011 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will attend this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in May, his office confirmed on Tuesday.

Netanyahu conveyed his acceptance of the annual invitation to the Israeli premier during a meeting he had with the organization in Israel on Monday, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

He will be making his second straight in-person appearance at the AIPAC policy conference, set to take place in Washington from May 22 through 24.

Though prime ministers traditionally address the gathering, it is often arranged by satellite link from Jerusalem, as occurred during the first policy conference after Netanyahu entered office in 2009.

His visit at last year’s conference, which was held in March, took place upon a backdrop of tension between the United States and Israel. It came soon after US Vice President Joe Biden made a trip to Israel himself where he was greeted by the advancement of plans for additional housing in the Ramat Shlomo area of east Jerusalem, sparking one of the most serious crises between the two countries in years.

When Netanyahu came for the 2010 AIPAC conference, he was granted a last-minute meeting with US President Barack Obama that was shrouded under a media blackout.

The resulting tensions weren’t fully lifted until Netanyahu’s visit to the White House in July, held in front of cameras and full of sentiments of mutual regard.

Since then, direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians finally began, only to grind to a halt when Israel’s temporary freeze on settlements – imposed under pressure from the United States – ended in late September and the Palestinians refused to continue talks without a renewal of the freeze.

The prime minister held extensive consultations with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a deal to extend the freeze during his most recent trip to the US trip this November, which took him to New York but not Washington, but the deal ultimately fell through.

The US is now scrambling to find another formula for restarting talks, and how forthcoming Netanyahu is perceived to be by the Americans between now and then will factor into how he is received by Obama come May.


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