By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - More and more Democrats seeking the 2020 presidency are pulling out of attending an annual Jewish policy conference.
It is the latest sign that bipartisan support for Israel that the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbying group has worked to establish could be fading.
The convention normally has prominent Republicans and Democrats vying to secure a speaking spot, but this year at least seven Democratic presidential hopefuls have signaled they will not attend.
That was prompted to some degree by the liberal advocacy group Moveon calling on progressive Democratic contenders to skip the conference, saying roughly three-quarters of its members believe 2020 candidates should not attend the staunchly pro-Israel gathering.
"This should also give a clear insight to 2020 candidates on where their base stands instead of prioritizing lobbying groups and policy people who rarely step outside of D.C.,” said Iram Ali, Moveon's campaign director.
Moveon cited AIPAC's opposition to the nuclear pact former President Barack Obama struck with Iran, as well as the group's "anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric" and its history of "giving platforms to Islamophobes" as reasons for its members' opposition.
So far Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have said they will not attend, according to the advocacy group.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has also opted not to attend, according to The Associated Press.
Still, AIPAC's conference does count top-shelf Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, among its ranks.
That highlights in part, a widening split within the party over U.S. support for Israel. Progressives, who have been growing in prominence within the caucus, have markedly departed from the party's longtime support for Israel, rattling AIPAC.
Most recently, congresswoman Ilhan Omar sparked controversy twice when she said support for Israel is founded firmly on the financial support it garners, and later suggested some lawmakers exhibit dual loyalty when it comes to Israel.
Both comments were met with charges of anti-Semitism, and while Omar ultimately apologized for her initial comments she has refused to do so with her second suggestion.
A House resolution originally intended as a rebuke of the freshman lawmaker was watered down amid stiff resistance from progressive Democrats.
Sanders, who is Jewish, along with Warren, Harris and Gillibrand came to Omar's defense during the row.