By Daniel Ofman, staff Writer, @OfmanDaniel
With record-breaking attendance of roughly 16,000, the 2015 AIPAC policy conference had a palpable aura of vibrancy. From Sunday, March 1 until Tuesday, March 3, the conference had endless networking opportunities, panels, speakers, conferences, and sessions focusing on various Israel related topics. However, the one word at the center of it all was Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu addressed the AIPAC crowd on March 2, inside the general session auditorium, a massive convention center with enough space for all 16,000 attendees. His arrival felt like that of a rockstar getting up on stage before a concert.
Netanyahu restated his opposition regarding the developing talks between the U.S. and Iran in light of Iran’s growing nuclear program.
This year’s conference focused on the repercussions of Iran’s nuclear program, however, the story leading into the conference was the current state of U.S.-Israel relations. The gossip in Washington in the weeks prior to Netanyahu’s arrival was not his speech at AIPAC, but rather his scheduled speech before Congress.
“You see, I’ll be speaking in Congress tomorrow,” Netanyahu said. “Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn’t been given.”
These sentences where delivered in a rather playful tone even though his speech before Congress was the source of controversy and criticism. Many criticized Netanyahu for accepting House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation just two weeks before Israeli elections. Additionally, Boehner did not consult with President Barack Obama before inviting the prime minister to speak before Congress.
In his speech at AIPAC, Netanyahu emphasized the unbreakable nature of U.S.-Israel relations regardless of political association.
“The speech felt more like a feel-good speech,” said Yehuda Bromberg, freshman nursing major at Loyola University of Chicago. “I think the point of his speech was to show that America and Israel have a strong alliance no matter what.”
In his speech, Netanyahu responded to the criticism and backlash that he received leading up to his visit. Although Netanyahu used the AIPAC forum to express the purpose of his speech to Congress while putting less stress on its content, he remained firm when stating that Israel will not remain silent throughout the negotiations with Iran.
“And tomorrow, as prime minister of the one and only Jewish state, I plan to use that voice,” Netanyahu said.
Many politicians, conference attendees and analysts are still focusing on the purity of Netanyahu’s and Boehner’s motives.
“I believe him,” said Raffi Fadlon, a Hebrew teacher at Maimonides High School in Brookline, MA. “I believe he’s not speaking for his elections. I believe he came here to speak on behalf of the Jewish people and on behalf of the State of Israel and its security.”
However, whether Netanyahu represents the views of the Jewish people or even the State of Israel remains a highly contested issue.