The Jerusalem Post

Citing COVID concern, AIEF delays Israel trips

AIPAC-affiliated group says congresspe­ople’s enthusiasm to visit Jewish state remains high

- • By OMRI NAHMIAS Jerusalem Post Correspond­ent

WASHINGTON – Two congressio­nal trips sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation for August are being reschedule­d due to COVID-19, AIPAC said.

A House Republican freshman trip and a bipartisan trip of members of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees that were scheduled to take place next month were postponed to 2022. The House Republican freshman trip is now expected to take place in February, the same month as the Democratic freshman trip.

“AIEF has decided to reschedule to a later date two congressio­nal trips to Israel that were slated for August,” said Marshall Wittmann, AIPAC’s spokesman, on Tuesday. “Given Israel’s increased concern over the Delta variant and the likelihood of further travel restrictio­ns, we decided it was not possible to offer members of Congress a comprehens­ive and informativ­e program in the midst of the current challenges.”

He went on to say that “enthusiasm for traveling to Israel remains high among these members of Congress, and we look forward to them visiting Israel with AIEF.”

AIEF is the charitable organizati­on affiliated with AIPAC that funds educationa­l seminars to Israel for members of Congress and other political operatives.

The organizati­on is also “providing grants to support select educationa­l programs, including Middle East research, educationa­l materials and conference­s, and leadership programs for university students.”

Last week, AIPAC announced that it will not hold its annual policy conference in 2022, citing concerns over COVID.

“We hoped that by now we would have had greater certainty, more clarity and the definitive answers needed to determine whether we can safely host a policy conference in Washington, DC, in 2022,” AIPAC president Betsy Korn wrote to members.

“The health and safety of our conference delegates is our top priority each year,” she wrote. “Unfortunat­ely, there are still too many questions that remain unanswered to move forward responsibl­y, and thus we have made the decision to cancel the 2022 AIPAC Policy Conference.”

This will be the second year in a row the pro-Israel group has canceled its annual policy conference. Last May, as the US was in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic, the organizati­on announced it would cancel the 2021 conference, traditiona­lly held in March.

According to the AIPAC source familiar with the discussion surroundin­g the 2022 conference, the decision was made because it was “not practical to plan the event a few months in advance as the Delta variant is spreading.”

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