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Susan Rice, Samantha Power to speak at AIPAC meeting

Susan Rice and Samantha Power will represent the Obama team at CPAC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power will be the two administration officials to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference that will be held March 1 to 3 in Washington, the White House said on Thursday.

The announcement comes two days after Rice sparked a stir with strong criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to address a joint meeting of Congress next Tuesday, saying he had introduced partisanship into the visit by not advising the administration and by doing it so close to Israeli elections. AIPAC has said lawmakers should put aside the protocol issues and listen to the prime minister’s message on the Iran talks.

At Thursday’s daily briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the participation of Rice and Power “is consistent with the kind of administration participation we’ve seen in previous AIPAC conferences.” He added that “ if it perceived by some as an effort to demonstrate bipartisan support for the relations of the United States and Israel, that would be great. That’s the kind of invest that has characterized this administration’s management of this relationship. Unfortunately, that’s not how everyone has invested in this relationship the past couple of weeks.”

Netanyahu will also address the AIPAC convention on Monday.

"I don’t think it makes any sense not to send a high-level official," said a former senior Middle East policy official in the Obama administration. "Why cede the ground to Bibi? They’ve got a case to make. And they should make it. They don’t have a problem with AIPAC in this case."  Bibi is the widely used nickname for Netanyahu.

Other administration officials will participate in parts of the convention without delivering addresses.

AIPAC says that it expects more than 16,000 activists to attend the annual event, the largest number in the organization’s history.

Other major speakers scheduled to speak at AIPAC include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R- Calif.), Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

On the final day of the conference, thousands of AIPAC delegates will take part in more than 500 lobbying meetings with members of the House and Senate. AIPAC said it expects that more than half the Senate and two thirds of House members will attend portions of the conference.