From The Chicago Tribune
Restrictions on Rice speech worry Israeli lobbying group
By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent
March 28, 2003
When Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser,
gives a speech Monday to roughly 4,000 members of an influential
pro-Israel lobbying group, her remarks will be closed to the media
and the public, the White House said Thursday.
The decision, termed routine by the White House, is causing particular discomfort for the lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has been battling the perception among some political commentators that Jewish groups unduly influenced the Bush administration's decision to wage war against Iraq.
Some of the harshest
commentaries, viewed as blatantly anti-Semitic by Jewish groups,
allege that prominent Jews within the administration conspired to
persuade the president to target Iraq because of the threat Saddam
Hussein poses to Israel.
"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this," Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) said at an antiwar forum earlier this month. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."
Moran later apologized for the remarks, and Bush administration officials roundly dismiss allegations of any improper lobbying from Jewish or Israeli interests.
But American Israel Public Affairs Committee officials say privately that they are concerned that a closed-door briefing in the midst of the Iraq war by the president's national security adviser may only add fuel to the conspiracy theories.
Rice is among several senior Bush administration officials and other political leaders who are scheduled to speak to the group's annual policy conference in Washington on Sunday and Monday.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns as well as House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) are also scheduled to speak.
The committee had intended for all the speeches to be open to the media, but the White House informed the group Thursday that Rice's remarks would be closed.
An official in Rice's office, who declined to be identified, said that since the beginning of the Iraq war, "all of [Rice's] speaking events are closed to the press now."