Two prominent U.S.-based Israeli advocacy groups are scuttling planned trips to Israel amid concerns about the 2019 novel coronavirus.
Both AIPAC and J Street had been set to send groups to Israel and the surrounding region in the coming weeks. But those plans are now on ice after travel planning became a logistical nightmare rife with medical risks.
“The trip was postponed because the virus is making international travel extremely difficult and unpredictable at this time,” said Marshall Wittmann, a spokesperson for AIPAC.
AIPAC, a bipartisan, hawkish, and highly influential pro-Israel lobbying group, has dealt with coronavirus concerns domestically as well, after it was revealed that attendees at a recent conference may have had exposure to a patient. But Wittmann said the trip—which had been scheduled for later this month and was to be sponsored by the group’s charitable arm, American Israel Education Foundation—was not delayed because of cases tied to that event.
J Street, a more liberal minded pro-Israel group, had also been organizing a trip to Israel in the coming weeks that would have included members, political officials, and advocates. But an official with the group confirmed that that trip has been canceled for the time being over concerns about coronavirus.
The cancellations by both groups were some of the clearest examples to date of how the spread of coronavirus is disrupting the day-to-day functions of Washington, D.C. and the various institutions that inhabit the political ecosystem. Israeli authorities have reported roughly two-dozen cases of the novel coronavirus, with more developing, and put in place travel bans for certain countries. The United States is not among those facing a ban. But not everyone set to attend the AIPAC and J Street trips was based in America.
An official also said that there was general uncertainty about the type of travel that the groups could do in and around Israel once they reached the Middle East. Israeli authorities, for example, have placed the city of Bethlehem on lockdown, banning anyone from entry or exit.