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November 14, 2015

Netanyahu Visit Sparks Internal Backlash at Powerhouse D.C. Think Tank

A simmering internal disagreement at the Center for American Progress over the think tank’s decision to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week escalated into open dissent and infighting during an intense but civil all-staff meeting on Friday, according to two people with direct knowledge of the exchange.

The powerful liberal think tank — known in Washington simply as CAP — will host Netanyahu on Tuesday as part of the Israeli leader’s closely watched visit to the United States aimed at repairing ties between Jerusalem and Washington following the bruising debate over the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday morning and will finish the day at an award dinner at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Since the announcement of the event at CAP last month, the progressive group has come under fire from former CAP officials and peace activists who argue that hosting the Israeli leader inadvertently gives his right-wing policies a bipartisan stamp of approval. In an effort to quell concerns internally, Winnie Stachelberg, CAP’s executive vice president for external affairs, and Brian Katulis, a senior fellow, explained and defended the decision to host Netanyahu in an all-staff meeting on the 10th floor of CAP on Friday.

According to two individuals in the room, Katulis and Stachelberg told staff that the decision to approve the Israeli government’s request for an event came after careful consideration. They touted the fact that Netanyahu would undergo tough scrutiny in a question-and-answer format and that CAP is well suited to provide accurate context to issues facing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The discussion will be moderated by CAP President Neera Tanden.

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