Visiting US A-Gs show admiration for Peres, Supreme Court

By RON FRIEDMAN
May 26, 2011 04:27

A-Gs say that during visit to Israel they appreciated more the difficulties of the regional conflict and felt closer with Israelis and Jews.

4 minute read.



Delegation of attorney-generals from the US.

US attorney-generals. (photo credit: courtesy)

Attorneys-General from 10 US states wrapped up a five-day visit to Israel on Tuesday.

During their visit, the A-Gs of Missouri, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama and Wisconsin, toured the country and met with top-level officials from the political and legal sectors.

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The Jerusalem Post heard impressions from Missouri A-G Chris Koster and Colorado AG John W. Suthers.

The visit, co-sponsored by the America-Israel Friendship League, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and the Foreign Ministry aimed to facilitate the A-G’s understanding of the Israeli government structure and the historic relationship between the US and Israel.

For Suthers, it was the second visit to Israel, for Koster the third. Both had been on organized trips before.

They agreed that with every visit they appreciated more the difficulties and complexities involved in the regional conflict and felt stronger ties with Israelis and Jews.

“Each time I came, my understanding of Israel, the Mideast and the world has deepened. I have come to love this place, not just the nation and the people and the cities, but also it’s passion for democracy and vibrancy of culture and business. Makes me feel, like many Americans, a desire for its freedom and advancement,” Koster said.

“I simply did not understand what was going on until I came the first time, until I saw the Green Line, the [Western] Wall etc.,” Suthers said. “Coming back only adds to my understanding and appreciation of the issues.”

“In the US, the vast majority of people are very supportive of Israel, but I would say that the number of people who fully understand the issues is small. The average American understands that the Mideast is a very dangerous place and that Israel is our greatest ally there,” Suthers said.

After a weekend of touring Jerusalem and visiting the Dead Sea and Masada, on Sunday the group met with President Shimon Peres.

“For me the biggest thrill of the visit was spending 90 minutes in the president’s residence with Shimon Peres. I will value it for the rest of my life,” Koster said. “The photo with him will have a place of honor in the Attorney-General of Missouri’s Office.”

Later that afternoon, they toured the Supreme Court and met with Supreme Court Justice and former Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein. That evening, after meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the delegation attended a dinner hosted by current Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.

“Your Supreme Court is a fascinating feature,” Suthers said. “In our meeting with the attorney-general, there was some candor by some of the lawyers expressing the wish that the Supreme Court would be more selective in choosing the cases it hears, but there was universal admiration for the quality of its fairness.”

When asked if he thought there was any truth to attempts by some international NGOs to paint the Supreme Court as lacking in independence and fairness, both responded with a decisive no.

“It is the most accessible Supreme Court I’ve ever seen and my guess is that it has developed historically in that way precisely to deal with that issue. They [the NGOs] really have no leg to stand on to say that they don’t receive a fair hearing, because clearly they do,” Suthers said.

“The topic of ‘lawfare’ is just emerging in the US,” Koster said. “These are concepts that are increasingly well known to you here, but they are brand new concepts to many Americans.”

Lawfare denotes the use of international law to attack an opponent on moral grounds and win a public relations victory.

Koster said that as the national cochairman of the Democratic Attorneys-General Association, he is trying to introduce the concept of lawfare to the A-Gs in general and plans for it to be highlighted in one of the association’s upcoming national conferences.

“It is important that lawfare is not painted as a Jewish problem or one affecting only Jews. It is a problem that affects all free people, including the United States,” Koster said.

On Monday, the delegation visited Yad Vashem, after which they met with cabinet members, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

On Tuesday the A-Gs received briefings from the professional staff at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, before leaving for a tour of the North that included holy sites on the Sea of Galilee.

Koster said that while he enjoyed his visit to Israel, he was eager to return to Missouri to help tackle the aftermath of the tragic tornados that hit the state.

NAAG was founded in 1907 to help Attorneys-General fulfill the responsibilities of their office and to assist in the delivery of high quality legal services to the states and territorial jurisdictions.

As chief legal officers of the states, commonwealths, and territories of the US, the Attorneys-General serve as counselors to state government agencies and legislatures, and as representatives of the public interest.

“We know that a visit to Israel has incredible influence on how a person views the region and its conflicts and we hope to expose both current and future key decision makers to as much information as possible,” said Ruby Shamir, executive director the America-Israel Friendship League, an organization established to strengthen ties between the two countries.

She said that many state attorneys-general go on to pursue high level positions in the state and federal governments. She cited former president Bill Clinton, who started out as A-G of Arkansas, and current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who served as A-G of Arizona.


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