US Senator Robert Menendez speaks at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
As in previous years, The Jerusalem Post’s annual conference in New York generated major headlines both in Israel and abroad. In Israel, much media attention focused on Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s declaration that he would prefer new elections to a prisoner release.
Liberman’s comments sparked debate here over the possibility of early elections, with lawmakers from nearly every party weighing in.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted Sunday in a meeting with Likud ministers that there were initiatives on the Left to try to replace him and try to form a left-wing coalition without Likud Beytenu. Labor Party and opposition leader Isaac Herzog noted that early elections are “not a threat but a hope.” And Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On also voiced her support for early elections.
But while Liberman managed to spark much speculation, there is little chance of early elections soon.
Though it is made up of parties with different approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the government is quite stable and shares common goals in nearly every other field, from economics to Iran to the conscription of haredim.
Meanwhile, US Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voiced his skepticism over Iran’s willingness to stop its program for developing nuclear weapons. That’s why he authored a sanctions bill against Iran that would trigger new financial penalties against the Islamic Republic if negotiations expire this summer without a final deal.
Menendez, a Democrat, put his support behind the legislation despite US President Barack Obama’s threat to veto the bill if it were to be presented for a vote.
He went on to make a case for a “conservative” approach when it came to the defense of Israel from Iranian belligerence. “Iran-like fundamentalist theocracies bent on turning the clock back 500 years” should be “relegated to the dust bin” of history, he said.
This same “conservatism,” which Menendez said enjoys bipartisan support, extends to the issue of recognizing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. “We are all conservative when it comes to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. We are all conservative when it comes to keeping the people of Israel safe and secure in their homes and within their borders,” he asserted.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, expressing his opposition to a partition of the capital between Israeli and Palestinian-controlled areas, declared “the world has to take Jerusalem off the negotiating table forever.” He also noted that “the more the Arabs cooperate with the Jewish state, the better off they are. The Israeli Arabs are by far doing the best in the region, while the enemies of Israel, such as Gaza, Syria, and Iran are doing the worst in the region.”
Too often confabs organized around the theme of Israel provide only a one-dimensional glance at the country, and more often than not, only one point of view, whether it be ‘nationalistic’ or ‘liberal.’ That’s why The Jerusalem Post’s annual conference is so refreshing. Where else can you find proponents of a one-state solution like senior contributing editor Caroline Glick candidly exchange opinions with staunch two-state advocates like Labor MK Nachman Shai? And where else can you witness headlines being made by Israeli and US leaders like Liberman and Menendez, while at the same time, honor Israel’s many accomplishments and see a musical icon like Rita give a command performance? The existential threats facing Israel were faced soberly, realistically, and with requisite gravity, but at the same time, as Israeli consul-general in New York Ido Aharoni pointed out to the 1,000-strong audience in New York, “It is also time for Israel, as a collective, as a nation, to begin a long-term celebration of our assets.”
That celebration, as well as the clear-minded exchange of diverse views of how to deal with the looming issues on the horizon, is what has made the Post’s annual conference such a success during its three years of existence. And it’s that balance which will continue to fuel our vision and actions leading up to next year’s conference.