Binyamin Netanyahu 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not address this year’s Herzliya
Conference, the first time a sitting prime minister has passed on speaking at
the event since 2002.
Netanyahu’s absence comes even though his national
security adviser and one of his closest confidants, Uzi Arad, started the
conference in 2000 and headed it until 2009.
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Unlike previous years,
neither the foreign nor defense ministers are scheduled to address this year’s
forum, either. Netanyahu, as well as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, all spoke at last year’s
Government sources said the prime minister did not want to be
tied to the Herzliya timetable, and felt that he would deliver a major policy
address when he thought the time was ripe, not necessarily when it fit into the
Herzliya Conference schedule.
Over the last decade, the conference was
widely viewed as the country’s premier policy forum, and the setting where the
prime minister delivered a major policy address.
Indeed, in 2002 it was
at the Herzliya Conference where then prime minister Ariel Sharon accepted the
US-backed road map for the Palestinian- Israeli peace process, and in 2003 Sharon
used the forum to unveil his plan to withdraw from Gaza.
Over the years
there has been criticism that the forum was overshadowing the Knesset, where –
critics argued – the major speeches from the country’s leaders should be
This criticism came to a head in 2008 when the opening of the
conference was actually held in the Knesset.
Last year Netanyahu spoke at
the conference, but rather than focus on hard-hitting diplomatic issues, he used
the speech to talk about his plan to enhance Zionist education.
first conference in 2000, Arad was quoted as saying, “If you weren’t there, it
showed you weren’t in the major leagues.”