(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imagine for a moment that there were a major breakthrough in diplomatic talks between Israel and the Palestinians and the squabbling parties managed to reach some sort of agreement that would put 100 years of enmity behind them.
How would it affect the Jewish people? What would possible concessions to Palestinians do to intra-Jewish relations?
Starting on Wednesday, Jewish leaders and scholars from Israel and around the world will convene for a three-day conference in Jerusalem to debate that question and others affecting ties between Israel and the Diaspora.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the head of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), the Givat Ram-based think tank organizing the event, said on Monday that the gathering set to take place at the Mount Zion Hotel will touch on several relatively ignored matters of importance.
“The Jewish identity of the country has never been properly debated,” Bar-Yosef said. “Neither has the issue of the holy places. I believe such issues, and how they affect the Jewish people in Israel and around the world, should be discussed.”
One planned panel discussion, under the header of “The Jewish dimension of final-status peace agreements with the Arab world,” has already drawn criticism. Some say the discussion moderated by Avi Gil, a former Israeli diplomat and a confidante of President Shimon Peres, will promote a left-wing agenda.
Bar-Yosef rejected such assertions.
“We’re a non-political organization and we’ve invited people from all parts of the political spectrum, from Minister Dan Meridor to Minister Moshe Ya’alon,” he said. “What should we do, muzzle the debate? We’re here to exchange ideas.”
Jewish leaders such as Malcolm Hoenlein, the head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post
on Monday they were satisfied with Bar-Yosef’s assurances that the conference would not be political and confirmed that they would attend.
Bar-Yosef, who founded the JPPPI after a long career as a journalist,
said it was important to maintain a dialogue with Diaspora Jews on the
peace process, particularly given their political power, which can be
used to counterweight to Arab support for the Palestinians.
“The Jewish people are Israel’s soft power,” he said. “When the
Palestinians run into trouble they turn to the Arab league. We have the
Jewish Diaspora to turn to.”
The conference will also examine several other key phenomena affecting
the Jewish people such as the pending conversion bill, demographic
trends among European Jews and their effects, and the growing
de-legitimization of Israel