PM, Barak and Lieberman all skipping conference

Despite speaking at last year's conference, Netanyahu, FM and defense minister do not plan to give speeches in Herzliya conference.

Binyamin Netanyahu 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
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.
RELATED:Peres talks poverty, peace at Herzliya conference
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 gathering.
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 delivered.
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.
Of the first conference in 2000, Arad was quoted as saying, “If you weren’t there, it showed you weren’t in the major leagues.”