Author A.B. Yehoshua stirred controversy at the opening panel of the centennial celebration of the American Jewish Committee after saying that only the State of Israel can ensure the survival of the Jewish people. Yehoshua's passionate presentation took other panelists by surprise and became the talk of the conference, which is taking place in Washington all week long. "For me, Avraham Yehoshua, there is no alternative... I cannot keep my identity outside Israel. [Being] Israeli is my skin, not my jacket. You are changing jackets... you are changing countries like changing jackets. I have my skin, the territory," the author told the audience, adding that Israeli Jews live a Jewish life in a totality that the American Jews do not know. Yehoshua's statements echoed through the other sessions with many participants expressing their disagreement with the Israeli author's views. On Wednesday, former head of the Mossad, Efraim Halevy, also speaking to the AJC, distanced himself from Yehoshua's arguments and said that the fact that Israel goes to great effort to help Jewish communities around the world proves that Israel sees importance in the Jewish Diaspora. Yehoshua himself told The Jerusalem Post that he was surprised by the uproar over his arguments. "It seems to me obvious that our Jewish life in Israel is more total than anywhere outside Israel," he said, adding, "I think this is common sense. If they were goyim they would understand it right away." An activist in a major Jewish organization who attended the opening panel said Yehoshua's arguments "took us back to the Fifties and Sixties," adding that "we are not used to hearing this kind of approach any more." The American Jewish Committee's centennial events will culminate Thursday with a gala event honored by US President George W. Bush, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.