Former Jerusalem Post editor at JNF gala dinner
David Horovitz, former of editor of the Jerusalem Post, has addressed the NSW Jewish National Fund Gala Dinner in Sydney.
More than 650 guests packed the function room at Randwick racetrack to hear first-hand from a man who has had the ear of major Israeli politicians and identities during his seven years at the helm of one of Israel’s most prestigious newspapers.
Before Horowitz made his speech, guests heard from JNF president Alex Abulafia and Vice-President Alan Greenstein…and a special message on video from Israel’s president, Shimon Peres.
Peres said: “You changed the colour of our face. From pink and brown, the colour of the desert, Israel became green, the colour of the garden and became a wonder in the eyes of the whole world and changed this history of our people. You planted trees You built centres of water,. you carried out other enterprises which are unique in our history. You can be proud historically We are the smallest country which reached highest degree of hope and peace Each of you has a share in this enterprise of overcoming the call of desert and introducing the call of hope. The nature of achievements…a gift for prosperity. Thank you for what you did. Please continue the same way. Penny to penny, person to person, day to day and let’s show both our fathers and our children that the fate of our people and the fate of our country is in their hands. God bless you.
London-born Horovitz began by comparing the similarities between Israel and Australia describing a recent cricket match n Ashdod between expatriate Brits and ex-patriate Australians. He said that during his seven years as editor of Jerusalem Post there was never a day when the paper was news-hungry.
Turning to contemporary Israel, Horovitz said: “We need normalised relations with our neighbours. We are not a territorial superpower that can indifferent to what happens around us and we certainly don’t want to live by the sword. I don’t want my children to have to fight wars.”
He said that Israel had rushed to make peace with neighbours who genuinely wanted it citing Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein.
Horovitz said that today’s peace agreement with Egypt was “much less solid” in an unprecitable political climate in the Middle East.
Horovitz expressed his viewpoints about the necessary elements needed for peace focusing on Israel’s willingness to relinquish land and the presence of a neighbouring leader willing to compromise to make peace. But he expressed concern that in these uncertain days about the political future of Israel’s neighbours that such a leader may not be around to see the peace come to fruition.
He said that “If I had been giving this talk last year, many senior figures in the Israeli security establishment were privately telling the politicians that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad might be drawn towards reconciliation.” He added that everyone was aware that he was a dictator who led a country who had elections every seven years…with only one candidate. Everyone knew how closely he was allied to Iran. But, as Horovitz said, the prize for giving up the Golan to make peace with Syria would have seen the isolation of Iran. But today, Assad has followed in his father’s footsteps by maintaining power through massacring his own people..
Moving on to the subject of the Palestinians, Horovitz said this was a daily issue in ISrael and that as much as peace was desired “it must come with a caveat..that the establishment f their state not come at the expense of ours.”
The areas of religious importance that remain within the disputed territories such as Hebron, Shilo and Bethlehem were next on his agenda and he explained why some of these sites may never come under Israeli rule. To administer that part of Judah and Samaria would mean controlling land where there was a larege non-Jewish population which would impact on Israel’s democratic role in the area.
Horovitz spoke on the role currently being played by the Palestinian Authorities president Abbas stating that he was advocating the establishment of the State of Palestine through the United Nations and not through negotiation with Israel. He said: “He seeks a state without reconciliation.”
Changing his focus, Horovitz addressed the problem of Iran, a country “backing Hamas in Israel’s South and Hezbollah in the North.” On the subject of the possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear nation, Horovitz said that the problem was not restricted to the question as whether or not Iran would use it against Israel but also represented the threat of a possibility that Iran could make nuclear weapons available to terrorist groups.
He asked what would be the impact on Israel if Iran became nuclear…economically, militarily and psychologically?
Mentioning “the flurry of reports” within the last few days about a possible attack on Iran, Horovitz explained to his audience that for Israel to attack Iran as it did the nuclear plant in Iraq would be quite different with “no element of surprise…multiple facilities…very well protected…they can rebuild…they can retaliate.”
Horovitz said that Israel was more hopeful of a successful outcome through sanctions that through a pre-emptive strike. He spoke about bitterness existing among the Iranian people against the regime saying “that at considerable personal risk” an Iranian journalist was filing reports from Iran for the Jerusalem Post.
Nevertheless, a pragmatic Mr Horovitz went on to say that if sanctions failed to work and a popular domestic uprising failed to happen or was suppressed then an Israeli prime Minister “in the fairly near future may have to make on of the most fateful decisions in our modern history”.
Iran, Turkey and Egypt were named by Horovitz as being the major power players in the region and that all shared an uneasy relationship with Israel today.
But he added that “we have some very wonderful international friends with Australia very high on the list”.
Horovitz shared with the audience his experience of interviewing U.S. president Obama who visited Israel in 2008 as a presidential candidate.
He said: “I had interviewed George Bush in the Oval Office and he had five advisers with him. I interviewed Senator John McCain in Israel and he brought Joe Lieberman with him to make sure he didn’t say anything foolish. Obama, on the other hand, had brought advisers including Dennis Ross with him to Israel but he left them in the hotel when I interviewed him…and he knew exactly what he wanted to say.”
In concluding he said that “we are a nation that recognises the gravity of the dangers around us”. He added: “We are an amazing country. We have revived a language. We have made the desert bloom, we have absorbed millions of immigrants, we have built an astonishing high-tech economy using our only natural resource – brainpower.”
Turning his focus to the JNF, Horovitz said: ‘The work of the JNF is a magnificent relentless case of triumph against the odds. It is a triumph which quite simply sustains life for us in Israel. Uniquely, the JNF has been growing our homeland since 1901..reforesting, providing water , transferring barren territory into fertile farmland”
Yigal Shapir, the Executive Director Of JNF NSW told J-Wire: “We are very pleased with the reaction to the function. We have gone through a period of rebranding. SO many members of the Australian community think we are about the Blue Box and plating trees and we have been successful in getting the message across about our environmental and water initiatives. We have also been buy educating the community about our activities in being of assistance to those Israelis who live and work in the peripheral areas of the country…some only 500 meters from hostile borders.”