A President, a Prime Minister

June 23, 2014 by Henry Benjamin
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Over 100 representatives of world wide Jewish media participating in a summit conference in Jerusalem have been addressed by Israel’s president Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. J-Wire was there.

The conference opened with a Q&A session with about to retire President Shimon Peres.



Moderator David Horowitz and President Shimon Peres                         Photo: Henry Benjamin

Moderator David Horowitz asked President Peres about his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas a man who heads a government backed by Hamas but has committed to help find the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in Gush Etzion  last week.

Peres said that Abbas “is the best partner Israel ever had”. “I think he is a man of his word being clear on peace and being clear on terror.” He said that Abbas “is a great leader and we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to continue the peace process with him”.

Comparing Israel’s contemporary leaders with those during its foundation years focusing on some who had received custodial sentences for corruption, the president said that leadership today had developed a new meaning and that each leader has “his own DNA”.

President Shimon Peres    Photo: Henry Benjamin

President Shimon Peres                                  Photo: Henry Benjamin

Talking about years gone “when you had to defend the land or conquer land” Peres said a leader had to be tough. He said that in today’s age of science, “it is a totally different story”.He said: “If you ask today’s leaders ‘are you strong?’, can you bring an end to terror? No.Can you bring an end to to the social gap? No.” He said that today’s leaders serve but do not rule.

When asked what his biggest regret in the 60 years he served Israel, Peres said he had none. He pointed out that left the negatives to the Opposition.

Responding to a question seeking to define what it means to be pro-Israel today, Shimon Peres said that “we have to respect Jewish values…not only politics” naming three. The Ten Commandments. He said “this is the shortest document in history…only 172 words. In 3500 years no word was changed or was necessary to change. They became the foundation of the civilised world. Number two…we have to learn. “You cannot be Jewish without learning.” He said that people should never give up learning and continue to create and develop adding that “today science is more important than politics”. His third point was to seek peace.

When asked his views on Pope Frances, Peres said that “he is the best Pope for the Jews in 2000 years”. He said the Pope had brought back religion to the forefront of the Vatican’s activities ather than the power of administration saying he is a person who creates “sincerity, trust and courage”.

Asked about the role of the Jewish media, President Peres said they “should criticise us when we are alone and defend us when we are under attack.”

Peres will leave Israel this week on his final visit to the USA as president of Israel. He said that had “the highest regard for President Obama even though there are many who criticise him.” The president elaborated saying that “Obama didn’t change America” intimating that the situation in the Middle East and the development of China had created their own changes. He said that for 100 years the Middle East had been under the power of the British and French who had “ignored the traditions and the ethnicity of the region.”

Peres said he believed that ‘science cannot be conquered by armies and that classic warfare is over”. He said warfare had been replaced by terrorism which did not have two sides “but a hundred sides – split and splitting.” adding that terrorists have no respect for law, borders or humankind.

Speaking about the many problems facing the French Jewish community, Peres said that aliyah to Israel is the best solution and that Israel “should be as attractive as she can” because people are looking for “better places and we should become one of the best places on Earth”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began by referring to an attack on this day in the Golan in which a 15-yr-old was murdered and to the abduction by Hamas of the three teenagers in Gush Etzion nine days prior. He made the following announcement in Hebrew for the benefit of local media: “Earlier I spoke with the parents of Mohammed Karaka and expressed condolences. It’s been nine days since the three teens were abducted by Hamas. Our enemies don’t differentiate between Jews and Non-Jews, adults and children.”

Switching to English, the Prime Minister said “Israel is the most challenged nation on Earth” adding that Israelis had overcome adversities and achieved “a remarkable nation”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu        Photo: Henry Benjamin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu            Photo: Henry Benjamin

Netanyahu said that Jewish media had the opportunity to tell Israel’s story to the world “but first of all to our world…to our people”.

Discussing Israel’s innovation successes, the Prime Minister said that whereas the population had increased tenfold in 66 years “rainfall had dropped almost by half”. He said that Israel’s economy had expanded 100 times and her standard of living by 30. He said that due to “tremendous innovation” we have no water problem being the number one recycler of waste water in the world.

Continuing on the path of Israel’s scientific achievements, Netanyahu told the audience of world and local journalists that Israel’s cows produced more milk per animal than anywhere else in the world and that the camera pill which had been designed to explore the digestive system human body had now been further developed to have the capability of squirting medicine where it is needed.

Referring to the day to day use of Israeli technology throughout the world, Netanyahu attributed Israel’s technological advancements to the fact that “Jewish people always ask questions”.

Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We seek to better the world but not all of the world that receives our contribution returns in kind.”

The Prime Minister said that history had shown that the Jewish people had to “identify danger in time and take action in time. When the Jewish people failed to do that, we paid a horrendous price”.

He named three challenges facing the Jewish world today.

The rising tide of antisemitism “especially in Europe”. He called this an amalgamation of three forces – “The Hard Left, the Hard Right and the Islamist antisemitism that has perforated many parts of Europe”. He said: “We have ti fight it. We cannot accept it. We have to speak out against it. The only way to defeat a lie is with the truth. Nobody will defend us if we do not defend ourselves.”

He spoke about the divestment against Israel perpetrated by the Presbyterian church in the USA. He said that in the Middle East the only place where you have protection of minorities including Christianity is Israel.”

The second challenge mentioned by Netanyahu is “to cement fraying identities in the West”. He spoke of young Jews who “had not received a Jewish education…had not been to Israel.”

Netanyahu referred to the positive effects of the Birthright and MASA programs designed “to expose young people to our country and to our heritage”.

The third challenge he outlined as “the dangers that come from our region”. He said the centuries-old hatred between the the Sunnis and the Shi’ites “have now become uncorked with the collapse of the secular regimes, mostly dictatorships, and the Sunni and Sh’ite militancies are fighting each other with greater venom and barbarism. This is a fault line between civilisation and savagery.”

The Prime Minister suggested a visit by the journalists to the field hospital which had been set up in the Golan to treat victims of this warfare. He encouraged the journalists to visit the hospital but pointed out that even in the cases of little children, photographs of patients cannot be published as identifying them would result ultimately in their executions…punishment for accepting Israeli medical help.

Benjamin Netanyahu emphasised that the most important issue remains that “a militant Islamic regime doe not get its hands on a weapon of mass destruction”.

He said that Iran remains a threat to the world as it continued to develop inter continental ballistic missiles. He said: “That should be prevented.”

Over 25 countries are represented at the conference which was organised by the Government Press Office, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, JNF-KKL and the Jewish Agency.

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