JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a delegation of World Jewish Congress (WJC) leaders on Sunday that despite the perception that Israel is isolated, there had been a dramatic expansion of relations with countries recently, including in the Arab world, something that would have been inconceivable just five years ago. “There is a lot of talk about Israel’s isolation. I beg to differ,” Netanyahu said. Countries across the Middle East were to starting to view Israel less as an enemy and more as an important ally in the fight against terror. On Monday, the WJC Executive members were received by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who outlined three major challenges facing Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. The WJC delegation at both meetings was headed by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, Chairman of the Governing Board David de Rothschild, and Treasurer Chella Safra.
Netanyahu called the core of the conflict in the Middle East a conflict between medievalism and modernity. The cause of the specific conflict with the Palestinians is not territories and not settlements, but the persistent refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary and the inculcation to hate, the prime minister said. “I am very hopeful for Israel’s future,” Netanyahu said, telling the WJC delegation: “You have always been there for us.”
Rivlin: ‘Jewish leadership facing three major challenges’
At the meeting on Monday at his official residence, President Reuven Rivlin focused on what he called the “three major challenges” Jewish leadership is facing today: Helping Jewish communities in need, strengthening relations between young adults and the State of Israel, and keeping Israel as a “strong, open and prosperous society.”
Rivlin thanked the World Jewish Congress for working “day and night to stand up for the Jewish people, and to look after the needs of the Jewish people around the world” and added: “When I visited Bulgaria, I saw with my own eyes how World Jewish Congress helps this community, and helps ensure Jewish continuity.”
Israel’s head of state went on to say: “The younger generation does not remember a world without Israel – some perhaps even take Israel for granted. Still, Jewish students today face a day to day struggle on campus and on the internet against Israel. They are called on to stand up for Israel for being Jewish, and it is not easy. This challenge is not just for them, this challenge is not just for you, it is a challenge for us in the State of Israel and in the Diaspora.
“I am pleased to say there are many good projects, in Israel and around the world to keep the bond between us strong. Each of you represent proud communities: proud to be Jews and proud to stand with Israel.
“Israel is proud to stand with you and with your communities. Together we must work to strengthen the bond between our communities, more than ever.”
Rivlin said he had set at the top of his agenda the need to build bridges between the different groups that make up Israel’s society, which he said “is made up of four different communities; secular, ultra-Orthodox, National Religious, and Arab. Four tribes who live in different cities, and read different newspapers. Four tribes who learn in different schools, in different education systems, with different identities, different dreams, and different hopes.”
The president called this “a challenge which goes to the very heart of our lives here, to the very heart of Zionism, and to the very heart of the existence and survival of the State of Israel. As leaders of the Jewish communities around the world you are all important partners in this mission and I hope we will find the way to work together.”
WJC President Ronald S. Lauder thanked President Rivlin and said: “You make us all very proud.” He presented him with the front page of the New York Yiddish newspaper ‘Der Tog-Morgan-Journal’ of 7 June 1967, the headline marking the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem and the reunification of the city.
Photo (l to r): Benjamin Netanyahu, David de Rothschild, Ronald S. Lauder, Chella Safra (credit: Haim Zach/GPO)
Photo: President Reuven Rivlin (l) receives the front page of a Yiddish newspaper from June 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem (credit: Eli Dasa)