by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
(IsraelNN.com) Despite slush-filled roads, the fifth annual Jerusalem Conference began as scheduled Tuesday morning as light snow blanketed the city. The conference hall was filled to capacity.
Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are the opening keynote speakers of the two-day conference, which is taking place at the Regency Hotel in northern Jerusalem. Senior government and opposition leaders, distinguished academics from Israel and abroad, leading rabbis, experienced former US and Israeli military commanders, and influential American congressmen will address the forum. Among those taking part are Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, US Senator Sam Brownback, Natan Sharansky, Minister of Welfare
Yitzchak Herzog (Labor), Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), and Princeton University Professor Bernard Lewis.
Hear Senator Brownback in a pre-Conference talk with Chairman Rechnitz by clicking here.
This years conference celebrates the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel and the 40th year of a reunited Jerusalem, as well as exploring the existential threats to the country from Iran, Hizbullah, the Palestinian Authority and international jihadist terrorism, such as that of al-Qaeda.
The opening session focused on the past, present and future of Jerusalem. Under the heading Eternal Undivided Capital City – Definition of the Jewish State & Nation, participants heard from former Israeli Ambassador Dr. Dore Gold, archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, Professor of Law Eliav Shochetman and Jerusalem City Council Member Nir Barkat.
The other Tuesday session topics are: Aliyah – Is It Still Vital To Israel?; Social-Economic Welfare: Defining the Problem and Traditional Responses; Do Israel, the United States and the West Face World War III?; Palestinian Media, Education and the View from Israel; The Forgotten Other Refugees — Jews From Arab Countries; Israel’s Growing Role On The World’s Economic Stage; and The Winograd Commission: Ethics and Responsibility in Israeli Politics. Addressing or chairing these sessions are speakers such as Shabtai Shavit, former Director General of the Mossad; Dr. Uzi Landau, former Minister of Public Security; Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch; Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America; Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Zinni of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa; and Judge Tzvi Tal, former Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court.
The conference this year has more of an international flavor than in previous years, with two United States senators addressing the event. Several US generals are also participating in conference sessions, as are senior fellows from various overseas think tanks and institutes.
Click here for a complete schedule of conference events. Beginning at 3 p.m. Tuesday, recorded sessions from the Jerusalem Conference will be posted with English translation on demand here. A live broadcast from the conference is available in Hebrew by clicking on the play button of the video screen here.
When the Jerusalem Conference was first established, one of the motivations was the left-wing slant of the Herzliya Conference, which went to the extent of not hosting even one opponent of a Palestinian state in 2004 – the year then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled his Disengagement Plan during the keynote address. Jerusalem Conference Chairman Robert Rechnitz said, however, that the Jerusalem Conference is not seeking to be a sectarian counter-balance, but to be the new consensus – to return Jerusalem to center stage with a diverse meeting of the minds that befits a discussion on the Jewish future taking place in Israel’s eternal capital.