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WASHINGTON, DC—Around the world, in three days.
The American Jewish Committee’s 2012 Global Forum, held May 2-4 in Washington, DC, emphasized the international outreach and diplomatic interaction AJC has developed for more than a century, informing attendees about past results and educating them about current and future approaches.
Below is a synopsis of the AJC forum’s worldwide reach:
Antonio Patriota, foreign minister of Brazil, joined AJC Executive Director David Harris at the forum’s opening program to emphasize Brazil’s desire to be “more fully responsible for engaging with every single country in a cooperative association.”
“Brazil has no enemies,” Patriota said. “We are a force for peace.”
While Patriota recalled that Brazil supported Israel’s independence in 1948, he made no excuses for his country’s support of the Palestinian Authority’s attempted Unilateral Declaration of Independence at the United Nations last September.
On May 3, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle noted that AJC was first Jewish organization to support German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Westerwelle said he is “proud that today German-Israeli ties are closer and stronger than ever. We are partners and friends because Israel is a vibrant democracy, the only full-fledged democracy in the region.”
“We will not remain silent when Israel is threatened or its legitimacy called into question,” he said. “We will stand up whenever Israel is unfairly singled out in multilateral fora. And we will denounce any incitement against the State of Israel and its right to exist.” He specifically cited the Iranian nuclear program, calling it a “dangerous, looming threat.”
“We cannot and will not accept an Iranian nuclear weapon,” Westerwelle said. “It would represent not only a threat to Israel but to the region as a whole. And it would undermine the global non-proliferation regime, a cornerstone of global security.”
Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis detailed the increasing number of diplomatic exchanges between Israeli and Cypriot leaders. She noted shared concern with Israel about Turkey’s regional ambitions.
“There is skepticism about Turkey’s true intentions, and whether Turkey is a stabilizing factor in the region,” said Kozakou-Marcoullis Turkey, adding that Turkey “appears keen on bullying its way into a position of hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.”
Kozakou-Marcoullis noted that Cyprus assisted Jewish refugees during the Holocaust and worked with the Haganah to circumvent the British post-World War II blockade of Mandatory Palestine.
“We share a common sphere [with Israel]… dating back several millennia, or in the values of democracy and freedom, or even in the fact that we are both small countries, with few resources and facing many challenges,” she said.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird unequivocally said, “Israel has no greater friend in the world today than Canada,” receiving a warm welcome from the more than 1,500 attendees.
“Our strong support for Israel is not about politics at home and certainly not about winning popularity contests at the United Nations,” said Baird. “It’s about values.”
Canada’s support of Israel, Baird said, is based on shared values of “freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
“We make it clear that Israel’s right to exist is non-negotiable,” he said. “We vote against one-sided and unfair resolutions,” he added, noting that his government “rejects the concept of moral relativism in international relations.”
Turning the discussion to energy independence, Baird reminded the audience that Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world. He spoke of Canada’s strong support of the somewhat controversial—in America—Keystone XL pipeline project. While extolling the benefits of the project, he engendered good-humored laughter from the audience when he characterized the pipeline as “all about the money…ah, many jobs” it would create.
When Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF (Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France) umbrella organization for the French Jewish community, was called to the podium, the specter of the tragedy in Toulouse was active in the room. Standing before photographs of those killed—Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two small sons, Aryeh and Gabriel, and the delicate picture of little Miriam Monsonego—he questioned how a man could grab a child by her hair, then shoot a bullet through her temple.
More than ever, he said, the French Jewish community will work “to strengthen the values of Judaism.” The room fell silent as a cantor intoned the solemn Kaddish prayer memorializing the dead.
AJC’s May 4 plenary juxtaposed U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Weekly Standard founder William Kristol in a debate about the upcoming American presidential election. Frank said President Barack Obama is a strong friend of Israel, citing the “unexpected victory” for Israel at the United Nations as a clear result of the Obama administration’s international lobbying.
“The notion that you are only a friend of Israel if you agree with everything Israel does is counterproductive,” Frank said.
Kristol countered, saying Republican Mitt Romney “will be more reliable than Obama” if elected. He contended that any positive results achieved by the Obama administration came only when it followed George W. Bush’s Israel policies. He criticized the current administration’s efforts to quell the Iranian nuclear program through diplomacy.
Frank, however, said the people at the Pentagon were engaged in “serious thinking” about Iran. Obama, he said, “has eliminated the concept of containment.”
“We are probably talking about the most serious military undertaking since Vietnam,” Frank said. “We must do careful planning in communication with all our Middle East allies. It is unfair for Israel to be asked to take on the burden of the military action.”