(February 20, 2019 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loves American Jewish audiences because they love him. For a man who is faced daily with thousands of Israelis highly critical of his every move and decision, it’s a nice break to hear gushing, laudatory encomium—and that’s what he got at this year’s 45th annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group encompassing more than 53 leading Jewish organizations in the United States, held at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel.
In introducing the prime minister, chairman of the Conference Arthur Stark praised Netanyahu, saying, “It is easy to forget sometimes that we are blessed to have an extraordinary leader, a generational leader of historic proportions. We cannot take for granted that the Israeli public has put forth a man who can stand on the world stage, shoulder to shoulder and eye to eye with every world leader, on every continent. In fact, head and shoulders above most of them.”
Stark praised the prime minister’s “breakthrough diplomacy,” both in Africa and in the Persian Gulf region.
Stark also highlighted what he said was Netanyahu’s “daring intellect and grasp of history and geopolitics. His acumen in finance and in technology. His tireless work ethic and boundless energy. And his undying devotion to the Jewish state and the future of our people. These capabilities are a powerful one, two punch—or, more so, a knockout combination. In him, we, the Jewish people have a favorable match-up against any leader, friend and foe alike.”
Netanyahu, obviously more than pleased, thanked Stark “for those kind words, which I guarantee you will not be covered in the Israeli press, not even one of them,” he quipped.
The prime minister praised the Presidents Conference for being “champions of Israel, the Jewish people, the America-Israel alliance, and our common past and shared future.”
He expressed his appreciation for the Conference’s regular meetings with global leaders, particularly in the Arab world and Africa, which shed light on regional concerns. “I do not forget your contributions,” he said.
The aim of the mission, according to Stark, “is to serve as bridge between Israel and the American Jewish community, by enabling American organizational heads to better explain Israel to their constituents, while communicating their constituents’ views with Israeli leaders.”
To a round of applause, Netanyahu commended the participants for “protecting and ensuring the Jewish future—first, through protecting and nurturing of the Jewish identity; and second, through the protection and nurturing of the Jewish state, which is the guarantor of our future. And third, it is the espousal of every one of you of the Israel-American alliance, which is irreplaceable.”
Speaking of American support for Israel, he emphasized that it is important that the relationship “remain bipartisan.”
Netanyahu added that “Israel will continue to be a home for all Jews, no matter where they come from or where they pray. The unity of our people is a source of our strength. That is why I am pushing for the pluralistic site at the Kotel [Western Wall] to be developed.
“Everybody once said the gateway to the world was first to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and that will get you to the world at large,” he told the delegates. “But I reversed the order. First, you build your economic and diplomatic strengths, which gets you to the Arab world, and from there, you get to the Palestinian people.”
‘Anti-Zionism is a new form of anti-Semitism’
He demonstrated, through a PowerPoint presentation, how Israel is highly influential in fintech, digital health and agricultural, water and automotive technology. He noted that Israel is No. 2 in the world in the field of cybersecurity (The United gets top billing.)
“We are in the midst of a revolution. And Israel has a leading place as the innovation nation in the world,” he noted.
The prime minister shared detailed information highlighting the intense economic growth that Israel has undergone. He, like many international technology leaders, compared Israel’s “Silicon Wadi” to California’s Silicon Valley, pointing out that it’s actually hard to secure a seat these days on any of the direct flights between Tel Aviv and San Francisco.
Addressing the spike in worldwide anti-Semitism, Netanyahu said, “We see false allegations against Jews, tragic attempts to kill Jews and, since the establishment of Israel, a new kind of anti-Semitism: denying us—and only us—the right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland. Anti-Zionism is a new form of anti-Semitism. It should be condemned forthwith by everyone.”
He also spoke of diplomatic inroads Israel has been making around the world, but also in the immediate region.
“In Warsaw,” he said, referring to the recent conference on peace and security attended by many Arab dignitaries, “I saw something spectacular: leaders speaking about solutions to problems in the Middle East, believing they can’t be solved unless we roll back Iranian aggression.” He said this indicates a major shift in attitudes.
He cited Arab interest in Israeli innovation across industries, saying, “the relationship ripens, and as it ripens, I think it will create possibilities for coexistence and maybe possibilities for peace in the future.”
Thanking the prime minister for addressing the group, vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents Malcolm Hoenlein stated, “You have always made time for us. You see yourself as being responsible for all the Jewish people, and for this, we are grateful. We are one people and one nation with one faith and one fate. What happens to one of us happens to all of us.”