When it comes to Israel’s security, the country can only rely on itself, Knesset member Yuli Edelstein said on Sunday at the Begin Symposium kick-off event in Jerusalem.

The first-ever live symposium honoring the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the event drew several hundred people to discuss issues of “Securing the Nation”—as the symposium was called. It also celebrated Begin’s life and legacy.

“More and more people are starting to realize the relevance of Begin to our modern lives,” said Begin Center president Herzl Makov at the start of the evening. “As prime minister, he designed Israel anew and the Israel we know today—for good and for bad—is a result of his actions.”

At the end of the evening, the center presented Pastor John Hagee with its Menachem Begin Support of Israel Award.

The featured panel on Sunday evening included three speakers: Former U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, former Ambassador Dennis Ross and professor Andrea Schneider, who talked about navigating peace agreements.

Lieberman used the platform to condemn the pending Iranian nuclear deal, and said that he fears whatever is signed in Vienna “will not end the Iranian nuclear program and will give them more money that they will use to attack Israel and its Arab allies.”

Ross and later Edelstein also spoke about the impending Iranian deal, with Ross stressing that “the best security in the Middle East is security” and that Israel must maintain its military edge.

Edelstein said that “when Iran becomes a nuclear power and continues with its threats against Israel … we can only rely on the Israel Defense Forces and ourselves. I think this conclusion is not controversial anymore. … Israel cannot be quiet in this situation.”

He added that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, “there is no chance whatsoever for any internal changes there. That will send a clear message to the younger generation that the game is over.”

The panel also celebrated the Abraham Accords, which Lieberman called “a remarkable breakthrough” in line with Begin’s vision of a comprehensive, regional peace.

“The Abraham Accords came about, as so often happens, with the passage of years and the coming of leadership in some of the Arab countries from a new, more progressive generation that could see the linkage between Israel and themselves.”

Shared fear of the Islamic Republic of Iran had also helped drive the deal forward, he added.

Ross, too, stressed that the seeds for the Abraham Accords had been laid decades prior; more than 500 Israeli companies were operating in the Gulf even before the accords were signed, he said.

“Not on their Israeli passports, but everyone knew they were Israeli,” noted Ross.

He said that what he believes finally brought the accords about was former President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which would have allowed Israel to annex parts of Judea and Samaria. Ross said that when the United Arab Emirates leadership saw that former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might annex those territories, they feared it could produce a backlash in the area and affect what they wanted to do with Israel.

“The UAE came to the White House in the first week of July [2020] and said, ‘We will give you the first peace treaty between an Arab state and Israel since 1994, but the price is no annexation,’ ” Ross recalled.

He also said that the 2000 Camp David Summit failed because PLO leader Yasser Arafat was not ready to make peace.

“Had we known before going to Camp David, we probably would not have gone to Camp David,” said Ross.

Support of Israel Award

Hagee, the head of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was presented the Begin award after an introduction by Malcolm Hoenlein, former executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Hoenlein compared Hagee to Begin and said that both refused to bow before political correctness, stood up for Israel and the Jewish people in their hour of need and spoke the truth unabashedly.

“Saying what you believe, not being afraid to stand up for the truth, that is the true measure of a person,” said Hoenlein.

Pastor John Hagee (second from left) receives an award at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on March 14, 2022. Photo by Hanna Taieb.

Begin and Hagee met three times during Begin’s lifetime. Hagee said that he has a picture of the late prime minister hanging in his office and a photo of the two of them together at a first meeting in his church.

CUFI is considered the largest pro-Israel organization in America, with more than 11.5 million followers and growing at a rate of about 100,000 new followers per month, according to Hagee.

Members of the organization have helped pass anti-boycott legislation and fought against anti-Semitism, and have been committed to countering Iran’s malevolence through sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Most recently, CUFI raised $2.5 million to bring hundreds of Jewish refugees from Ukraine to Israel.

“The Jews will remember those who sought to destroy us, and they will remember those who stood up for us,” said Hoenlein. “The Hagees will go down in the annals of Jewish history.”

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