‘Unity’ was one word that often came up during the 39th annual mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel, where 110 American Jewish leaders gathered together for meetings and conferences with Israeli figures throughout the week.
The annual mission, whose primary aim is to strengthen ties between the US Jewish community and Israeli leaders and policy makers, emphasized the close ties between American Jewish leaders and Israel. “This Conference is designed to allow us to hear Israel’s political, military and social leaders so we can devise specific ways to proactively work together to strengthen Israel…” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the conference.
“There are 52 major Jewish organizations represented here. Our umbrella organization, which was established in the 1955, has everyone from the Anti-Defamation League to Peace Now,” Hoenlein told Tazpit News Agency. “We come from all religious and political spectrums from across the US.”
In light of the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama. and the new Israeli government in formation under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the conference also stressed the unbreakable relationship between the United States and Israel.
Columbia University Professor Richard Stone, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents believes that the relationship between the current US presidency and Israel remains strong. “I reject the idea that there is a strained relationship between Israel and the United States,” he told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday, February 12.
Hoenlein, a veteran observer of Washington policies, believes that Obama’s visit to Israel “can be an opportunity to build between the two sides. I don’t think he [Obama] will propose or impose a plan [on Israel],” he noted in an exclusive interview with Tazpit News Agency.
“Not a week goes by where, when there isn’t a visit from a key Israeli official to the US. Both countries do so much together and share important goals,” Hoenlein said.
During the conference, key political figures detailed those goals which included preventing Iran enriching uranium for its nuclear weapons program.
US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro told the audience on Monday, February 11, that US-led sanctions against Iran were crippling its economy and that “we will not let up until we achieve our goal of stopping a nuclear armed Iran.” He also added that “no options are off the table including a military option.”
If Iran were to become nuclear, it “would threaten the US and its allies in the region, spark a nuclear arms race in the volatile Middle East and threaten freedom of navigation in the Gulf,” elaborated the ambassador.
Shapiro also noted that President Obama was the fourth-sitting US President to ever visit Israel in office and that the ambassador was “thrilled” of the upcoming visit.
When asked about President Obama’s controversial nomination of Chuck Hagel for Pentagon chief, Shapiro portrayed Hagel as someone “deeply committed to Israeli security and the President’s policy to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Following the US ambassador, Prime Minister Netanyahu also voiced his welcome for President Obama’s visit, stating that “…this is a wonderful opportunity to reaffirm the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States.” The Prime Minister mentioned that there were three main subjects that he would bring up during the president’s visit including “Iran, Syria, and the pursuit of peace.”
Netanyahu emphasized the importance of unity in the face of ongoing global terrorism, as well as in the face of Israel’s “enormous external challenges and great internal challenges.”
“We’ll achieve a government here that maximizes unity, and I know that we’ll work together with you to maximize Jewish unity, in the United States, in the Jewish communities around the world and here in Israel to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state,” Netanyahu told the American Jewish leaders.
To end the evening on a lighter note, Hoenlein presented the Israeli Prime Minister with a newly printed Book of Genesis, Beresheit, and a Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl t-shirt.