KKL-JNF at the Diplomatic Conference

Monday, December 15, 2014 4:10 PM

KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler addresses the participants at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, sharing a platform with the many diplomats and public figures speaking about a better Israel.

Some three hundred ambassadors and diplomats from all over the world took part in the Jerusalem Post’s annual Diplomatic Conference, which addressed the political and security issues currently on Israel’s agenda. The event took place in Jerusalem on December 11th under the aegis of KKL-JNF and other bodies.

Audience, with JNF USA President Stanley Chesley, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler,and Israel Jewish Congress President Michel Gur-Ari. Photo: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive 

“Israel is a Jewish and democratic state - that’s in our DNA,” declared Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Other public figures taking part in the event included former President of Israel Shimon Peres, government ministers, Knesset members, US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro and KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler.

The proceedings were opened by Jerusalem Post Editor in Chief Steve Linde, who told those present: “We are meeting at a remarkably appropriate time, as Israel is preparing for elections. We expect to make news today, thanks to the prominent speakers who will be addressing us.”
Never boring

Zion Kenan and Shimon Peres present the Start-Up Nation Award to Shahar Albeg of BzBuzz. Photo: Yoav Devir

Shimon Peres and Bank HaPoalim CEO Zion Kenan presented the Start-Up Nation Award, to Shahar Albeg, who developed the BzBuzz application.  BzBuzz won first place in the BankApp competition launched by Bank HaPoalim, for startups to develop the best mobile banking app. BzBuzz provides shoppers with real-time information on the number of people and estimated waiting times in various stores.

“Science is not just a collective effort, it’s also a matter of personal initiative,” said Former President Peres, on presenting the prize.

In his speech, Shimon Peres addressed current issues such as the alliance between MKs Yitzhak Herzog and Tzippi Livni. “Israel has too many political parties,” he said. “It’s good that people are uniting around shared ideas rather than for the sake of personal interest.”

MK Yair Lapid. Photo: Yoav Devir

With regard to peace with the Palestinians, the former president declared: “It’s unrealistic to expect Abu Mazen to become a Zionist overnight, but he does talk about peace and oppose terrorism. We, too, have to speak out against terrorism and at the same time, we must conduct negotiations so that the other side can have some hope, too. I don’t believe that the Arabs enjoy being poor and discriminated against; they need peace just as we do. Optimists and pessimists all die the same death in the end, so why be pessimistic?”

MK Yair Lapid, who was Israel’s finance minister until just recently, chose to speak of diplomatic and security matters. “Peace is not a gift that we’re awarding to the Palestinians; breaking away from them is in our strategic interest, too,” he said.

“Things in Israel are never boring, and now we find ourselves facing elections once again,” said Interior Minister Gilad Erdan with a smile. “In the new Middle East, hatred knows no borders. Israel stands in the front line of the struggle against extremist Islamic terrorism. This is not Israel’s war alone – it is a struggle for the values we all share. We need to see the Middle East for what it is, and not as how we would wish it to be.”

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan. Photo: Yoav Devir

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Photo: Yoav Devir

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat welcomed the guests who were visiting his city. “Jerusalem is in a process of development in all areas – culture, economy, construction and tourism,” he said. “Recently we have had to cope with violence, but we shall continue to work for the benefit of all residents of the city and adherents of all its religions.”
Preparing for the generations to come

KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler. Photo: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

“If I wanted to sum up KKL-JNF’s vision in a single sentence, I would say that our main goal is to prepare Israel for the generations to come and conserve our natural resources for the future,” said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler. As examples of this policy, he cited the organization’s planting of over 240 million trees, its battle against encroaching desertification, its development of water resources, agriculture, community development and tourism, and its preservation work of religious sites of all the country’s faiths.

“KKL-JNF’s activities are intended to benefit all residents of the State of Israel without discrimination,” emphasized Stenzler, and described the Wadi Attir Project, which consists of the establishment of a sustainable desert community in conjunction with the

Karine Bolton (left) at the KKL-JNF booth. Photo: Yoav Devir

Negev Bedouin.  “All our work is carried out with the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends throughout the world,” he added.

At the conclusion of his speech, KKL-JNF’s World Chairman addressed the diplomatic representatives directly: “The expertise KKL-JNF has accumulated is used by developing countries all over the world,” he said. “We shall be glad to expand our international collaboration and benefit from the knowledge your countries have to offer while contributing to you the products of our experience.”

The guests were able to learn more about KKL-JNF’s activities at the KKL-JNF stand in the entrance lobby, where informational pamphlets were distributed and Creating a Better Tomorrow – a film about the work of KKL-JNF – was screened. A token gift of a key chain bearing the KKL-JNF symbol was presented to each visitor.
Keeping the peace

IDF Major General Nimrod Sheffer. Photo: Yoav Devir

IDF Major General Nimrod Sheffer reviewed the current security situation in the light of the changes that have taken place in the Middle East and how Israel is coping with them. “We, too, need to change in order to deal both with the changes that have already occurred and with those we can expect in the future,” he said.

“Will an agreement with Iran stop it from developing nuclear weapons, or will it serve only as a cloak for its activities?” asked the major general s. “The lack of stability in the Gaza Strip is the result of Hamas’ inability to control it,” he said, and added, referring to the West Bank: “We shall do everything in our power to keep the peace. We regret the death of the Palestinian minister, and we shall investigate the matter thoroughly, as that is our area of responsibility.” With regard to the struggle against ISIS he said, “We have to play an active role. We must not wait until members of this terrorist organization arrive at our borders.”
Promoting ties
President of the Israel Jewish Congress Michel Gur-Ari opened the panel discussion on the threats and opportunities implicit in Israeli-European relations. “Our relationship with Europe is very important to us, so let’s work together,” he appealed.

The panel members included Italian Ambassador to Israel Francesco Maria Talo; Denmark’s Ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr; Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council in Britain; Aviv Shir-On, the Israeli foreign ministry’s deputy director-general for Western Europe; and MK Hilik Bar. Together they discussed recognition of a Palestinian state, anti-Israeli demonstrations, anti-Semitic activities in Europe and the Israeli sense that European opposition to it is sometimes automatic.

Israel-Europe ties panel. Photo: Yoav Devir

“A boycott means isolation, and we have to take diametrically opposed action and develop the relationship between Israel and Europe,” said the Italian ambassador. The Danish ambassador emphasized his country’s commitment to the two state solution, and said that the Danish parliament would probably reject the initiative for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. “Unilateral steps are not helpful at this stage,” he said.

“The steps that Europe takes against Israel are not connected to what Israel does, and there is nothing we can do that will satisfy the countries of Europe,” said Jerusalem Post journalist Caroline Glick. “The claim that Europe judges us by different standards because we have similar values is an insult to the intelligence.”
Coping with the challenges
“The United States is committed to strengthening its special relationship with Israel,” said US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro. “We’re committed to Israel’s security and to its future. When Israel needs the US, we’re there for it. Apart from our strategic relationship, we’ve also developed an extensive network of economic ties for the benefit of both countries.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Photo: Yoav Devir

US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro. Photo: Yoav Devir

The conference concluded with a speech from the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, who told the guests: “We’ve been through a difficult period of tension, instability and anti-Semitic incidents. Israel has coped with many challenges in the past, and has retained its democratic values while doing so. I have total confidence in Israel’s democracy, but I’m worried by the violence that has raised its head within our society and by the deterioration in relations between Jews and Arabs. We shall continue to respond to the challenges.”