Wednesday, June 27, 2012 9:25 AM
The 2012 Presidential Conference in Jerusalem closed with the plenary session Decisions at the Doorstep of Tomorrow.
The 2012 Presidential Conference in Jerusalem closed with a plenary session entitled Decisions at the Doorstep of Tomorrow, which was attended by President of Israel Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
President Peres at concluding plenary. Photo: Yoav Devir
During the three days of the Conference, there were many discussions on various topics, with the participation of 211 representatives from 25 countries, all of whom are connected to visions of tomorrow, among them representatives of KKL-JNF who described the organization's extensive work for the benefit of the people and the environment. At the session entitled Green Israel – Distant Dream?, there was a special session with KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler about Israel's green future.
The closing plenary session of the 2012 Presidential Conference focused on the critical decisions that must be made in order to ensure future prosperity. The session was chaired by Atty. Israel Maimon, Chairman of the Presidential Conference Steering Committee, who greeted everyone by saying, “The best minds have discussed a better tomorrow for all of us during the Conference, where we have outlined a future vision of Israel that we can be proud of.”
Jerusalem Mayor and host Nir Barkat devoted his parting words to his city. “Jerusalem is the link between the past and the future,” he said. “Jews and non-Jews feel an intense connection to this city, which for two thousand years, passed from hand to hand until it was unified in 1967. We are safeguarding the accessibility, religious freedom and mutual respect that are so essential to the vision of the future of Jerusalem.”
Barkat mentioned the 8% annual growth of Jerusalem thanks to the extensive investments of the Israeli government as well as many private investors. He concluded his farewell in Hebrew, with the blessing, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Photo: Yoav Devir
Natan Sharansky said that in order to understand how the future will look, we must review our past and recall how we looked toward the future, how we looked forward to the different days. “For me,” said Sharansky, “it is about going back to the Soviet prison. My fellow inmates, freedom fighters from various nations—Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Muslims—said to me, ‘You have nothing to worry about. You will undoubtedly be released, because the whole Jewish world is demonstrating for you,’ and they were right, because we Jews know how to take care of each other.”
Sharansky also spoke about the importance of preserving our Jewish identity, and said, “Identity and liberty go hand in hand. Israel will remain a Jewish and democratic state.” As for the main goal of the Jewish Agency, Sharansky said, “We must bring as many Jews as possible from the diaspora to Israel, and as many as possible from Israel to the Jews of the diaspora.”
He described the young Jewish people who visit Israel. “The young people who come here say that they found family here. Regardless of whether they are liberal or conservative, we hear the same exact responses. All of them find connections to their roots here, to their people, to this land.”
Prime Minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu could not participate in the Conference due to a fractured leg, but he sent his televised greetings to the event. “This conference is about facing the future,” said the Prime Minister. “The question of our time is whether the Islamic world can participate in advancement. I am certain that the technological breakthrough of the present era will not let militant Islamic regimes oppress the younger generation that has grown up in their countries.”
According to PM Netanyahu, the major challenge of our time is the advancement of liberty and the prevention of the development of weapons for mass destruction. “We all wish to protect the present and safeguard the future,” he said.
Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Photo: Yoav Devir
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman began with an apology. “I do not know exactly what I am about to say, but I promise to maintain my reputation for not being politically correct.” He described the Arab spring as a “protest against poverty.” Regarding the settlements he said, “We signed peace accords with Egypt and Jordan notwithstanding the settlements. The contrary is also true. We also withdrew from regions and evacuated communities, and they are still bombing us with missiles. The key to resolving issues is the economy. The problem is that the Arab world has no middle class, which could ensure peace and stability.”
Concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the Foreign Minister said, “Peace cannot be forced but it can be built. We must first ensure security and prosperity, and only then can we speak about a true and sustainable peace.”
The Conference was closed by President Peres, who said, “I take part in many conferences, and usually their aim is to arouse inspiration for business deals. The business of this conference was to arouse inspiration.” The President added that "even if the people who attended the Conference have different outlooks, they have a unified vision. We all share the longing to build our tomorrow and our children’s future, all over the world. We should not wait apathetically for tomorrow to come as it may, for it could be too late.”
Summarizing the Conference, President Shimon Peres said, “I have no illusions that the questions have all been answered, but I am convinced that the profound discussions that have taken place here will help us in our journey towards tomorrow. The greatest human achievements were born in dreams and were actualized by determination. Our dreams can have wings, not only feet. There is nothing more practical than a dream. Of course, it is important to know the past, but it is even more important to build the future. The challenges are many, but we are blessed with understanding and determination, and we can solve our problems.”