American Jewish Committee (AJC) honored Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo today with its Light Unto the Nations Award. It is the global Jewish advocacy organization’s highest honor bestowed on world leaders who exhibit leadership in the defense of democratic values and friendship with the Jewish people.

Previous recipients of AJC’s Light Unto the Nations Award include U.S. President Bill Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

“Steadfast defense of democratic values and unwavering commitment to friendship with the United States and Israel are hallmarks of your leadership, and models for other nations to emulate,” said AJC CEO David Harris, who presented the award to the Prime Minister in Tokyo. “Japan is a democratic powerhouse in Asia, an essential ally and partner of the United States, a close friend of Israel, and an anchor of stability in a vital part of the world.”

Upon receiving the award, Prime Minister Abe said, “It is my great honor to receive AJC’s Light Unto the Nations Award, a great and historic award. As CEO David Harris rightly mentioned, my cabinet, since its inception, has developed great relations with the United States, the Jewish community, and Israel. In order to further build our ties with Israel and the Jewish community, I would like to thank AJC and the delegation for its support. Moving forward, I would also like to continue to advance the strong bond with the U.S. and our mutual support for human dignity and shared values.”

Unique in the Jewish world, AJC has engaged Japan over the past 30 years through its pioneering Asia Pacific Institute (API). Meetings with Prime Minister Abe have occurred regularly during the annual API delegations’ visits to Japan since he assumed office in 2012.

Two years ago, Abe spoke about his country’s robust relations with the U.S. and the American Jewish community in a strong message of support delivered to the 2017 AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C.

“Japan attaches great significance to ties with the Jewish people,” said Abe in a message read by Sonoura Kentaro, Japan’s former State Minister for Foreign Affairs. “Our exchanges with the Jewish community in the United States form an important tie supporting the Japan-U.S. alliance.”

In 2015, in a video address to the AJC Global Forum, Abe expressed his “respect for AJC’s efforts to forge a close relationship with Japan for more than a quarter century.”

In recent years, the Japan-Israel relationship has expanded greatly, with Israeli exports growing by more than 40% from 2017 to 2018 alone.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1992, publicly credited AJC for the “patient diplomacy” that led to Japan’s decision to end compliance with the Arab boycott against Israel, a step that ushered in an entirely new era in relations between Tokyo and Jerusalem.

In addition to meeting the Prime Minister, the 18-person delegation had the opportunity to meet, separately, with Defense Minister Kono Taro and Minister for Foreign Affairs Motegi Toshimitsu.

Key issues discussed included U.S.-Japan bilateral relations, regional developments in East Asia, and challenges and opportunities in the Middle East.

Moreover, the delegation met with Member of the House of Representatives and Special Advisor to the Liberal Democratic Party President Sonoura Kentaro; Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Omi Asako; Deputy Minister/Director General of the Foreign Policy Bureau Yamada Shigeo; Acting U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Young; Israeli Ambassador to Japan Yaffa Ben-Ari and her staff; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs alumni of two AJC Project Interchange seminars from Japan to Israel.

Finally, the delegation had the opportunity to address an audience of diplomats, scholars, journalists, and corporate executives at the prestigious Japan Institute for International Affairs (JIIA), as well as speak to graduate students at the renowned National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS).

API, based in New York, is directed by Shira Loewenberg and chaired by Robert S. Peckar. The AJC institute is represented in Tokyo by Jerry Rosenberg.

AJC, founded in 1906 and with headquarters in New York, maintains 22 regional offices across the United States, 12 overseas posts, and 37 international association agreements with Jewish communities.

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