June 11, 2018 — Jerusalem, Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the opening plenary session of the 2018 AJC Global Forum, reaffirmed his commitment to countering Iranian aggression, achieving peace with the Palestinians, and expanding access to the Western Wall.
More than 2,400 people, from 56 countries and six continents, are attending the AJC Global Forum in Jerusalem. It is the first time that AJC is convening its signature annual conference outside the United States. The conference is taking place in Israel’s capital in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s rebirth. The prime minister noted that AJC was the first American Jewish organization to open a full-time office in Jerusalem, in 1962. “We like it when people establish offices and embassies in Jerusalem,” he said.
During his speech, which was frequently interrupted by applause, Netanyahu spoke emphatically about what he considers the main obstacle to peace between Arabs and Israelis. “It’s never been about a Palestinian state. It’s always been about the Jewish state. If President Abbas wants to make peace, recognize the Jewish state, for God’s sake. That will bring peace once and for all,” he said.
“Imagine what would happen if President Abbas did not invest hundreds of millions of dollars in paying terrorists, and the families of terrorists…and erect statues to mass murderers. Imagine if he invested that in the project of peace.”
He also gave tongue-in-cheek thanks to one of Israel’s most implacable foes – Iran. Referring to Israel’s growing closeness to a number of Arab states, partially as the result of an alliance against the Islamic Republic, Netanyahu declared, “Iran has produced one (good) thing, it brought Israel and the Arab states together.”
According to Netanyahu, Israel’s’ role in this emerging alliance is crucial. “We are not only acting in self-defense, but also protecting the entire world from Iranian aggression,” he said.
Moreover, while the Arab world joined Israel to oppose Iran, these countries soon discovered other benefits of working with Israel. “Arab countries have now discovered the Israeli technology to make the lives of their everyday citizens better,” he said.
Netanyahu thanked the AJC for its role in developing relationships with the Arab world. “You make your voices heard in every corner of the world and that includes the Muslim world,” taking note of Indonesians and others from the Muslim world participating in the AJC Global Forum.
Netanyahu addressed an issue that has been a core issue for AJC advocacy, the status of pluralistic prayers at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
“Israel is the home of every Jew, and every Jew should feel at home in Israel. I hope you will visit the pluralistic (egalitarian) area of the Western Wall. We are enlarging it so anyone can pray there. When you touch the Wall know that you are home and that every Jew should be at home here,” he said.
The Prime Minister also emphasized Israel’s quest for greater social equality and its role in the country’s future. “There is only one state in the Middle East where there is freedom of worship, an independent judiciary, free press, and that welcomes gays and has Christian diplomats, an Arab (High Court) justice and Arab members of the cabinet. Israel is not strong in spite of its diversity, but because of its diversity.”
On the economic front, Netanyahu announced that Israel’s per capita income has overtaken that of Japan and the European Union average. “I’m not competing with anyone, but I hope to soon catch up with Great Britain and France because we’re that close.”
He also noted that this growth was not at the expense of widening economic gaps. “Once our inequality index was very high, but now it is almost reaching the OECD rate.”
Netanyahu also highlighted his commitment to equality for “all our people,” and his government’s commitment of “15 billion shekels ($4 billion), the highest allocation ever by an Israeli government,” he said, “to increase welfare, education, transportation and employment for our Arab communities.”
Watch Prime Minister Netanyahu’s full speech to the AJC Global Forum at: https://www.ajc.org/news/israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-addresses-ajc-global-forum-2018