10 January 2008
Over 130 delegates and observers from around the world attended a meeting of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Jerusalem. Welcoming the delegates, the chairman of the Governing Matthew Bronfman said: “The power of the World Jewish Congress is to go into communities listening, learning, and leading.” He called on Jewish communities to form a coalition against a nuclear armed Iran.
In his address, WJC president Ronald S. Lauder said that unity of the Jewish communities was important to achieve the critical goals of the WJC. Lauder also praised a decision by the Canadian government to withdraw its support for a second UN anti-racism conference (“Durban II”).
Acting Secretary-General Michael Schneider was confirmed by the Governing Board in his post, and Cobi Benatoff of Italy was appointed as new chairman of the WJC Policy Council.
The delegates debated and adopted several resolutions, notably on Iran, on the planned UN anti-racism conference “Durban II” and on the protection of Jewish burial sites in central and eastern Europe.
Three Israeli leaders addressed the Governing Board. Likud Chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said a three-pronged government policy that entailed Israel maintaining security control, "economic peace" and involving its Arab neighbors in regional cooperation was not a substitute for Palestinian national aspirations, but was the best way to rendering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict less acute. "Economic prosperity will do more for peace than 1,000 economic conferences," Netanyahu said, characterizing current peace negotiations with the Palestinians as a "virtual peace process with a virtual partner."
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that there was no alternative to serious discussions with the Palestinian Authority and said that she preferred to conduct the negotiations not under the public spotlight, but in private. Livni called on world Jewish communities to make it clear to their respective governments that the perception of Israeli government policy was often biased and wrong.
Addressing a dinner for delegates and guests, Israel’s President Shimon Peres said that peace with the Palestinians was possible, and that closer economic cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians was a key element. At the dinner, the retiring chairman of the World Jewish Congress Institute and former Israeli ambassador Mordechai Arbell was presented with the Nahum Goldmann Medal for his services to world Jewry.