The conference of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP) opened at the Knesset Sunday evening with a celebratory dinner during which Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, US Congressman Eliot Engel and World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Robert Singer welcomed the guests.
Thirteen legislators from the US, Canada, Chile, France, Belgium, Brazil, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine are taking part in the two-day conference.
”It is an honor and privilege to welcome you to the Knesset, the seat of Israeli democracy. I am moved to host fellow Jewish parliamentarians in the first Jewish parliament in 2,000 years,” Knesset Speaker Edelstein said as he opened the conference.
”But although Israel is officially a Jewish country, the Knesset is a symbol of our diversity, as Jews and as Israelis. My colleagues represent the full spectrum of our society: Jews and Arabs, Right-leaning and Left-leaning, native Israelis and immigrants from across the world. Despite our differences—and there are many—we are united by our desire to serve the people of Israel and build this country together,” he said.
”This is only possible thanks to the miracles of democracy, which grant every man and woman the right to vote regardless of religious, ethnic, or socioeconomic background. But democracy’s very strength can also be its Achilles heel. The rights we so proudly grant can too easily be abused to foment terrorism and incite violence.”
”The challenge we all face—perhaps most acutely here—is how to ensure that the rights of the many honest and well-meaning citizens among us are not compromised because of a few terrorists. I believe we have managed to strike this balance well, but we must remain vigilant to ensure that both rights and security are maintained. I assure you that our enemies will not weaken this commitment,” Edelstein said.
”Unfortunately, however, not everyone appreciates this success. Our firm but measured response to the ongoing terrorism in our midst has, once again, led to accusations of extrajudicial killings and use of `disproportionate` force. There have been renewed calls for boycotts of Israeli consumer goods and Israeli academics. And there is the ongoing European effort to label some Israeli goods as made in the West Bank. Nothing good—and certainly not peace—can come from these campaigns, which only sow antisemitism and stoke anti-Israel violence,” the Knesset speaker argued.
”In many cases, you are on the forefront of efforts to stem this hatred and block its effects, for which we thank you deeply,” he told the ICJP members.
”It appears now that our challenges will only grow greater. Once again, we meet in the shadow of murderous attacks carried out in Paris and California—areas that for some of you are extremely close to home. This is only further proof that we are all together in the same global fight against radical Islam. ISIS, al Qaeda, and others seek a clash of civilizations pitting their fanaticism against the democratic West. Our success and future depend on our solidarity and resolve in the face of these threats,” Edelstein stated.
Addressing Iran, the Knesset speaker said that though it has been ”overshadowed” by recent terrorism, the Islamic Republic ”remains one of those threats. Now that the deal over its nuclear program is signed, the regime is showing its real face by continuing its march to nuclear weapons under international eyes. By refusing to allow foreign inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities, Iran is continuing to thumb its nose at the world and threaten regional and worldwide stability. If we do not want hope and faith that went into this agreement to be proven false, it is time to prove that a signed agreement is more than a blank check. Iran must be held accountable for its actions before it is too late.”
”In the face of all these threats, we are still optimistic about our chances to create a better world. In that effort, peace with our neighbors can play an important role. Let me be clear however: Peace is not merely a signed document and peace does not come in a single moment. It takes time, and it must be cultivated through collaboration and nurturing a shared vision.
”My vision is to work with colleagues from neighboring countries to solve the problems that plague us all—global warming, pollution, and the need for sustainable sources of energy. These are issues that dwarf one country’s abilities and jurisdiction. As Jewish parliamentarians, we are united by this Divinely entrusted mission of Tikkun Olam,” said the Knesset speaker.
Edelstein concluded his speech by saying: ”We are here to `work and safeguard` this earth, to quote Bereshit, the Book of Genesis. Let us use our time together to build the foundation for a better future, in our respective countries and worldwide, that we can grant our own children and those of our neighbors, as well.”
The ICJP is a global network of Jewish legislators, government ministers, and other elected officials. Its aim is to promote dialogue, the principles of democracy, the cause of human rights and the rule of law, and to combat racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, terrorism and Holocaust denial. The Council supports Israel and contributes to the creation of enduring peace in the Middle East. It provides a forum for exchanges of ideas and fosters greater knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing Jewish parliamentarians and communities in Israel and the Diaspora.