Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hangin' with Benjamin Netanyahu and Rahm Emanuel at the UJC General Assembly

(Photo: Robert A. Cumins for UJC)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel addressed the UJC General Assembly last week at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC.

The two men come from heritages at once similar and starkly contrasting. Both hail from Israeli lineage and boast roots in the United States, but represent two vastly different world powers on opposite sides of the globe.

"The history of the Jewish people has been marked by a paraodox," Netanyahu told a ballroom filled with Jewish community and organizational leaders. "We are at once both small and great. We are few in number but luminous in achievement." However, the Prime Minister noted that the remarkability of the Jewish people's achievements "often masks [it's] small size and the vulnerability that comes."

Netanyahu called himself an optimist with nothing but the highest hopes for peace. "I am prepared to work for it," he stressed. "I pray that it will hold. But we must be prepared to protect ourselves if it doesn't."

Among the topics he discussed were Israel's right to defend itself, the importance of vigilance against Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and, interestingly, the need to reduce the international dependence on oil.

Emanuel's tone was slightly less formal, but none the less hit home many of the Prime Minister's points. He stressed that the United States is and will always be a friend to Israel.

Emanuel also noted that with his brother Ari, of Entourage fame, he would be taking his son and nephew to Israel this year for their bar mitzvahs.

Netanyahu and Emanuel spoke on Monday and Tuesday of last week respectively, so they were not present at the conference at the same time. However, Emanuel noted that the President and the Prime Minister had a "very positive" meeting at the White House, and that he strongly believed Netanyahu will be a partner in the peace process with the Palestinians.

According to the Politico, "Emanuel's positive public comments about the Israeli leader comes after long chatter in the Israeli press suggesting that Netanyahu considers Emanuel to be his personal tormenter and bete noire in the Obama White House."
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