Once a year, President Shimon Peres hosts the President’s Conference and once again this year, I was invited to attend. It’s fun to go as a blogger – to be recognized with all the honor and privilege of a journalist. Of course, we don’t get the same pay, but we are free in a way that journalists shouldn’t be. They are supposed to report the news, though too many break that line and cross into the realm of making news.
Bloggers are free to think and express thoughts and so it is particularly nice that we are rewarded here with this. Being a blogger/journalist means walking past a line of dozens, perhaps even hundreds to the front – express check in.
The conference is called Tomorrow 2013 – and it presents a vision of what is to come – something quite ambitious for a man of 90 years of age. This year, Peres’ annual conference has become a joint birthday celebration. Barbra Streisand, Sharon Stone, and Bill Clinton have come to help him celebrate.
As with last year, the lead speaker is former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. He is a great speaker, grace, intelligence, humor. He has a vision of the Middle East that enables us to see a bright and clear world, where there is mutual respect, security for all, and truly a world focused on that which betters mankind. He says he is not naive and in many ways I agree. He correctly points out that “much of the sentiment in the west right now is to stay out of Syria, but,” he points out, “as every day shows, the cost of staying out” can (in my words here) be measured in the bodies of innocent Syrians.
Regarding the Syrians, he says “there is only one recourse – to do what is right, even if it is not popular.” He is a popular, dynamic speaker – offering words that are obvious and yet sincere – “we should stand up for truth and democracy.” And yes, he tells us here in Israel, in the only democracy in the Middle East, that “democracy is not just a way of voting, it is a way of thinking.”
My problem with Tony Blair is that when it comes to Israel…suddenly the naiveté comes through. He says we are wrong to think that the two-state solution idea can’t work; in fact, he believes we who believe in any other long-term solution live in a fantasy. He recognizes potential security issues and yet misses the most fundamental of points. This year, as last year, I am left to wonder how he can be so smart when it comes to Syria and Iran, and so blind when it comes to what is happening here.
I’m left with the simple and irrefutable truth that a speaker last year said. I can’t wait to hear her again this year – from her mouth, I expect the truth – the truth as it applies to Israel and the truth as it applies to others in the Middle East. “Even if you give them Jerusalem,” she said last year, “even if you give them Jerusalem, there won’t be peace.” That is the great truth that so many at this conference refuse to see. It goes against all the Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and even Shimon Peres want to believe. And yet, a truth it is.
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