Political leaders brief Conference of Presidents Israel mission

Naftali Bennett: 'You can’t build joint future by erasing history.'

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Bennett at Conference of Presidents
Bennett at Conference of Presidents
Flash 90

On the second day of the 45th annual Conference of Presidents (COP) Leadership Mission to Israel, led by COP Chairman Arthur Stark and Executive Vice President and CEO Malcolm Heinlein, Israeli Education Minister and New Right party chair Naftali Bennett said, “You can’t build a joint future by erasing history.” He had been asked about the current diplomatic crisis between Israel and Poland regarding complicity in the Holocaust.

“Many Poles participated in active antisemitism and the murdering of Jews,” Bennett said. “The Polish nation itself was a victim of Nazi Germany. They [Polish individuals] were victims, but they were also complicit.”

He reiterated that today, “Poland is, and will be, a friend of Israel.”

Bennett related a story about his wife’s grandfather, whose family was murdered by Polish civilians while hiding in the forests. “We deeply value the friendship of the Polish people but we can’t in any way allow the revision of history.”

Bennett also addressed Israel’s upcoming elections. He harshly criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for what he called “personal attacks” against his wife and family. However, he said he believed that Netanyahu would set up the next government.

The “big question,” he said, is what the next government would look like: “Bibi-Gantz or Bibi-Bennett.” He was referring to Benny Gantz, the former IDF chief of staff who is now the chief political threat to Netanyahu in the upcoming elections.

The prime minister is scheduled to speak at the conference in the afternoon.

Also addressing the mission participants in the morning was Lieutenant-General (res.) Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff and defense minister. He ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state. “We can manage with the current situation, but there is no chance in the coming future for sitting at the table and reaching a settlement,” Ya’alon said. “On the other hand, I do not want a bi-national state.” He also ruled out any future unilateral disengagements.

Now head of the Telem party, which is running in conjunction with Gantz’s Israel Resilience party, he evaded questions as to whether the list would agree to join a government led by Netanyahu.

In speaking to the mission participants, Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, noted an uptick in antisemitic incidents around the world, including a recent attack on a prominent French philosopher by so-called yellow vest protesters in the French capital.

“The recent event in which Professor Alain Finkielkraut, a French Jew walking the streets of Paris, was chased and attacked by antisemitic extremists telling him to get out of the country and cursing him as a Zionist is shocking,” Herzog told mission participants.

The Jewish Agency chairman added that antisemitism exists at both extremes of the political spectrum.
“The political divide whereby extremists from the Right and Left use antisemitism to serve their needs, plus the culture of hate emanating from social media where the real dirt of the world express themselves, creates a platform of haters which is very dangerous,” he said.

Herzog also addressed Jewish pluralism in Israel, specifically citing differences over prayer at the Western Wall. “I sincerely hope there will a unity of forces after the next election to support Klal Yisrael,” he said, using the Hebrew term for Jewish unity. He added that the pluralistic prayer site at the Wall should remain.

“Live and let live,” he said, adding, however, that he was not extremely optimistic that this would be the case.

The mission participants also received a closed briefing by Yigal Unna, director-general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, who spoke on the emerging dangers of cyber warfare. There was also a presentation on the importance of hi-tech and innovation by Dr. Ami Appelbaum, chief scientist at Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry and chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, and by Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-Up Israel Central and a former chair of Israel's National Economic Council.

The proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry for six decades, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations advances the interests of the American Jewish community, promotes broad-based support for Israel, and addresses critical concerns facing Israel and world Jewry. The Conference is at the forefront of efforts to ensure that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA, counter global anti-Semitism, fight against the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and other attempts to isolate Israel and the Jewish people and, achieve peace and security for Israel and her neighbors.