Prestigious Herzliya Conference Underway

The 6th Herzliya Conference, which some complain has replaced the Knesset as the forum for major policy speeches, opened last night. Mofaz addressed the Iranian threat; Olmert is to speak on Monday.

, | updated: 12:18 PM

The annual gathering of Israel's political, security, industrial and academic elite is recognized as a forum for setting the public policy agenda for the coming year. Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin has lamented that the Knesset ought to be the place for such speeches.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to address the conference on Monday. It will be recalled that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first unveiled his disengagement plan at the Herzliya Conference two years ago.

Excerpts from some of the current Conference's speeches thus far:

Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz:
"The thwarting of Iran's nuclear policy at this point will be done in the framework of bringing this hot potato to the UN's Security Council. However, the State of Israel is committed to being able to defend itself, and this is what we must do."

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz:
"There is a danger of another major round of Palestinian terrorism - not because of something we have done, but because of the fact that we have new and changing situations. But we can bring terrorism down to manageable levels... The existential danger we face today is from Iran." Halutz also said, "There is no way that Israel can maintain a volunteer army, which would be a mediocre army or worse. I will do everything I can to make sure this idea does not get off the ground."

Nobel Prize Winner Prof. Yisrael Aumann said the government's treatment of the expellees from Gush Katif and northern Shomron is a "national disgrace."

Prof. Uriel Reichmann, founder of the anti-religious Shinui Party, told the Conference that if he is named Education Minister in the next government, he will implement the controversial Dovrat reforms, with only minor changes. He said he would conduct dialogue on the matter with the teachers, who largely object to most of the Dovrat Commission plan. Reichmann says that Ariel Sharon promised to name him as Education Minister, and that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has confirmed that pledge.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said:
"If the world realizes that the Jewish People will not accept another Holocaust, it will do what it can to stop the Iranian threat."

National Security Council chief Gen. Giora Eiland:
"It is not certain that 'two states for two nations' is a stable solution for this dispute... Our situation today is much worse than in 1967, when we are expected to support a Palestinian entity." He said that the situation in Lebanon is worrisome: "There is a type of governmental vacuum, with terror organizations trying to fill it, including Al-Qaeda... Make no mistake: Hizbullah, powered by Syria and Iran, is the one who determines whether it's quiet there or not."

The head of the National Security Research Center in Haifa University, Prof. Giora Ben-Dor, said:
"Israel's society did not break after five years of intifada, and the situation amidst the public regarding optimism, patriotism, and the Arab public's trust in Israel is better than we could have thought, or than the way the political leaders portray it."

The Dean of the Lauder School of Administration, Diplomacy and Strategy in the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Institute, Prof. Rafi Melnick, said, "There has been a very worrisome drop in the sociological situation in Israel since 2000... Israel is only in 21st place in the world in terms of its economic situation."