Israeli, U.S. leaders converge here June 6-7
By Paul Haist
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Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and three current members of Israel's Knesset will take part in a two-day conference in Vancouver, Wash., June 6-7 at which the ongoing crisis in the Middle East will be examined.
Convergence Northwest Conference 2007 is the project of Tani and Sen. Joseph Zarelli. Sen. Zarelli is a Republican who represents Washington's 18th Senatorial District (Vancouver) in Olympia.
The Christian couple won commitments to attend from Knesset members Limor Livnat, Arieh Eldad and Yuval Steinitz, among eight other local and international speakers representing various perspectives.
Netanyahu told the Zarellis he might not be able to come in person, owing to the currently volatile political situation in Israel that could result in elections soon, but that he would deliver live remarks by satellite in the event he cannot come in person.
The Zarellis also invited U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who declined, according to Tani Zarelli, because of Senate obligations, but who did agree to send a letter to be shared at the conference.
The overall political tenor of the event will be conservative, which is exemplified by the party affiliations of the Knesset members who have agreed to attend.
Livnat and Steinitz are members of Israel's right-wing Likud. Eldad is listed as a member of both the National Unity Party and the National Religious Party—both conservative in outlook. Eldad happens also to be a former IDF chief medical officer and a retired brigadier general.
Netanyahu chairs the Likud Party.
The Zarellis set forth three goals for the conference:
- Provide an honest depiction of the current state of the war in Israel, the threat of terrorism, and how they both affect the United States.
- Establish effective, direct relationships between Israeli and local community leaders.
- Empower local leaders to begin making impacts within their communities with ripple effects reaching to our federal government.
"People need to be educated," said Sen. Zarelli. "Then we'll have a greater impact in Congress."
Tani Zarelli believes very few Americans truly understand what is at stake in the Middle East.
"There is a real enemy out there," she said. "They intend to wipe the Jews off the earth and the United States that stands behind them."
The senator expressed alarm over the failure of Americans to understand how they may be playing into the hands of those he believes may not have America's best interests at heart.
"If you listen in the United States," he said, "there is such an effort to protect this one particular belief system (Islam) at the expense of Judaism and Christianity."
He pointed to the recent creation in New York City of a controversial public school focusing on Arab language and culture.
Although named for a renowned Christian-Lebanese poet and proclaimed by some as a center of tolerance and cultural bridge-building, New York's publicly funded Khalil Gibran International Academy has drawn fire from conservative critics and others, such as Jewish commentator Daniel Pipes, as a potential hotbed of militant Islam and a model for segregation at public expense.
The several other speakers who will converge in Vancouver with Netanyahu and the three MKs include Elihu Ben-Onn, an Israeli broadcast journalist and talk show host; Brigitte Gabriel, a former news anchor for "World News," an Arabic news broadcast for Middle East Television seen in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and Lebanon; Robert Horenstein, the staff director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland Community Relations Committee; Gil Kleiman, an Israel National Police veteran and foreign press spokesperson with special knowledge of terror and security issues; Charles R. Schiffman, JFGP executive vice president; Yisroel Stefansky, a co-founder of Zaka, the Israeli organization that recovers body parts for burial whenever and wherever a disaster occurs; and Sen. Zarelli.
The conference will take place at the Hilton Downtown at 302 W. Sixth St. in Vancouver.
A "basic" reservation fee of $100 provides access to all general session discussions.
A "premier" reservation fee of $150 provides additional access to a June 6 dinner reception with local leaders and the Convergence Northwest keynote speaker, Netanyahu.
Registration forms are available online at www.convergencenw.org.
For information about group registrations send an e-mail inquiry to email@example.com.
The Convergence Northwest office may be reached by telephone at 503-715-8722.