By: Fern Sidman
Warning of the existential perils to Israel, the United States and the entire western world that a nuclear empowered Iran represents, the Honorable John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations delivered a powerful address as keynote speaker at the 2010 Jerusalem Reclamation Project/Ateret Cohanim dinner on Thursday evening, May 13th at Terrace on the Park.
Citing the plethora of misinformation and misimpressions that swirl around the status of Israel, Jerusalem and its surrounding settlements, Ambassador Bolton made several oblique references to the current strain in US-Israeli relations and chastised the Obama administration for pressuring Israel to cease construction of new homes for Jewish residents in East Jerusalem. “People should be able to buy and sell property in Jerusalem, as in any other country and clearly peace in the region is not dependent on Israel making territorial concessions,” he intoned. Referring to the chilly reception and humiliating treatment that was accorded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his most recent visit to Washington, Ambassador Bolton said, “Today, Afghan president Hamid Kharzi was treated to a gala lunch at the White House and shown the kind of respect that we display to our allies. Lest we forget that Israel is our staunchest ally in the Middle East and as such the prime minister of Israel should receive the same respect.”
Debunking the ubiquitous myth that peace in the Middle East will be achieved by settling the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ambassador Bolton opined, “The Palestinians are being exploited by their own leaders and the US should not force either proximity or direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians because there is no legitimate Palestinian entity to negotiate with. The US needs to stop digging the hole that they’re in because undertaking this huge diplomatic task that will result in failed negotiations will leave the US in a much weaker position.”
Calling Iran the “cradle of terrorism,” Ambassador Bolton said, “Iran has been developing nuclear weapons for the last 20 years and neither diplomacy nor economic sanctions will be effective deterrents against them. Iran has been hiding from IAEA inspectors, concealing data and destroying concrete proof of nuclear facilities. He also provided evidence of Iran’s nuclear ties to the rogue country of North Korea, whose nuclear power plant in Syria was destroyed in a 2007 attack by Israel and spoke of Iran’s financing of such terrorist groups as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban. “Because of the ethnic dissatisfaction in Iran, a regime change is warranted and the ousting of the Islamic revolutionary regime that came to power there in 1979,” he said to rousing applause. Until that time he said that “Iran cannot be contained or deterred” and suggested that Israel might be put in a position to launch a pre-emptive strike while there are no clear indications from Washington that it will support such a venture.
The ambassador concluded by thanking the members of the JRP/Ateret Cohanim for their unflinching devotion to building Jerusalem and for their tireless efforts on its behalf of its people. The Jerusalem Reclamation Project and Ateret Cohanim are organizations predicated on fulfilling a generations old dream of rebuilding and securing a united Jerusalem, strengthening Jewish roots and reestablishing thriving Jewish communities that are centered around educational institutes in and around the Old City of Jerusalem. Referring to Jerusalem as the “heart and soul” of the Jewish nation, its activities include establishing educational centers, helping to renovate old buildings, installing and maintaining security systems and initiating other Jewish educational projects in an effort to revitalize this important area and have a greater Jewish presence in and around the Old City.
The guests of honor at this year’s dinner were Dr. Joseph Frager and Mr. Mel Wadler. Dr. Frager, a renowned gastroenterologist, is the chairman of the board of The Jerusalem Reclamation Project and is widely regarded as one of the leading Jewish activists of today. Mr. Wadler is one of the founding members of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and established its first office in his home back in 1984. He is a tenacious visionary who has become a driving force in the JRP.
Philanthropists Joseph and Helen Mermelstein were this year’s recipients of the auspicious Jerusalem Chai award and were hailed for their “tireless work on behalf of Jews around the world.” Credited with securing the release of former Soviet prisoner of conscience Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky, the Mermelsteins are also active in helping the settlements in Judea and Samaria by donating swimming pools, basketball courts and day-care centers.
The Bonei Yerushalayim honorees of 2010 included three very special people. Mark and Galina Moerdler have been actively involved in various Jewish causes including the JRP, Children of Chernobyl and Amit. Their exemplary dedication and commitment to Jerusalem and Israel is manifested through their constant support of JRP initiatives.
Introduced by Shani Hikind who is the JRP executive vice president, Mr. Moe Tawil was described as a “man of action and devotion” and “a Moses in our time” for his stalwart support of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Mr. Tawil was born into a family steeped in the Sephardic traditional way of life where education, the study of Torah and Yirat Hashem were woven into the fabric of their daily lives. Mrs. Hikind said that Mr. Tawil was a true Ohev Yisroel who cares deeply for his brethren and that he confided in her that “Torah is the secret to his longevity.”
Other Jewish luminaries were also present at the dinner including Rabbi David Algaze of the Chavurat Yisrael synagogue in Forest Hills, New York. Commenting on the recent terrorist attempt in Times Square on May 1st by Pakistani born American citizen, Faisal Shahzad, Rabbi Algaze said, “If our elected officials and the media do not name the enemy as radical Islamists, we will never find them. While stereotyping and profiling any group is abhorrent we must realize that Islam is like no other culture. It seeks worldwide domination in the form of a caliphate and their doctrine is based on the teachings of Muhammed who called for the death of all infidels. Islamic mosques and madrassas are breeding grounds for this kind of nefarious ideology and their preachers and imams cannot stop it.”
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D) representing the 48th assembly district in Boro Park since 1982 and husband of Shani Hikind of the JRP said of the burgeoning Iranian nuclear threat, “as Ambassador Bolton suggested in his speech, Israel may have no choice but to make the first move against Iran for self-preservation reasons and not to take action may prove to be worse later on.” Opining on the US position of such an engagement by Israel he said, “the Obama administration has been a disaster for Israel and the US. This administration has done everything in its power to undermine Israel’s security and thus, the ultimate security of the United States.”