U.S. And World Leaders Gather In Israel To Discuss Anti-Semitism, Iran At World Holocaust Forum

More than 45 world leaders are in Jerusalem this week for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum. This is the largest diplomatic delegation ever to visit Israel, which includes U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Special adviser to President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his opponent, Blue and White alliance leader Benny Gantz, to discuss the option of releasing the Trump administration’s plan for Middle East peace ahead of Israel’s March 2 election. However, Kushner’s trip was cancelled after his flight from Davos was delayed due to inclement weather. He returned to Washington, D.C. instead.

Nevertheless, the White House is expected to release an announcement on its peace plan, known as the ‘Deal of the Century,’ in the near future, according to Israeli television network Channel 13.

75 Years Since The Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

“It is important that they remember where we came from, and it is important that they see what we have achieved,” said Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

This year marks 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where more than 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered by the Nazis. In total, more than six million Jews perished across Eastern Europe during the Holocaust.

The title of this year’s gathering in Jerusalem is ‘Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism.’ The forum began Wednesday night at Beit HaNassi, the residence of the President of Israel, with an “official reception and dinner.” It continues Thursday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

“The future lies in the choices we make, especially, those we make together as countries and nations,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said at the opening reception. “I hope and pray that from this room, the message will go out to every country on earth that the leaders of the world will stand united in the fight against racism and antisemitism.”

Seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Pelosi (D-CA), are in Israel for the forum: Eliot Engel (D-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ted Deutsch (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (D-FL), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC). Before arriving in Israel, this delegation visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Warsaw Ghetto.

“I welcome the leaders from around the world who are coming here, to Jerusalem, to mark with us 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp,” Israeli PM Netanyahu said Tuesday. “It is important that they remember where we came from, and it is important that they see what we have achieved.”

Spike in Anti-Semitic Attacks Around The World

In recent years, there has been a spike in anti-Semitic attacks around the world. These incidents have sharply increased in New York. Israel’s PM plans on discussing the importance of combatting the growing threat from Iran as a way to prevent another Holocaust.

“Iran is openly declaring every day that it wants to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth and, by the way, Israel today has a population of more than six million Jews,” Netanyahu told Trinity Broadcasting Network. “A third of the Jewish people went up in flames; there was nothing we could do. Now, after the Holocaust, the State of Israel has been established and the attempts to destroy the Jewish people are not disappearing.”

Netanyahu is set to address the growing aggression from the Islamic Republic of Iran, which he has been pointing out for years as a threat to Israel and the entire world.

“We now have the capacity to defend ourselves, and I think the lesson of Auschwitz is, One, stop bad things when they’re small, and Iran is a very bad thing,” said Netanyahu. “It’s not that small but it could get a lot bigger with nuclear weapons. And the first thing is stop that. And second, understand that the Jews will never ever again be defenseless in the face of those who want to destroy them.”

CNN President Denies Wolf Blitzer Interview With VP

The White House offered CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, the son of Auschwitz survivors, an exclusive interview with the Vice President at the World Holocaust Forum on Thursday. According to sources, he ‘enthusiastically’ agreed to the opportunity. However, CNN president Jeff Zucker would not allow Blitzer to leave the country because of his assignment to cover President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate due to his role as the network’s lead political anchor.

Blitzer worked for The Jerusalem Post (1973-1990) before joining CNN as a military affairs correspondent in May of 1990.

World Leaders Attend Forum

World leaders in attendance include Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron. Leaders of the European Union are at the forum, along with Britain’s Prince Charles and heads of state including Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, the first Jewish president in Ukraine’s history.

Kremlin diplomat Yuri Ushakov told reporters Wednesday that Putin may briefly meet in private with Vice President Pence and the Ukrainian president.

Additionally, Netanyahu plans to meet with Putin to discuss a request to pardon Naama Issachar, a dual Israeli-American citizen imprisoned in Russia, with Putin. Issachar was arrested last April and sentenced in October to seven-and-a-half years in a Russian prison for allegedly possessing nine grams of marijuana in her luggage while on a layover in Moscow on her way from India to Israel. While Issachar was in a detention facility, a Russian prosecutor changed her charge from ‘possession for personal use’ to ‘drug smuggling.’

Ushakov says Putin will arrange a meeting to negotiate Issachar’s release with her mother and PM Netanyahu.

Two European Leaders Backed Out of Forum

Meanwhile, two European leaders backed out from the forum less than a week out. Lithuania’s president Gitanas Nauseda will not attend the event in Israel, which is being boycotted by his Polish counterpart, President Andrzej Duda, due to a dispute with Russia over Poland’s role in The Holocaust. Duda declined his invitation to the event after being denied the opportunity to make a speech. The Polish president added, “the citizenships of the victims of Auschwitz have no bearing on the choice of leaders who will address the World Holocaust Forum.”

Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, and Poland, which was invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during the last century, have tense relations with Russia based on actions during World War II and beyond. Nauseda said he will attend next week’s Holocaust commemoration in Poland.

Both nations called out Putin for downplaying the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which reconstructed Eastern Europe at the onset of World War II. Meanwhile, Putin and senior Russian officials have recently said that Poland should bear some responsibility for the war’s outbreak, which Poland and some Western allies reject.

On Wednesday afternoon, Putin dedicated a memorial to the victims of the siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park.