Gil Shefler
The Jerusalem Post
June 30, 2011 - 12:00am

Members of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians gathered at the King David Hotel on Tuesday for a candid conversation closed to journalists dealing with the considerable challenges facing Israel in the international arena.

During the event, speakers pledged support for Israel, vociferously defending it against its critics, but in between the words of praise some genuine concern could also heard.

Irwin Cotler, the former justice minister of Canada and staunch friend of Israel, took the opportunity to give Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu some advice: Accept Obama’s principles and get talks with the Palestinians back on track, for Israel’s sake.

“I wasn’t criticizing Netanyahu for his inaction, but called on him to take up such an initiative based on the Obama principles, as incorporated in his communiqué issued by the G-8,” he said on the phone on Wednesday. "You have here not just Obama principles, but the G-8, supportive of such principles. Such an initiative would challenge the Palestinians to return to negotiations."

Cotler spoke about the perceived disconnect between Netanyahu and the US president and suggested it might be time for Jerusalem to bend a little to mend those ties.

“I just said people think there’s been a cultural pond between Obama and Bibi,” he said. “At this point [accepting Obama’s principles] might be a good idea.”

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, whose organization sponsors the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, was also said to be among those critical of Netanyahu at the banquet.

According to reports in the media, the billionaire businessman said starting talks with the Palestinians may be a severe blow to Netanyahu’s coalition, but it was a necessary gambit. Lauder reportedly warned Israel against favoring internal politics at the expense of its standing in the world.

Some have speculated that Lauder’s alleged criticism may be related to Netanyahu’s decision not to appear at WJC’s Board of Governors meeting last week, an act several commentators believe was a deliberate shunning.

In a statement sent to The Jerusalem Post regarding his speech, Lauder reiterated his his "unequivocal" support for Netanyahu and "policies that seek to create a lasting peace in the Middle East."

“The Prime Minister and I have been friends and colleagues for thirty years. Let there be no mistake. We stand united in the pursuit of peace and the protection of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. My position regarding the need for negotiations is absolutely consistent with the Government’s call for direct negotiations,” said the WJC president in the statement.

Meanwhile, during a short interview aired on Wednesday, Channel 2 reporter Dana Weiss asked Lauder about rumors of a split between him and the prime minister.

“We’ve been friends for 30 years and I expect us to be friends 40 more,” Lauder replied, without denying the rumor. “Every friendship has ups and downs.”


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