It has been a week since the intense three day President’s Conference. This has provided me with time to digest all that I heard and learned at the conference.  The process of reviewing my notes made me realize that there were some statements made which the broader public must hear.  My publicizing these quotes does not mean I agree with them.  I just think they are important and should become a part of the public debate regarding the burning issues of the day.  Enjoy!

President Shimon Peres

a)”It is well known that anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.  I look back and see two major mistakes.  One was not negotiating with the PLO.  Perhaps if we were talking they would not have been shooting.  The second was leaving Gaza and providing them with total control there.”

b)”Instead of always forming committees to understand our failures, as should have committees to analyze our successes.”

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Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman

“We cannot force peace.  We have to develop peace.  We don’t first achieve peace and then prosperity and security.  We must first achieve prosperity and security and then we can strive for peace.”

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Natan Sharansky

a)”I was in two governments and resigned from both. I was in four prisons and never resigned. Politics are not simple.”

b)”When I was sitting in prison, Ukrainian and Russian nationals told me that I was going to be free one day.  I asked them why me and not them.  They answered ‘Because your brothers all over the world are out in the streets demanding our freedom.’  That is the power of our brotherhood.”

c)”Democracy is when someone who is wrong is debating someone who is wrong.  The moment the debate becomes someone who is wrong versus someone who is a sinner the discussion ends right there.”

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Rabbi Michael Melchior: former minister, head of the Meimad party

a)”I was in favor of Oslo and I was in favor of Annapolis.  But these didn’t work!  Why are we continuing to try to do the same things which we know didn’t work?  It’s time to try something new.”

b)”Israel was founded by secularists who did not believe in God but believed that God gave them the land…”

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Irwin Cotler: former Canadian Minister of Justice, Attorney General 

a)”Labeling African refugees as ‘infiltrators’ is unfair.  We have to remember the Talmudic teaching that life and death is in the hands of the tongue.”

b)”It is sad for me to see Canadian politics be more in line with Jewish values than what I see from Israeli politicians”

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Gabi Ashkenazi: former IDF Chief of Staff

a)”We don’t know it all.  We had no idea that the Arab uprisings were going to happen last year.  I met with the Egyptian Chief of Staff just days before the uprising began in his country and he had know idea.  We assesses that Assad would be removed from Syria by now but he is still around.”

b)”Israel has always preferred static borders even if they were not democratic.  Our experience with Mubarak proved that approach to be correct.”

c)”Let’s keep something in mind.  The leader of the Egyptian army told us that the greatest challenge and focus for a leader in Egypt is how to make 90 million pitot every morning.”

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Dr. Micah Goodman: founder and director, Mechinat Ein Prat

a)”America is the western country with the greatest separation of church and state and yet it is the most religious western country….Less religious law leads to more religion.”

b)”In the mid 19th century, Henry David Thoreau suggested that people’s distrust of government could eventually lead to distrust of religion.  That was a theory back then and it has now become fact in Israel.”

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Adina bar Shalom: founder and CEO of Haredi College in Jerusalem (also Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s daughter)

a)”Every citizen of Israel must follow the country’s laws – this is the Talmudic principle of ‘dina dimalchuta dina’ – ‘the law of the kingdom is the law'”

b)”Chapters of our Fathers teaches that when there is no rule of law ‘people swallow each other up'”

c)”The Torah makes it clear that there cannot be coercion and that we have ‘bechira,’ – ‘free will'”

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Ambassador Dennis Ross

“The biggest mistake Israel could make is to make more unilateral moves in the peace process.”

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Dudi Zilbershlag: ultra-Orthodox advertiser, journalist, publisher

“I wish Haredi political leaders would begin to focus on issues like the environment and stay away from religion.”

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Leon Wiesltier: writer, critic, and magazine editor

a)Quoted David Ben Gurion to support his strong belief that our leaders must always focus on all problems facing us and should never put some on the back burner: “I will fight the white paper as if there was no Hitler and I will fight Hitler as if there was no white paper.”

b)”Jews have always preferred alliances with Kings who could neutralize the masses and have avoided relationships with the common people.  This never worked and will certainly not work today.  The best approach for us to deal with our enemies would be to reach out to the people.”

c)”Sitting back and doing nothing about a problem creates less and worse options down the road.”

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Prof. Daniel Kahneman:  Nobel Prize Laureate in Economic Sciences

a)”We cannot make judgments based on the outcomes of our decisions. Once and event has occured we think we understand it but it is best to accept that the world is simply not understandable.”

b)”We should place our focus on the process we use to make decisions.”

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Prof. Michael Sandel: Philosophy Professor, Harvard University

a)We now confuse market economy with market society.  In our market society, California jails are now offering inmates upgrades to better cells for $82 for night and parents are paying their children to write thank you notes.”

b)”Switzerland was searching for a location for a nuclear waste site.  They found a location and 51% of the locals in that town were okay with it.  Then they offered compensation to the townspeople and, shockingly, the number of people who were okay with it went down to 25%.  The people explained that when they were asked about it with no money involved, they felt it was their civic duty to say yes.  However, the moment they were offered money it felt like a bribe.  We see from here how basic human nature rejects the market society and we need to get back to that.”

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Dr. David Agus: physician and co-founder of Navigenics and  oncology.com, (best known for treating Lance Armstrong)

“The Israeli government should raise taxes on tobacco and use the money to fight disease.”