CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin's Opening Remarks to JISS (Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies) Conference - December 11, 2018
B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin delivered the below remarks on December 11, 2018 at the 2018 Jerusalem Institution for Strategic Studies conference, held at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Mishkenot Shaananim, Jerusalem.
B’nai B’rith is pleased to join with JISS in co-sponsoring this important conference. And we are especially pleased to have with us our good friends from the American Hellenic community, AHEPA and the American Hellenic Institute.
As they say, “Timing is everything.” At this moment in time, there is an urgency about addressing the chaos that is roiling the Eastern Mediterranean, the ramifications of which are being felt way beyond this region.
From the point at which we are meeting today, looking North, South, East and West, there is good reason to be deeply concerned. Civil wars, proxy wars, ethnic rivalries, religiously-inspired terrorism, naval build-ups, big and medium-power on-they-ground involvement, and contentiousness even among allies as to how to act and react, fill out a lengthy list of flash points that command our daily attention.
Where, exactly, do you begin to address this multiplicity of challenges?
This conference will allow us to hear not only analysis, but the opportunity, as well to explore options for addressing these current crises.
For us, gathered here today, there is a context — or should I say contexts — to our discussions. The exploration and exploitation of natural gas reserves has served as a springboard for cooperation and collaboration for Israel, Greece and Cyprus, now being joined at various points by Egypt and Jordan. Indeed, next week in Beersheva, the fifth tripartite summit will bring together the prime ministers of Israel and Greece, and the President of Cyprus, for talks in a wide range of issues.
Add to that, trade, tourism, and cooperation on innovation initiatives and you see a real time transformation of the region. The growing interest of the Trump Administration in these developments has added tremendous weight to their importance.
And, with regard to the United States, the Russia factor, the Iran factor, and the ISIS and Al-Qaeda factor, all contribute to the complexity of challenges to Washington.
Other relationships impact the security situation, as well: the role or non-role of NATO, issues affecting U.S. relationships in the Gulf, even debates within the United States and its two political parties over involvement in crises abroad, and the always present Greek-Turkish situation involving two American allies, are additional ingredients in this geopolitical mixing bowl that bring us together today.
One final note, about B’nai B’rith’s historic interest in this region. This year, our organization is celebrating its 175th anniversary, making it the oldest of the international Jewish organizations. Depending on the point in that long span of history, we were among the most active Jewish organizations in the Ottoman Empire, in places like Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans, in Egypt (even in Sudan at one point), Lebanon, and Syria. In pre-State Israel, our first branch was established in Jerusalem in 1888. Indeed, the first secretary of that branch was Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of the modern Hebrew language.
Finally, we are fortunate that our JISS colleagues, in addition to their own highly respected expertise, have brought together an array of experts and analysts from the worlds of academia, diplomacy and the military, to assess the problems and prospects of the threats and challenges before us.
A special thank you to Efraim Inbar, Eran Lerman, and David Weinberg, and to my colleague Alan Schneider, who heads B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, for their special efforts to bring us today’s program.
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