Shimon Peres - GPO - 21.6.2012
Shimon Peres addressing the Israeli Presidential Conference, June 21, 2012. Photo by GPO
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Participants at this week's "Israeli Presidential Conference" at Jerusalem's International Convention Center spoke to Haaretz about their own take on the gathering's "Tomorrow" theme.

"I'm here because there are excruciatingly important things for Jews to discuss," said Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, who participated in a plenary session titled, "A Strategic Look at Tomorrow." "My purpose here is to try to make sure that certain questions are not evaded in the name of other questions."

"The future depends on what is being done today," cautioned Jacob Frenkel, the former Governor of Bank of Israel and current chairman of JPMorgan Chase International, who said the world economy is in a "state of flux, with some countries in a "very significant slowdown."

"Tell me the policies, and I'll tell you what I think of 'tomorrow,'" said Frenkel. "But it's important to ensure that financial policy strengthens financial systems all over the world, because it's only with a robust financial sector that storms can be met and overcome."

Yair Seroussi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Hapoalim, said Israel was the master of its own fate. "I think that the future depends on us, in all matters," he said. "From politics, to the economy, we have the right beginning and a strong basis. I'm optimistic about the Israeli economy. It's up to us."

"The fact that this Conference allows us to take a 'snapshot,' bringing 'machers' and activists and everyone together for a 'shmooze' once a year is a very great thing," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "

Joel H. Golovensky, founding president of the Jerusalem-based Institute for Zionist Strategies, said he attended the Conference with the hope of "seeing which way Israel is going." "Our mission is to see that Israel stays a Jewish and democratic state; Jewish in the national sense and democratic in the universal sense, he said."

Dr. Micah Goodman, a Jewish thinker and philosopher who directs Ein Prat – The Academy for Leadership, participated in a panel discussion on "Judaism and Democracy: Complementary or Conflicting Values?"

"It could be a conflict, but it doesn't have to," said Goodman. "The question is how do we deal with it."

"My own view is the notion of Israel as Jewish and democratic state is not only compatible – though admittedly there are tensions involved in that symbiotic relationship," said Professor Irwin Cotler, the Canadian Parliament member, prior to his presentation. "But it has been constitutionalized. It's sometimes ignored that the basic laws of 1992 established Israel and a Jewish and democratic state. I don't regard the two as being in conflict, though I do believe that one has to work out the relationship between them in such a way that we in fact enhance that status of Israel both in its Jewish character and its democratic character."

Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, told Haaretz that "Israel has a unique history of connecting between their desire to be free, and a Jewish nation."

"The State of Israel inherited it by insisting on its right to be a Jewish, democratic state," Sharansky told Haaretz. "And the success of this experiment is extremely important for the future of humanity."