President Moshe Katsav launched the congress with an opening speech. "We succeeded in building a modern and developed state. The State of Israel is a leader in the fields of science and technology, and immigration from the former communist bloc brought about considerable growth. Unfortunately, the security issue has been on the agenda since the State's establishment. Today, the Palestinian government refuses to recognize Israel and isn't respecting signed agreements."
The president called on the Palestinians to stop fostering illusions by refusing to recognize Israel.
First Zionist Congress in Basel (Photo: GPO)
Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski stressed that his agency's priority is to strengthen ties between Jewish communities around the world and "mainly to bring many more Jews to the State of Israel."
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky said Jerusalem is a source of pride for all Jews, adding that the fact that the congress is being held in the capital attests to "the continuity of the Zionist vision."
Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, 33, took over as the congress' president on Tuesday, making him the youngest person to occupy the post since Binyamin Zeev Herzl.
The appointment also marks the first time since 30 years that the president is not the chairman of the Jewish Agency.
"It is my honor to be one of a number of people who led the congress since Herzl," Hasson told Ynet. "The selection of a young delegate is a real revolution."