In response to the renewed outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas, Ronald Lauder, a Wainscott resident and the billionaire chairman emeritus of the Estee Lauder cosmetics company, is leading the World Jewish Congress's solidarity mission to Israel.
The mission is composed of 76 Jewish leaders from 22 different countries, including members of Jewish organizations in France, Spain, Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa, and Lithuania. The mission began on Wednesday in Jerusalem and will end late Thursday evening.
Mr. Lauder is the current president of the World Jewish Congress and has been since 2007. The World Jewish Congress is an organization that was founded in 1936 to diplomatically aid and represent Jewish populations around the globe. It is currently active in 100 countries.
The most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, which began on July 8, escalated on Tuesday when Hamas rejected a proposed cease-fire from the Egyptian government. Hamas stated that it had not received an official draft of the cease-fire from Egypt and that the terms were unacceptable.
Mr. Lauder, however, spoke out against Hamas's rejection of the cease-fire in a press release, saying that "Hamas wants more war, wants more civilian casualties, wants more rockets fired at Israel, and its plan still is to destroy the Jewish state. Here's the difference for the world to see: Hamas's leaders are not interested in peace, Israel's are."
While in Israel, Mr. Lauder and the other members of the mission will meet with civilians, Israeli Defense Forces soldiers, and Israeli government officials. On Wednesday evening Mr. Lauder met with Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister.
On Thursday afternoon they took part in a security briefing with Major Gen. Amos Yadlin, the former head of I.D.F. Military Intelligence and Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the former minister of defense. There are also plans to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres. The mission will also visit places in southern Israel that have been under fire, including Sderot, a city less than a mile from Gaza City.
The goal of the solidarity mission is to show Israel and its citizens that many around the world support their position. Mr. Lauder said that, "World Jewry is united in its desire to stand side by side with Israel during this dangerous period."