WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Greek foreign minister told an American Jewish audience that his government would “never allow hate to grow and spread,” but did not address specific calls to marginalize the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party.
“Let me state from this forum, in the most determined and compelling manner, that Greece will never allow hate to grow and spread,” Dimitris Avramopoulos told the American Jewish Committee’s annual Global Forum in Washington on Monday. “Hate will be confronted and stopped.”
A number of Jewish and international civil rights groups have pressed the conservative New Democracy government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to take steps to marginalize Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that won 19 of 300 seats in the last elections.
The groups want the government to support laws limiting the activities of explicitly racist parties.
Samaras until now has said he prefers to counter Golden Dawn through political rather than legislative means, and in his AJC speech, Avramopoulos said the key to marginalizing extremists was reviving Greece’s parlous economy.
“The social factors that have allowed this to happen, as in other European countries, must be successfully addressed,” he said. “Ignorance, despair, anger, disillusion with the political system are some of them. I am certain that as the crisis passes, the haters will pass, too.”
Other European foreign ministers speaking at the AJC confab represented two of Israel’s staunchest allies on the continent, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Notably, each minister echoed John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, who also addressed the AJC, in underscoring what they said was the urgency of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech foreign minister, described what he said was “complacency” among Israelis regarding the peace process “without reflecting the logical implications” of such complacency.
“Without an independent Palestinian state, there is no way for Israel itself in the long-term outlook to remain a state that is both Jewish and democratic,” said Schwarzenberg, whose government was among a handful to oppose Palestinian statehood recognition at the United Nations last year.
Tzipi Livni, the Israeli justice minister and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s designated peace negotiator, also pressed the urgency of renewed peace talks.
A two-state solution, she said, was “not a favor to the Palestinians but rather as a necessity for Israel.”
Livni’s Hatnua party garnered six seats in the Knesset campaigning on the resumption of peace talks, but Netanyahu’s Likud and one of its larger partners, Jewish Home, have so far expressed skepticism of the viability of the Palestinian Authority as a peace partner.
In his speech, Kerry called on American Jews to press for peace talks.
“No one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community,” he said Monday. “Leaders will take both steps only if their people push them to.”