On November 30-December 2, 2012, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy hosted the ninth annual Saban Forum, which this year was entitled, “U.S.-Israeli Relations in a Changing Environment.” This year’s Forum followed closely after the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, as well U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mission to the region last week and President Abbas’ upcoming bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.
The 2012 Saban Forum started on Friday evening with a gala dinner, and featured a discussion with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at 6:30 p.m., moderated by NPR’s Robert Siegel.
On November 30, at 8:30 p.m., U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a keynote address on U.S.-Israel relations, followed by a question and answer session moderated by Tamara Wittes, Director of the Saban Center.
On December 1, the Forum hosted a discussion for former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, moderated by David Ignatius of The Washington Post.
Because past gatherings have allowed for an unparalleled level of dialogue, the Saban Forum has become a seminal event allowing government officials, policymakers and policy researches, journalists, and business leaders to engage in a candid exchange of views and generate creative ideas to address the multiple challenges that confront the United States and Israel in the Middle East.
Over the last eight years, the Saban Forum hosted many notable officials and private sector leaders, including President William J. Clinton, President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, HM King Abdullah of Jordan, President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Middle East Envoy Tony Blair, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, and Henry Kissinger.
PHOTOS FROM THE FORUM
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary Clinton with Tamara Wittes, Director of the Saban Center
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
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President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.