Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, might visit Park City |

Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, might visit Park City

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, might visit Park City in June to address a conference of governors from the West, the organizers said this week, an appearance that could dramatically heighten interest in what had already been billed as a high-powered gathering of state chief executives and members of President Obama’s Cabinet.

The Western Governors’ Association on Wednesday scheduled a speaking slot on June 14 for Netanyahu. A draft of the agenda that day sets aside 30 minutes for Netanyahu, from 2 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. Previous drafts of the agenda for that day had indicated the Israeli minister of infrastructures would speak at about the same time. The conference is slated for Stein Eriksen Lodge from June 14 until June 16.

A Netanyahu appearance would likely overshadow the rest of the conference, and he would be among the most notable politicians to ever visit Park City.

A conference organizer said this week Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., the chairman of the association, invited Netanyahu. Christopher McKinnon, who is with the Denver-based Western Governors’ Association, said it is "still uncertain" whether Netanyahu will attend. McKinnon said he expects a decision from Netanyahu by the beginning of June.

It is unclear what Netanyahu would speak about in an address to the governors, but the conference would follow less than a month after a round of well-publicized talks between himself and Obama at the White House. The governors are expected to discuss issues that are important to the West, including energy and climate change.

Netanyahu would join a list of invited speakers that already includes top-shelf figures like Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Steven Chu, who is the secretary of energy, and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. There has been speculation that Obama might attend as well, but the White House typically does not publicize the president’s schedule weeks in advance. Obama is invited to the conference.

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Local law enforcement agencies have started talks about security measures that might be put in place for the conference, but neither Police Chief Wade Carpenter nor Sheriff Dave Edmunds have made detailed public statements about the preparations. Edmunds recently said Zoellick might draw demonstrators while in Park City, though. If Netanyahu attends, it is probable security would be tightened even further.

Temple Har Shalom Rabbi Josh Aaronson said he had not been aware of Netanyahu’s appearance on the schedule until Thursday. The rabbi said he would extend an invitation to Netanyahu to visit the Snyderville Basin synagogue once the prime minister confirms he will attend the conference. A Netanyahu visit to the synagogue would be the "highlight of Temple Har Shalom so far," he said.

"He’s crucial because we’re at a crossroads now, in terms of the peace process," the rabbi said, describing that Netanyahu could be a "transformational figure" in the Middle East peace talks.

Frances ReMillard, a Kamas resident who is one of the founders of a group known as Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land, which is sympathetic to Palestinian issues, had also not been aware of the potential Netanyahu visit until Thursday. She said demonstrators might protest his appearance. She questioned the reasoning behind the invitation to address the conference.

"What could we learn from somebody whose lifetime policy has been privilege of one group over another," she said.