This first week in March marked the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference. This massive gathering in Washington D.C. brought together a vast array of individuals incorporating various religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The singular value they all shared was their support of the U.S-Israel relationship.
AIPAC prides itself on being bipartisan; its supporters’ range from Republicans Lindsay Graham and Eric Cantor to liberals such as Democratic Senators Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer. There were an astounding 3,000 pro-Israel students including myself that traveled to the conference of 16,000 overall participants.
Throughout the course of the event, students were granted opportunities to meet various players in politics and media revolving around Israel and the Middle East. Ari Shavit, author of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel spoke in a breakout session as a panelist along with pro-Israel student activists. His insights fostered compelling dialogue that allowed for participants to learn from each other’s experiences and best practices.
In a widely publicized move, the Obama administration sent the United States permanent representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, to address the conference. She spoke about how constant resolutions condemning Israel, coupled with the Palestinian Authority’s premature bid for statehood have proven to be counterproductive in the peace process. It is clear, she said, that the only solution is bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. She also noted that the United Nations Security Council has failed to pass more multilateral sanctions on Iran, a step that is critical to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is dismantled. Power also spoke at length how her and her Israeli counterpart, Ron Prosor, are working to fight anti-Semitism across the globe. Power finished her speech by emphasizing that in this violence ravaged region there is one stable democratic nation that has consistently been not only an ally to the United States, but a vital asset in achieving security and peace in the Middle East.
The most notable speaker, however, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, delivered a passionate speech clearing the air for his congressional appearance. The Prime Minister emphasized his respect for President Obama, and made it clear that policy differences between the administrations would not undermine their close relationship. Netanyahu also made his desire to stay out of American politics clear. He remarked, “The last thing I want is for Israel to become a partisan Issue.”
The participants all came bringing unique perspectives and reasons of why they support the state of Israel. All 16,000 people walking the convention center halls carried interesting facts and talking points they have learned from their respective experiences that they share to amalgamate in to other participants’ personal ensemble of information. This created stronger understanding of the issues and ultimately created a better dialogue to bring home.
The students at policy conference embodied the bipartisan nature of the organization. The President of College Republicans as well as the President of College Democrats both support the state of Israel and are active AIPAC participants and leaders. In our increasingly polarized political climate, support for the state of Israel might be the only issue that the two major parties can agree on.
For students such as myself, home means my college campus. With anti-Israel sentiment growing in popularity, the conference served pro-Israel students like me looking for support from around the country. With the number of Jews on college campuses far outweighing that of detractor groups, it was made clear that the indifference of Jews to Israel and Judaism is the biggest threat to Israel and Judaism. The message I will take home from this policy conference is one of proactive participation through involvement and education.
By Jay Alpert