Considering that a majority of Hillsdale students are interested in current events and politics, if not majoring or minoring in politics, it’s probably safe to assume that most students are familiar with the United States’ relationship with Israel. I know I am familiar with it, but then again, this is also my fourth year working as an intern for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. And as expected, I definitely had a few instances that showed my inner Hillsdale politics fan girl.
For example, Michelle Bachmann came up to me and asked for a badge credential and an escort. I asked to see her ID, said nothing for a good 30 seconds, and then told her that I liked her eye shadow before scurrying behind my boss to wait for her badge to print. I met Bill Kristol and almost asked him why he left Fox News. And there was that time when Donna Brazile asked me to escort her to a room and I desperately wanted to tell her that I did not find the jokes she was telling to be funny or appropriate. Or when Ben Sasse asked me if I’d ever been to Nebraska and I told him that, while I had not physically been there, I certainly felt like I had been since half of my college seems to be from there.
Luckily, there were no catastrophically embarrassing moments like one of my past years when I spoke Spanish to Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. (I’ve only ever taken French, by the way.) Antics aside, working this conference these past few years has opened up my eyes to the U.S.-Israel relationship and also given me a passion for foreign relations.
But this year, the conference was conducted in a different way. There was a palpable sense of discomfort.
Many attendees, speakers, and delegates of the AIPAC Policy Conference were worried about both the White House response to their conference and the address their beloved Netanyahu would deliver. And let me tell you, it was pretty amazing to hear his passionate appeal firsthand. But people were also uncomfortable with the fact that Netanyahu had essentially undermined the institution of the American president by agreeing to speak before Congress without alerting President Obama’s administration.
The current situation in Israel leaves much to be desired as terrorist Iran grows closer everyday to the possibility of becoming a nuclear force. Iran is closing in and encroaching on the Israeli people’s liberties through its support for random bombings, public terrorist threats against Israel via Twitter, etc. But if Iran becomes a nuclear power, America’s safety is also threatened. Iran could destroy the democratic Israel, completely destabilize the oil-producing Middle East, and possibly use their nuclear weapons against America.
Netanyahu’s address to Congress was not intended as an insult or as a backhanded maneuver, but rather a passionate attempt to shed light on some major Israeli issues. At the end of March, American legislators need to decide whether to impose further sanctions on Iran, ratify a concrete agreement with Iran regarding nuclear activity, or to take military action against Iran. Iran’s intentions are unknown, which prompts a desire for safeguards that may prevent the building of a nuclear weapon.
The question on the minds of American legislators is where to draw the line as the Obama administration negotiates with an enemy of peace. The U.S.-Israeli relationship has never been stronger and it has been carefully constructed through a bipartisan coalition. A majority of the American public supports Israel and trade between the two countries is steadily increasing. Congress will hopefully act in a way that will be beneficial to Israel. Since Israel first became a nation in 1948, America has stood by Israel in support. Netanyahu’s address to Congress was like a student asking a friendly student for help against a bully in their class. It wasn’t going around the teacher’s head, rather just asking for help directly from the friendly student who helped them out before.
I’m certainly hoping that Congress acts favorably toward Israel. I am hoping to work the AIPAC Conference again next year so I can awkwardly interact with political figures.