Policy Conference Headliners Exemplify Ties that Bind
The U.S.-Israel relationship is one that transcends leadership. Beyond the faces that represent the two nations in Jerusalem and Washington, D.C., the underlying values and interests that tie our nations together remains steadfast. Today's headliner, Vice President Joseph Biden and last night's headliner, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak represent these close ties.
Just last month at an international security conference, the two men embraced one another. What was behind this show of affection between the two leaders? A mutual recognition of the deep ties that exist between Americans and Israelis as well as an understanding that the two countries will need to rely on each other now more than ever as they face common threats.
Throughout your time at Policy Conference, look for these two leaders to reflect on moral and cultural connections between the United States and Israel. Key things to listen for include references to our countries' mutual commitments to freedom, democracy, and peace. Biden believes that these values bring the American and the Israeli experience together. He has remarked on more than one occasion that "you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist."
Indeed, there is great diversity among American pro-Israel activists here at the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference. African American, Latino, and Evangelical Christian community leaders are here in Washington to show their support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Breakout sessions entitled, "From Solidarity to Support: African Americans and Israel" and "Friends of Faith: Evangelical Support for Israel" will both highlight this growth in the Zionist community. Barak has recognized the deep connection that these groups of Americans have to Israel and has noted that the U.S.-Israel relationship "reflects a profound feeling among the American people"
Both Biden and Barak articulate the alignment between our countries' strategic interests. A major example of this cooperation can be found in the jointly-developed Iron Dome rocket defense system. In the AIPAC Village, the central gathering place for Policy Conference delegates that covers nearly two city blocks of space, you can learn more about this system at the Innovation Showcase. There, you can see the Tamir Interceptor, the missile deployed by Iron Dome to counter rockets – a tangible product of the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel. Last November, as rockets rained down on Israel, Iron Dome sprang into action to save thousands of lives.
Listen for references to joint military training exercises and intelligence-sharing. The Vice President has reflected that "American support for Israel's security is not just an act of friendship…it's in the fundamental national interest of the United States." You can delve deeper into this subject during several breakout sessions including "Counterterrorism Collaboration: The United States and Israel" and "U.S.-Israel Cooperation in Homeland Security" which will feature American and Israeli public safety and homeland security officials. Defense Minister Barak has consistently recognized the strategic value of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship to both nations, citing "support for our security" and "cooperation of our intelligence."
Finally, look for the leaders to express how they will be working together to face common threats going forward. Listen for the alignment between the American and Israeli positions on the ongoing civil war in Syria and Iran's march towards a nuclear weapon. Barak has said that Israel is "determined to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear and all options are on the table." Echoing that sentiment, just minutes before Barak took the stage, Sunday night's General Session featured a Global Perspectives Panel moderated by Rob Satloff, the Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Policy Conference delegates listened to a discussion between Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini discuss their shared views on preventing a nuclear Iran, supporting Israel and working on a global scale to protect the safety and security of citizens from around the world.
These issues are the focus of numerous breakout sessions and featured keynote addresses throughout Policy Conference, because these are the issues facing the United States, Israel and the world at large today. Because of you and because of AIPAC, the ties that bind the United States and Israel together are stronger than ever.