This week, President Obama visited Israel for the first time in his presidency. You know, Israel – our most trusted, valuable ally in an increasingly volatile Middle East. As natural as it might be to continue lamenting and criticizing the lack of a visibly strong show of support from this administration for the state of Israel, let us focus instead on the growing list of reasons for support and the imminent need to build a stronger alliance with this most vital ally.
A nuclear-capable Iran probably tops the list of reasons for the U.S. to strongly support Israel. It’s been several months since Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “red line” illustration before the U.N., and I think we all understand now that the “red line” might actually be much lower which emphasizes that the U.S. must act prudently and swiftly, along with Israel, to prevent the “development of nuclear capability” rather than “development of nuclear arms”. Various speakers at the 2013 America Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy (AIPAC) Conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month pointed out that allowing Iran to even become “nuclear capable” is too close to “nuclear-armed”. When two of us, as members of Concerned Women for America of Iowa (CWA), were privileged to attend this conference, there was much discussion about the fact that the timeline from nuclear-capable to nuclear-armed status could be too short to allow any kind of preventive measures. In fact, AIPAC is supporting legislation specifically aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from attaining such nuclear capability. So far, it is garnering considerable bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives.
Strategic location and intelligence capability are crucial advantages of our alliance with Israel. Israel’s geographic location has put it in ever-present danger of annihilation, but in the face of that risk, Israel has developed military innovations like the Iron Dome missile defense system and the Arrow long-range missile defense system. The U.S. House of Representatives, in fact, currently has a bill in committee which would designate Israel a “major strategic partner” of the U.S. This would represent a status and distinction not given to any other U.S. ally. As it works to defend itself in one of the worst “neighborhoods” in the world, the fact is that Israel is still the only, consistently democratic, economically prosperous nation in the Middle East. As this case was made, to our Representatives from Iowa, regarding this legislation, they were quite receptive. Subsequently, two have stepped forward, from both sides of the aisle, and co-sponsored this bill. We look forward to their continued support as it continues through the legislative process.
In addition to military innovations, Israel has brought many other cutting edge developments to the marketplace in the areas of cyber-security, aero-space engineering, medical research and automobile safety. For example, an Israeli doctor has invented an “exo-skeleton”-like device which has been tested in at least two U.S. hospitals, giving paraplegic patients the ability to walk again. Because of our alliance with Israel, we are a natural beneficiary of such breakthrough inventions. Critics may argue that we’re giving them billions in foreign aid and they’re giving us some inventions in return – is it a good return on investment? However, the fact is that the foreign aid we send Israel is only going to their military, about 70 percent of which is actually spent back in the United States, largely on the purchase of military equipment. Further, the $3.1 billion sent to Israel represents less than 5 percent of the $65 billion total annual foreign aid that the U.S. sends to all countries combined. I would argue we’re probably getting the best return on that relatively small amount of foreign aid.
So as President Obama proceeds through the remainder of his visit in the region, including meeting with Palestinian leader Abbas, where the legitimacy of the borders of the state of Israel may be questioned, we encourage him to keep the following in mind, quoting Senator Menendez’s speech on the final day of the Policy Conference –
“Several thousand years of history leads to an undeniable conclusion: the establishment of the State of Israel in modern times is a political reality with roots going back to King David and the time of Abraham and Sarah. The argument for Israel’s legitimacy does not depend on what we say in any speech. It has been made by history; it has been made by the men and women who made the desert green; by Nobel prizes earned; by ground-breaking innovations and enviable institutions; by lives saved; by democracy defended; by peace made; by battle won. There can be no denying the Jewish people’s
legitimate right to live in peace and security in a homeland to which they have a connection for thousands of years.”
As Concerned Women (and like-minded men , we need to both vocally and consistently communicate our support for pro-Israel legislation to our members of Congress and to pray for our precious, Holy Father’s guidance and wisdom on the part of our leaders and certainly for the leadership of Israel. We thank our friends at AIPAC for reaching out; we are honored to stand with you.