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This past Tuesday, MK Nachman Shai (Labor) launched a new caucus in the Knesset dedicated to the issue of Israel-US relations. Our foundation is a partner in this initiative.
Although dozens of parliamentary friendship groups exist in the Knesset, not one of them is between Israel and the United States. Apparently it’s very hard to change a long-standing “tradition,” yet it’s time to take action. As a matter of fact, there are other relationships between the U.S. Congress and Israel, particularly when American lawmakers visit Israel. These visits are arranged by American organizations led by AIPAC and most recently JSTREET.
Visits by Knesset members to Congress are sporadic and are coincidental, rather than meticulously planned in advance. The new Knesset lobby we are launching today on the issue of Israel-U.S. relations is designed to fill, even in part, this vacuum; to connect MK’s to the American experience, first and foremost, politically, so they will have overall knowledge and understanding of the Israeli-US relationship.
It is important to constantly mention how vital the U.S. is to Israel. The U.S. has for decades stood with Israel and supported us politically, economically and provided security and defense assistance. Sometimes it seems strange that many of Israel’s actions anger US leaders and yet, at the end of the day, the weight of the common interests and joint values shared by Israel and the U.S. outweighs moments of disagreement and tension between the two countries. This is how we have survived together through wars, diplomatic negotiations, economic crises and various international events so that the alliance between Israel and the U.S. today is stronger than ever.
The heart of this relationship is the American Jewish community. American Jews have one hand firmly planted on the shores of the US but the other hand stretches overseas to Israel. They become the bridge between over 300 million Americans and 8 million Israelis. This intimate relationship and the foundation it’s built on strengthen the bonds between the two countries. However, the complexity of the American Jewish community, its different streams and spiritual viewpoints are not sufficiently understood in Israel. Unfortunately, the impression of U.S. Jewry is lacking- “Israel supporters” or “rich” or “Orthodox” are superficial impressions which require discussion and a deeper understanding.
We cannot take U.S. Jewry for granted and assume that our close relationship will continue forever. Relationships between countries are complex and in need of constant cultivation. The new caucus, an initiative of the Ruderman Family Foundation with the active participation of Shira and Jay Ruderman, will have activities inside and outside the Knesset to enrich the knowledge and familiarity of MK’s with the U.S., especially with the Jewish community living there. The caucus from the previous Knesset was well received and was very successful.
Today we are embarking on a new path. The launching of the caucus will bring together two of the best experts in Israel – two former ambassadors, Professor Dan Kurtzer (U.S. ambassador to Israel) and Professor Moshe Arens (Israel ambassador to the US). They were among the best representatives of their countries and actively worked to bring the U.S. and Israel closer. I’m glad they have joined our efforts to re-launch the caucus. A new group of Knesset members will join the caucus and as we begin our activities, the number of MK’s joining will grow.
See you at the starting line.
Dr. Nachman Shai is a member of Knesset (Labor) and holds a doctorate in Political Science and Communications. He is a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, as well as the Interior and Environment Committee. He previously served as the media liaison in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, served as press secretary of the Israeli delegation to the UN and was a vice-president of the Jewish Federations of North America.