An alliance to change the world

Now is the time for us to look beyond our military and diplomatic alliance and unleash the joint potential of Israel and the United States to influence the world for the better.

By
March 20, 2013 15:34
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama lands in Israel

Obama netanyahu 390. (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10 )

 
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The visit of the president of the United States to Israel should be viewed outside the context of diplomatic and strategic goals.

While the meetings will certainly focus on critical issues such as Iran and the Palestinian conflict, I hope that President Barack Obama’s visit will have an even deeper impact – strengthening the bond that stems from the values our countries share.

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The power of these shared values can have monumental influence on the world if harnessed and implemented properly.

Way back in 1808, John Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote the following words to F.A. Van der Kamp of the Pennsylvania Historical Society: “I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations... They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.”

Having read those words and looking back at the 237 years since the signing of the US Declaration of Independence, I believe the same can be said about the United States of America. The original vision of the founding fathers has evolved, through difficult growing pains, into a vibrant democracy with separation of church and state, equal rights and a tolerant, pluralistic society built upon a foundation of commitment to basic tenets of spirituality and faith.

Israel, too, has gone through its growing pains with 65 years of external and internal conflict.



Yet, it has emerged as a remarkable Jewish country that is continuing to impact the world in the manner that president Adams saw the Jewish people doing throughout its history.

The recent Israeli elections, the coalition agreement and the government that emerged as a result truly reflect these shared values. The new government will combat religious coercion, stand for women’s rights, pass strong legislation against racism and discrimination and will instill a new spirit of tolerance and unity in Israel.

New MKs are not reluctant to cite classic Jewish sources and references to God in their Knesset speeches and in the overall political dialogue.

All of these ideals and perspectives can also be found in the value system of the United States.

Aside from the results of the elections, the actual process of the elections demonstrates the value of freedom that we share with the United States. Without a single shot being fired, former ministers are currently clearing out their offices to make way for our newly appointed ministers. I myself entered the Knesset for my first day of work after receiving training from former MKs who were voted out of office.

Democracy and freedom were indeed on clear display. The fact that this happened in Israel, in a regional neighborhood where dictators and extremists rule, demonstrates Israel’s firm commitment to these democratic principles.

My background is in education and I know that students can often gain more from their peers than from their teachers. I dream of exchange programs between Israel and the United States in which our youth get to know each other and share experiences and activities built around these programs. I envision dialogue regarding how to deal with the Palestinian conflict, Israeli Arabs, illegal immigrants from Mexico and gun violence.

I believe that forging these new relationships will strengthen the bond between our countries and then enable these students to travel the world and inspire youngsters from diverse backgrounds to embrace the values of liberty that we share.

Of course, diplomatic and military cooperation is essential.

However, let us use the strengthening of the friendship between the United States and Israel that President Obama’s visit should inspire to think big.

We should create frameworks in which the next generation of Israelis and Americans can join together to influence the world for the better. In today’s world of social networking, no borders or oceans can stop the spread of the Judeo-Christian ethic that serves as the foundation for our shared values.

Now is the time for us to look beyond our military and diplomatic alliance and unleash the joint potential of Israel and the United States to influence the world for the better.

The author is a member of the 19th Knesset with the Yesh Atid party and an ordained rabbi.

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