'There's only bipartisanship when it comes to Israel'

Regardless of the next president, we should be confident in knowledge it will be filled by a person who sees Israel as a true and lasting friend.

Several years back I had the opportunity to accompany then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on an official visit to Washington DC. As part of the meetings which were scheduled for the prime minister, he was to meet with the Senate leadership from both parties. A first sitting with the Republican majority leader Trent Lott was arranged for his office as was dictated by the accepted protocol. Upon entrance to his chambers in the Capitol, I was surprised to see that he was joined by his political adversary, the Senate minority leader Tom Daschle. When the time came for the Sharon to ask what allowed for this "bipartisan summit," both leaders acknowledged only slightly tongue-in-cheek that if it wasn't for Israel, it would be unlikely that you would get the two Senators in the same room for such a meeting. To this, Daschle remarked again only with the slightest of smirks: "There's nothing the two of us really agree upon other than on our support for Israel, because when it comes to this topic, there's no Republicans or Democrats-there's only Americans." This story, which can obviously be looked upon with some degree of humor, nonetheless serves as an important indicator of the strength of the alliance we have forged with our American friends in Washington. Unlike other alliances that the US has created with countries all across the globe, the spirit of cooperation that exists between our two nations is not only practical but is rather built upon a sense of common purpose and history. While we have chartered different paths and we certainly each have our own unique identities, any seasoned observer of the American-Israeli alliance knows that there is far more which unites us than one might think. Institutionally, we are both committed democracies with populations built from the ingathering of immigrants from all corners of the earth. Our governments are defined by strong centralized legislatures committed to personal liberties and supporting entrepreneurialism and innovation. Both the United States and Israel have histories beginning with barren stretches of land cultivated by pioneers and built into sprawling metropolises and industrial centers. Technological development has been a shining trademark of both our countries and we are equally committed to advancements in this area for the permanent benefit of humanity. The American and Israeli people are also both fundamentally protective of the human rights and dignities of all our citizens while also working to spread these messages of tolerance and goodwill around the world. It is these commonalities therefore upon which our alliance rests and which has enabled our friendship to prosper over the last six decades. It has also created the spirit of mutual respect that was displayed so clearly that day in Trent Lott's office as it has been on many other occasions since President Harry Truman made the bold gesture to warmly endorse Israel's independence. These understandings provide for a situation which is in many ways remarkably stable in the typically volatile world of international diplomacy. Thus regardless of the candidate who takes his or her seat in the Oval Office next January, we should be confident in the knowledge it will be filled by a President who sees Israel as a true and lasting friend. The writer is a former ambassador of Israel to Washington and the co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh