Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and Ha'aretz Editor Aluf Benn Discuss the Israeli-American Connection

American Friends get an intimate look at the relationship between the US and the Jewish state


Clement Erbmann, Ambassador Shapiro,
and Timothy Schlindwein

Long-term allies, Israel and the U.S. have forged many connections in the realms of security, economy, education and more — but all relationships are fluid. During AFTAU's "Discover TAU: Campus and Beyond" mission just days before the American election, pressing questions about the future of Israeli-American relations were on the minds of travellers and speakers alike.

In pre-election polls, the Israeli public overwhelmingly preferred Mitt Romney over Barack Obama for U.S. president, with a widely held belief that Romney would be a greater friend to Israel. But in a private meeting with mission participants, America's Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said definitively that the bond between the two countries will only continue to deepen.

"We stand firmly with Israel in its desire to attain peace, and it is in the interest of the U.S. to maintain a Jewish, democratic state. It benefits our security to have an ally we can count on, and has experience that we don't have," he told the group. Beyond collaborations in terms of military and security technology, which have engendered joint operations and exercises, there are joint developments such as "the Iron Dome," and invaluable shared intelligence on terrorist organizations, and more.

At its core, Ambassador Shapiro said, the relationship between the countries is also "one between two peoples who value education, scientific development, and furthering of our ideals."

Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of Ha'aretz, the daily newspaper internationally recognized as a sophisticated interpreter of world politics, agreed that the outlook wasn't as grim as the public might think. Expressing his insider's view of Israel's current security situation, he said he believed that the relationship would stand firm — no matter what.

"We don't feel we have a friend at the White House," he said, underscoring the Israeli preference for Romney, but he was confident that both parties remain committed to a two state solution, and share some distrust of the Palestinians. In light of that, plus the turmoil in Syria, the Islamification of Egypt, and the nuclear threat in Iran, Mr. Benn believes that regardless of who is America's president or who takes the helm of political leadership in Israel, Western countries will continue to value their alliance with the only democracy in this turbulent region.

"They may not like Netanyahu, but leaders in the Western world don't have any other friends in the Middle East," he said bluntly.


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