By: David Mehl  | 

At Schneier Program Event, Experts Weigh in on Future of U.S.-Israel Relations

On March 7, Yeshiva University's Schneier Program for International Affairs brought together three distinguished experts on American-Israeli relations for a symposium on the topic of "The U.S.-Israeli Partnership: What Is It? Where Is It Going?"

The event began with the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, Hatikva, and a prayer for the state of Israel, led by Cantor Joseph Malovany. When the singing and numerous introductions concluded, the panel discussion commenced.

Leading the discussion as moderator was Dr. Bernard Firestone, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Hofstra University. The panel consisted of Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt and currently a professor at Princeton; Danny Ayalon, who represented Israel in the United Nations, served as deputy foreign minister, and is currently a visiting professor at Yeshiva; and Colonel Elan Lerman, a former Israeli deputy national security advisor who now teaches at Tel Aviv University.

The conversation ranged from the panelists' broad visions of Israel's relations with the United States to detailed observations about the personalities of each country’s leaders. At times, the discussion itself made quite clear which of the panelists had represented Israel in their previous careers and which one had represented the United States.

One of several such examples was the exchange between the panelists on the topic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress in advance of congressional consideration of the Iranian nuclear accords. Both Ambassador Ayalon and Colonel Lerman praised the speech and Netanyahu's decision to make it. Lerman argued that speaking before Congress was the right choice for Netanyahu because it gave his words the widest possible audience. Ambassador Kurtzer pointedly disagreed, saying that Netanyahu's actions damaged Israeli-American relations significantly enough that "it will take time for that wound to heal."

All of the panelists, both during the discussion and the question-and-answer period which followed, were bullish on the future of the bilateral relationship. Explaining the reasons for his optimism, Lerman described the durability Israeli-American ties as stemming from three sources: an affinity of values, common interests, and connections between the people of each nation. It is the stability of these three sources, he concluded, which gave him hope. Kurtzer, too, had a positive outlook, though he seemed to place his hopes farther in the future emphasizing future changes in governmental leadership in both countries as the way the relationship could potentially improve and "heal."

In the end, Ayalon added, maintaining friendship and close cooperation with Israel is in the United States’ interest, even beyond mutual interests prosecuting the War on Terror and preserving stability in the Middle East: as a democracy, Israel is valuable "because democratic regimes don't start wars with other democratic regimes," he said.