Last week, as I have so often, I got into a political conversation with some friends. The topic at hand was if, judging by what we can see today, there will be a physical split down the road between the main political parties we know, or if they will remain unified for generations to come.
Not everyone agreed, as is the case in most discussions of the sort, but the conversation boiled down to one question: are people capable of being unified around specific topics? In other words, does bipartisanship exist at all?
The answer is without a doubt yes. While there are extremists, it is pretty safe to say we can all agree on big ideas like freedom of speech and support of medical research. The path that leads to implementing these truths may not be clear, but we can all agree those should be givens.
Despite what many might think, the United States’ relationship with Israel is one of those issues that garners support from both sides of the aisle.
America sends billions of dollars every year to Israel in military aid, yet Israel is required to spend roughly three-fourths of that money on goods produced in America. This money aids in strengthening tens of thousands of Americans’ jobs.
Through the United States’ Aid to Israel program, over one thousand American companies have signed contracts. There are also joint research products between the United States and Israel including binational science, industry and agriculture foundations.
The bipartisan support for this alliance was overwhelmingly evident Monday, May 2, when student leaders gathered at the Illini Union to look back on a year of bipartisan cooperation on campus and beyond. Students of all faiths and political positions were united in attendance.
The students watched as Illinois congressmen and senators — from both the Democratic and Republican parties — congratulated them on their cooperation and sincere bipartisan efforts. Mark Kirk, Randy Hultgren, Daniel Lapinski, Bob Dold, Peter Roskam, Tammy Duckworth and Rodney Davis all shared messages reiterating this point.
“Within every generation there are individuals who stand up for what they believe in and become champions of causes that promote peace and solidarity and respect,” said Randy Hultgren, the Republican Congressman from the 14th district. “I’m glad many of you understand the importance of promoting and strengthening the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Israel is the lone democracy in the Middle East and shares our democratic institutions and values.”
It is remarkable and inspiring that what unites our two nations is our shared democratic values. In a region like the Middle East, where instability is found around every corner, having a stable ally that shares our values is so necessary. This is an important alliance, and it is not only important to learn what unites our two countries, but to understand what our role is in promoting the relationship, no matter your political leaning.
They discussed understanding the mutually beneficial relationship in terms of ethics, security and economics. And they reinforced the notion of America being a mediator in negotiations of the conflict, but not actually solving the conflict ourselves.
Daniel Lapinski, the Democratic Congressman from the 3rd district, recognized the value in universities being a place to debate national and international topics. Furthermore, he reiterated the important notion that no nation is perfect, but what is notable in Israel, and makes it such a strong ally of America, is that people there, of all faiths, can express their disagreements with their governments in the press and the courts.
Everything they said was true, but the bipartisan relationship goes so far beyond that. It goes, as one student speaker put it, to a nonpartisan relationship. Facts, statistics and talking points aside, there is something remarkable about this conflict — the conversation is not about parties, it is about people.
University campuses today seem to constantly be accused of being home to apathetic and lethargic millennials. Maybe it’s the presidential race, but I see no apathy on this campus. Instead, I see zealous debate doing exactly what Lapinski described, expressing disagreement through any means available.
In no way am I suggesting the conflict itself is beneficial, but the debate that stems from it is exactly what is needed as we look at the arguably growing political divide in this country. We argue over statistics without taking the time to recognize the real life applications. We, as students, are constantly told we are the leaders of tomorrow, but we don’t need to wait until tomorrow to express how the decisions being made today will affect us.
It may be hard to believe given everything that appears in the mainstream media, and even everything that you have witnessed around campus this year, but the U.S.-Israel relationship is one of the ties that truly binds our country, and one that benefits us all in more ways than we can count.
And it is a tie that no matter where we lie politically, has, can, should and will unite us.
This article was originally published in The Daily Illini.