This is my third AIPAC Policy Conference and each seems to develop a central theme based upon the news of day. In 2009 it was the settlements. In 2010, it was Iran. This year, it was President Obama’s speech and his reference to 1967 Borders. The AIPAC Policy Conference gave us the opportunity to hear directly from President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu on this issue. Reasonable minds can differ on import of the President’s position ( in fact Rabbi Cohen and I differ on this) but we benefit greater by seeing and hearing these Leaders directly and not through the limited view of the media which covers the issue in one minute sound bites.
My goal in attending the AIPAC conference is to come away with knowledge that I did not have before. This year I tried t concentrate on two areas. First, I knew generally what America does to aid Israel and its security needs. I wanted to better know what Israel does for America. Second, I wanted a better understanding of what Israel is doing to improve the lives of the Palestinians in the territories.
First, I learned the cooperation between the United States and Israel in the area of security is greater than ever. Some examples: To respond to the fact that since 2001 insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers by targeting armored personnel carriers, the U.S. now uses Israeli developed reactive armor tiles. These tiles have saved countless lives. To avoid the dangers of Booby- trapped safe houses, the U.S. now uses the Israeli SIMON door- breaking system which can break doors down from over 130 feet away. America is also using Israeli technology to detect remote controlled explosive devises. To avoid deaths from suicide attacks, America now uses Israeli portable devices that detects explosives from far distances. There are many others but maybe the most significant innovation is Israel’s development of an emergency bandage that stems blood loss, prevents infection and allows non-medically trained persons to stabilize a wound. This bandage is now carried in every U.S. Army soldier’s first aid kit and is credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Israel’s efforts to improve the lives of Palestinians in the Territories is no less amazing. From the beginning of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration in 2009 Israel began to focus on improving the economic condition in the West Bank, understanding that a Palestinian State, if and when it is achieved, must be based on proper infrastructure and institutions. With the assistance of America, and a progressive Palestinian Prime Minister, security in the West Bank has been slowly turned over to the Palestinians. 2/3 of all road blocks have been removed. Palestinians can now move from Jenin in the north to Hebron in south without meeting any roadblocks.Jenin, once the center of suicide bombers, is now a developing and thriving economic center. Economic activity is increasing at 7 to 10% each year. And Israeli hospitals and other institutions are used more by Palestinians than ever before. With the recent Fattah/Hamas agreement, no one knows if this success will continue. But it has been a significant factor in the reduction of terrorism over the last few years.
These are only 2 areas of knowledge that an AIPAC participant could gain. I could have chosen from dozens others. The point is that for those of us who attend, we come back to our home communities more knowledgeable and far better advocates for Israel. We need not agree on all issues but we will know , far better ,what we are talking about.
It is my great hope that in 2012 our TSTI attendance at AIPAC will increase substantially, as well it should.