Horses and bayonets

October 23rd, 2012

By Jeremy Ben-Ami

With his rejoinder to Governor Romney's charge of "American weakness" based on the number of ships we have, President Obama memorably highlighted how out-of-date the debate is over what constitutes military strength in the 21st century.

The American debate over what constitutes "friendship" to Israel is similarly stale.

Last night, "Israel" was mentioned 36 times in the foreign policy debate – more than any country but Iran. Entire regions of the world were absent from the discussion as were global crises from climate change to poverty and AIDS. But Israel was front and center.

Yet the simplistic way Israel was discussed in an effort to prove friendship is as out of date as debating the size of the American navy (or cavalry).

Israel needs our friendship – friendship that includes helping it deal with all the fundamental challenges it faces – including the need to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as soon as possible through a two-state solution.

Sadly, the broken politics around Israel in the United States have created a warped conversation in which it's deemed to be an act of political necessity to mouth platitudes about standing with Israel, but never really addressing the problems that it faces.

This isn't true friendship. It's political gamesmanship that is damaging to American interests, to Israel's long-term security and to Palestinian hopes for freedom and independence.

Our goal has to be to demonstrate to politicians on both sides of the aisle that there is a better way to be pro-Israel: to help Israel to secure its future as a democratic home for the Jewish people. Working to achieve a two-state solution has to be a top priority for the next Presidential term if the occupant of the White House is to meet the present-day definition of what it means to be a friend to Israel.

That's what we'll be working on come November 7 – and that's why the work you've done this election season has been so essential.

You're part of a large and growing movement rallying behind this new vision of what it means to be pro-Israel.

Last night, over one thousand J Street supporters gathered in dozens of debate watch parties to share the experience of watching the standard bearers for the two parties debate the future course of American foreign policy.

Our issues were front and center. And so were we.

It was a powerful sight – and we thought you'd enjoy seeing these incredible pictures.

We have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks to ensure that pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates are elected all over the country.

And then we've got even more work to do to ensure that an effort to achieve two states is at the top of the next Presidential agenda.

Together, we are building a movement that can make this happen and I'm so proud of all that we've done together.