America’s relationship with Israel will be brought to campus Wednesday in a discussion based on the two countries’ relationship, its future and what policy should be moving forward. The event is sponsored by Ohio State’s Alexander Hamilton Society, a nonpartisan group that focuses on debate and speaking events that bring international diplomacy and economic topics to students’ minds.
The discussion, which will start at 6 p.m. in University Hall 014, comes at a time when U.S. involvement in the Middle East is increasing and the relationship with the Israelis is sure to play a key role in foreign policy decisions in the region.
“Having productive discussion about Israel in a civil manner can be difficult,” said Michael Hurley, a third-year in political science and president of the Alexander Hamilton Society. “The U.S.-Israel relationship is always a relevant topic, and providing an arena for healthy debate on it was something we felt we could and should organize.”
The event will feature a debate between two speakers, Steven David, professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University, and John Quigley, professor of international and comparative law at Ohio State.
David, whose work focuses on American foreign policy in the Middle East, will discuss the importance of supporting Israel, both strategically and based on shared values.
“There needs to be a fundamental bedrock supporting of Israel because Israel serves America’s interests,” he said. “Israel is an imperfect country to be sure but it is still a liberal democracy. People can vote freely, it has a robust process and independent court system, it’s a nation of immigrants. In fact, I think, even more than the strategic ties the sense of shared values is what unites America and Israel the most.”
David said Israel provides stability in a region that, on the whole, lacks any sense of real stability.
“We’re seeing key countries in the Middle East torn apart,” David said. “Israel is a bulwark against this sort of thing.”
Meanwhile, Quigley will be arguing the other point of view — that it is time to rethink the unilateral support the U.S.has given the Israelis over the years.
“I think there is coming to be an awareness that the one-sided support we’ve given to Israel is not in our best interest,” Quigley said. “I think there is a good possibility that we will see at some point a shift away from the massive economic aid we give to Israel.”
Quigley said the fact that the current status-quo is hurting the U.S. will eventually change the dynamic of the relationship.
“You also see the more that we do in supporting Israel over Palestine works against our interests,” he said. “We have military commanders that have bemoaned the fact that they have trouble dealing with situations in Iraq and Afghanistan because we are perceived so strongly as being in support of Israel and against the Arab side.”
Quigley also said he feels people are starting to take note of the plight of the Palestinian people, which he thinks could ultimately change America’s decisions in the Middle East.
“They have essentially been forced out of their own country and into refugee camps in neighboring countries,” he said, referencing the Palestinians. “They are just trying, to some degree, to get back to their own country to the extent that that’s feasible after so many years have passed.”
The debate between David and Quigley will be moderated by Pete Mansoor, a professor of history and the chair of military history at Ohio State, and will allow for audience input.
“They’re both eager to participate because they enjoy interacting with and educating interested young people,” Hurley said. “Traits which I’m sure will make the Q&A especially enlightening.”