TEL AVIV — Since I last wrote, I’ve experienced some unforgettable things.
Most notably, as a Tel Aviv University student, I was granted access to see Vice President Joe Biden speak on my own campus. As most of you probably know, his visit to Israel coincided with the announcement that the state would build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the future capital of their state.
As a journalism geek obsessed with newspapers and politics, I couldn’t have been more excited to read Haaretz and Jerusalem Post coverage of the aftermath of the announcement, and the backlash Israel received from the United States and other countries.
As my friends and I stood in line to watch his Tel Aviv speech, I overheard people in the crowd musing about what Biden might say:
“He’s not going to be happy.”
“The announcement was so disrespectful.”
“This is not going to be a positive speech at all.”
When we entered the auditorium I purposely stuck myself next to the press section and began ambushing the reporters from various news stations from across the globe with questions about the current East Jerusalem situation and their take on what Biden would say. Here, too, the general feeling was not positive; everyone was apprehensive, embarrassed about the announcement and a little scared of what would happen next in Israel.
Biden took the stage and began by telling stories of his first trips to Israel, his instant connection to the country and his undying support of its existence. He recalled a particular conversation he had with Golda Meir in which she said: “Here’s our secret weapon against the Arabs: We have nowhere else to go.”
Biden firmly expressed his steadfast support of Zionistic ideals and said Israel has no greater ally than the United States, and the United States has no greater ally than Israel.
Regarding the East Jerusalem incident, he only offered a few choice phrases, stating that these types of decisions hinder the kind of trust needed to make peace between Israel and Palestine.
Although he publicly condemned the decision to continue building in East Jerusalem, his handling of the situation in his Tel Aviv University speech was soft and careful, his support of Israel never wavering. My friends and I left the speech enlightened, surprised and happy.
Israel makes mistakes; that’s for sure. The state must be held accountable for its negative actions and actions that slow the peace process, which Biden said.
Personally, I wasn’t sure what to make of the housing announcement — was it horrible timing, just a mistake or sheer arrogance on Israel’s part?
Netanyahu now says this decision wasn’t going against anything Israel had already said it would do. Whatever the results of this announcement end up being, the United States’ alliance with Israel is strong and I hope we continue to see this kind of support from the Obama administration. Biden said sometimes only a friend, like the United States, can tell you you’re making the wrong decision, and that’s the kind of friend Israel sometimes needs.
(Ashley Gold of Monroeville, an incoming senior at Penn State University and a staff writer for The Daily Collegian, is writing a series of columns about her semester of study in Israel.)