Gauchos for Israel is a bipartisan group of student activists and campus leaders educated to be confident advocates for Israel on our UCSB campus. It is a pro US-Israel relations group that aims to promote and strengthen the bond between the United States and Israel. Through our involvement in pro-Israel politics, we interact with key political figures, build strong relationships and ultimately help influence policy-makers both in the present and for the future.
Along with other members of Gauchos for Israel, I was privileged to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) three-day Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. which hosts 13,000 participants including 2000 students from all fifty states. I returned feeling not only more educated but also truly inspired to act.
The convention offered a plethora of opportunities to hear distinguished speakers and attend breakout sessions that facilitated panel discussions. I was humbled by words of esteemed political leaders such as Senator John McCain, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, Vice President Joe Biden and even Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (via live video satellite). The breakout sessions were informational seminars led by experts in the field covering a variety of issues regarding the relationship between the United States and Middle Eastern nations. The session that most resonated with me was one entitled, “Sanctions Report Card: Can Economic Pressure Stop Iran’s Nuclear Program?”
Iran’s continued development of nuclear weapons, despite warnings from other countries, is an issue that is rapidly escalating. Regardless of Iran’s failing economy, they still remain persistent in their efforts. The United States has realized that this is not only a key problem to the State of Israel, but it also poses a security threat to the U.S. as well. In response, the Obama administration is currently implementing strict sanctions on Iran, most recently a unilateral trade sanction, H.R. 850 Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013.
Honorable Daniel Glaser, Assistant Secretary for terrorist financing in the United States Department of the Treasury, explained that this would target Iran’s ability to access the international finance system. Any country purchasing oil from Iran must now pay in its own currency, and Iran is no longer allowed to exchange this currency for its own. In addition, sanctions from the U.S. are threatened for any country that deals directly with the Iranian bank. The H.R. 850 Nuclear Iran Prevention Act was passed on February 6, 2013, and will have a huge impact on Iran’s already damaged economy.
Even though many point to Iran’s evasion of sanctions through loopholes, Glaser reassured that the intelligence office is maintaining a close watch on Iran. Congress is also debating alternative options such as a viable military threat. Once Iran obtains nuclear capabilities, there is no reverting the fact that they could produce an atomic bomb at any given moment.
The U.S. and Israel must work together to do all that is possible to prevent this precarious situation from confronting the international arena. Having studied abroad in Israel for four months, I feel that this issue not only affects Israeli citizens, but the American general public as well. As an American citizen, I deeply believe in the importance of a strong and united front against a potentially nuclear capable Iran.
This conference as a whole made me realize how supportive the United States truly is toward its relationship with Israel. Hearing political leaders speak of their reliance on Israel and vice versa was incredibly empowering. I feel proud as an American to be helping to contribute to the safety of not only the citizens of Israel, but the security of the United States as well. I strongly believe that the alliance between the United States and Israel is strong, and will only continue to strengthen in the future.
Ariel Brotman is a third-year psychology and Middle East studies Major.