Top Israeli official speaks on U.S.-Israeli relations for week

    Deputy Consul General of Israel Zvi Vapni spoke on the history and significance of the United States’ relationship with Israel in a lecture titled “”America and Israel: Partners in Peace,”” sponsored by the San Diego Israel Public Affairs Committee.

    Anna MacMurdo
    Guardian

    At the Tuesday night lecture, Vapni outlined major events in Israel’s 50-year history and explained their historical implications to an assembly of students and other members of the community.

    Vapni’s position in the Los Angeles Israeli Consulate makes him the second-most senior representative of the state of Israel to the southwest United States.

    “”Eleven minutes after Israel was created, President Truman sent a letter of recognition,”” Vapni said.

    The United States was the first nation to officially recognize the state of Israel. Most postwar presidential administrations have supported Israel, according to Vapni.

    Some students attended the lecture to find out more about the relationship between the two nations.

    “”[The American-Israeli alliance] is an alliance everyone knows about, but nobody really knows why,”” said attendee Nimrod Pitsker.

    The United States gives $2.86 billion in foreign aid to Israel each year, $820 million of which is used for nonmilitary expenditures. Israel receives a total of $10 billion to $12 billion of foreign aid.

    “”Israel has always supported the United States,”” Vapni said. “”Even in Western Europe there’s anti-American sentiment; you won’t find that in Israel.””

    Vapni described the United States and Israel as two similar nations, saying they are both democracies and are both built on immigration and the absorption of persecuted peoples. In the past 10 years, Israel’s population has increased by nearly 20 percent, largely through immigration, Vapni said.

    “”Israel is the only democracy in the middle east,”” Vapni said. Other Middle East countries may claim to have democracies, he said, but “”when the Syrian president is re-elected with 99.9 percent of the vote, it makes you wonder what the other 0.1 percent were thinking, and will they be around for the next election?””

    Vapni said that terrorism is another commonality between the United States and Israel, especially after Sept. 11, and highlighted Iraq as a threat to peace.

    Responding in part to an audience member’s question, Vapni said that “”getting bin Laden and the Al-Qaida will not be the end of the war on terror … Saddam Hussein is a time bomb.””

    He criticized former President George Bush for not removing Hussein from power during the Persian Gulf War, and said that part of the other Arab nations’ distrust of the United States comes as a result of its failure to capture Hussein.

    “”We can’t live with ignorance of what’s going on, especially with Sept. 11 — UCSD students can’t remain ignorant,”” said Union of Jewish Students member Shira Landau. “”We are doing this to try to communicate to the student body the reasons why America supports Israel. I don’t think this is ever properly explained, and the lack of explanation causes confusion and hostility.””

    Avshalom Vilan, a member of the Israeli Parliament, will give the final lecture, “”Prospects for Peace,”” on Thursday night at 8 p.m. in Center Hall Rm. 212. The talk is open to the public.

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