WASHINGTON (JTA) – Nothing enhances bipartisanship like Israel.
Well, that and the drink specials at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a legendary Capitol Hill watering hole.
Lauren Wolfe, the president of College Democrats, and Nick Miccarelli III, the co-chairman of College Republicans, addressed college students over the summer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Summer Saban Leadership Seminar.
AIPAC considers such campus outreach critical to maintaining the next generation of support for Israel.
Wolfe and Miccarelli both cited their 10-day trip to Israel in May, courtesy of AIPAC, as a factor in reaffirming their commitment to Israel.
“There are only two things we agree on,” Micarelli joked. “Israel and the Hawk ‘n Dove has the best drink specials.”
Lighthearted bar jokes aside, Israel advocacy was a uniting factor for the student leaders invited to the four-day conference.
“It is the only place where you see Democrats and Republicans come together,” said Frankie Shulkin, 21, a student at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Israel is important to everyone who cares about democracy and freedom,” added Kayle Barnes, 20, a junior at the University of Oklahoma who also attended the Israel trip in her capacity as an AIPAC intern.
Miccarelli, whose knowledge of the Middle East comes in part from having served in Iraq, told the recent gathering at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel that it is a “necessity to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.”
In her speech, Wolfe cited her trip to Germany in 2006 as a Fulbright scholar as a driving force for her commitment to Israel. She traveled to the Buchenwald concentration camp with a group of German ninth-grade students, for whom Holocaust study is compulsory, and was appalled when on the trip back many students expressed support for lessening German ties with Israel.
Concerned with growing global anti-Israel sentiment, Wolfe said, “America needs to lead this relationship because the rest of the world is falling behind.”
Shulkin emphasized “finding your own channel in the pro-Israel infrastructure,” and rather than arguing with anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian campus groups to “be proactive; put your arguments in a framing context,” such as contacting student leadership about pro-Israel initiatives.
Calls for a proactive approach against a nuclear Iran was a common theme at the conference. AIPAC listed Iran mobilization as one of its fall 2007 campus initiatives, encouraging students to emphasize to their peers what a nuclear Iran means for the Middle East and the world.
In that vein, participants lobbied on Capitol Hill in support of the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act and the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act.
While Democratic and Republican leaders continue to pledge support for Israel, Wolfe urged the student audience to make Israel a priority in the 2008 presidential race.
“Talk about these issues on campus,” she said. “Get involved with a political campaign.”