With recently revived Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at risk of languishing due to ongoing Jewish settlement building in the West Bank, student groups at Georgetown have joined the contentious debate, calling for strong ties between the United States and Israel.
In a document released this fall, the Georgetown-Israel Alliance, College Democrats and College Republicans affirmed their agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite their varying political affiliations.
“The statement covers three broad topics: recognition of Israel, support for a two-state solution, and opposition to Iran’s nuclear program,” Sam Blank (COL ’12), vice president of Political Affairs of the Georgetown Israel Alliance, said.
The document addresses issues that have been a source of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians since the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State in 1948, and advocates for a two-state solution under which “a democratic, viable Palestinian state dedicated to living in peace and security side by side with the Jewish state of Israel, mutual respect and diplomatic relations between the two states, and protection of and respect for human rights of all peoples,” exists.
Despite the bipartisan nature of the document which was drafted last spring, not all campus groups are pleased with the statement.
“Any statement on the conflict that doesn’t address at all the crucial points of the status of Jerusalem, the settlements, or Palestinian refugees does not merit praise or attention,” said Jackson Perry (COL’ 12), treasurer of Students for Justice in Palestine, a student advocacy group that educates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“They are vaguely restating boilerplate U.S. foreign policy,” Perry added. “Nothing more.”
The Georgetown Israel Alliance is a student-run organization that handles both political and cultural issues relating to Israel. As the only pro-Israel group on campus, the organization views its mission as two-fold – for education and advocacy.
“We seek to educate the Georgetown community on Israel’s culture and society, as well as promote dialogue and discussion on the various dimensions of the Middle East conflict,” Blank said. “We advocate for the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish, democratic state that grants human and civil rights to all her citizens, regardless of race, class, religion or upbringing.”
Blank said that the GIA, like Israel itself, has a diverse range of political opinions among its constituency.
“We have members who are right, left and center, as well as Jewish and non-Jewish. Our members hold a wide range of views on the conflict and how best to solve it,” Blank said. “However, we all equally yearn to see the day when Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace and security.”
College Democrats President Bryan Woll (COL ’12) and Communications Director William Vogt (SFS ’12) issued a statement to THE HOYA regarding their organization’s involvement in the collaboration.
“Our membership represents the diverse body of opinions that makes up Georgetown’s community,” Woll and Vogt said in the statement.
“Our leadership had the privilege to work with GIA last semester on this statement, which reflects the sentiment of most of our members, but certainly not all of them. We pride ourselves in having and embracing a diversity of opinions within our organization, and this issue is no different.”
Kevin Preskenis (COL ’12), chief of staff for the College Republicans, was extensively involved in the preparation of this statement. He said that he looks forward to working with the GIA on what he believes to be a significant foreign policy issue.
“By signing on to the Georgetown Israel Alliance’s joint statement, we are expressing our broader foreign policy position on Israel, namely, its right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state, and our support of a strong alliance with the United States,” Preskenis said. “We also are hopeful of a two-state solution, in which the Palestinian authority recognizes Israel’s right to exist peacefully, which is a proposal the GIA statement addresses.”