Penn State students were able to interact with an expert in foreign policy, international affairs between the United States and the Middle East, and historical background of Jewish values last night.
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren spoke at Penn State on Wednesday evening drawing a crowd of students and faculty that packed the 111 Wartik Building.
The public forum was sponsored by Penn State Hillel, Penn State College Republicans, Penn State College Democrats, Schreyer Honors College, Jewish Studies Program, Presidential Leadership Academy and the Liberal Arts Undergraduate.
Oren emphasized Israel’s loyal pro-America position to the U.S. democratic government, the multi-facet cooperation between the two countries and Israel’s goal to become an ultimate ally to the United States.
The speech brought laughter and applause several times for Oren’s addresses and also some sensitive questions from the audience.
Oren said the United States and Israel hold a far and deep bond under America’s superpower trying to balance other interests in the Middle East with Israel’s military strength.
“Israel shares America’s value of war and government policy, and we exchange information on a daily basis,” Oren said. “But that does not mean we agree on everything.”
Israel is the United State’s 20th largest export destination. Israel, eight miles wide at its narrowest point, surpasses the export product of the U.S. to Russia and to Argentina, Oren said.
Israel-U.S. relations are also an important factor to the U.S. policy. Seventy-one percent of Americans are pro-Israel, Oren said. The United States provides nearly $3 billion aid to Israel annually and hired Israeli for intelligence and weapons development.
“We have collaborated to develop the only multi-tier defense system in the world,” Oren said of the close military ties between two countries.
Israel was also on the ground with U.S. on significant events including the Japanese tsunami and the earthquake in Haiti, as well in the humanitarian fields.
When it comes to the identity as an ambassador, Oren said he is no longer an individual. “I leave my political opinions behind, whether I disagree or not is completely irrelevant after I put on this uniform.”
In terms of the internal politics of Israel, Oren said it needs to be balanced between its security needs, democratic principles and pluralism.
Penn State Hillel President Ryan Gianola (senior-hotel, restaurant and institutional management) said Oren’s speech was fantastic and he feels privileged that Oren chose Penn State to talk to college students.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to hear from a respectable person and to know the state of Israel,” Gianola said.
Samuel Settle (senior-political science and history) attended the forum and said it was very interesting to learn the historical context of U.S.-Israel relations.
“Everybody has different political opinions. He did a very good job handling the conflicting questions,” Settle said.