Student Association President Phil Robinson should sign the bill affirming support for a “mutually beneficial relationship” between the United States and Israel, currently on his desk. The substance of the legislation takes precedence over an abbreviated Senate debate on the issue, causing students to wonder whether SA senators are actually representing their opinions.
The main assertions of the resolution – that the United States should maintain and enhance its relationship with Israel, an important ally that shares U.S. democratic values – are valid.
The relationship between the United States and Israel is important because of mutual economic, strategic and political ideas. At a time when many nations and Americans are questioning U.S. policy to support Israel, it is necessary to reaffirm support for the only country that represents democratic values in the Middle East.
While groups and individuals may argue that Israel has not always upheld these values, it is the only Middle Eastern nation with a truly democratic government. For more than 50 years, the U.S. relationship with Israel has proven effective for both sides. It is not out of line to pass a resolution in agreement with American values already in place, affirmed almost annually by bipartisan federal legislation.
It is questionable, as Sen. Omar Woodard (U-ESIA) said, as to whether the SA should even discuss international issues that do not directly affect students. While the SA should be spending most of their time on important campus issues such as study abroad limitations and an inadequate 4-RIDE system, it is justifiable for the student government to engage in current political debates. Student governments across the country have a history of expressing student opinions on issues such as the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, and they should continue to do so. Student government resolutions are an important gauge of public opinion on political issues. Many student governments have already passed resolutions supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship, mirroring legislation passed by Congress.
The bill, however, has put Robinson in a tough spot. Sen. Chrissy Trotta (U-CCAS), who authored the bill but has since called for its veto, pushed the legislation through the Senate under pressure from a coalition of pro-Israel groups. The student groups hoped to push this legislation through in time to buy an ad claiming legislative victory in The Hatchet’s first edition in January. Trotta moved to suspend normal legislative rules and procedures calling for an immediate vote, bypassing committee discussion.
Groups in opposition to the legislation, including several Islamic groups, were not granted the time necessary to lobby their representatives, and representatives did not have enough time to gauge their constituents’ position on this highly contentious international issue. The Senate too readily gave in to pressure from pro-Israel groups to speed through the process.
The Senate failed Robinson in the legislative process – he is left to personally gauge student support of this resolution, which he is attempting to do by planning a Town Hall meeting and specifically speaking to opposing groups.
The issue outweighs the process in this case; the Senate’s procedure should not prevent the SA from approving acceptable legislation and taking a public stance on issues. Robinson should sign this resolution despite the procedural questions.