The awareness of the need to
re-brand Israel has reached
the very top.The annual AIPAC Policy Conference is an extraordinary event.

I tell my friends here in America that for people passionate about Israel, the policy conference experience is the most exciting and satisfying thing you can do, that is, other than take an actual trip to Israel itself. Thousands of passionate pro-Israel activists gather in a show of support and commitment to action that has made AIPAC the most successful foreign policy lobbying group in Washington.

The way AIPAC makes Israel’s case through its superb professional efforts and its awe-inspiring grassroots organization is the reason why political support for Israel in the House, Senate and White House has never been higher.

Ironically, the speeches of the top congressional and administrative leaders can come to seem almost tedious in their repetition of the litany of support for all that the American pro-Israel lobby asks of them. The speeches of the attending Israeli officials take on a similar monotony… praising and thanking AIPAC’s leadership and membership, acknowledging the importance of the long-lasting friendship and alliance between Israel and the US, and, of course, the open invitation for American Jews to make Israel their home. In all, it is a glorious tedium, because it shows the relationship to be unshakeable on both sides.

The predictability of the speeches is so high, that when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke to AIPAC on Tuesday and departed from the usual and expected discussions of bi-lateral friendship, disengagement and the Iranian nuclear threat, to talk about Israel’s extraordinarily high number of high tech startups, its impressive number of engineers per capita, its agricultural innovations that feed hundreds of millions of people around the world and the quality of the advanced medical research and care in Israel, I wanted to lead a standing ovation for him.

The prime minister shares our understanding that while he must talk about the issues of the conflict and the political challenges, if he talks only about the issues of the conflict, then Israel becomes defined by them. His comments about the 21st century Israel that exists beyond the conflict show that he agrees that we must tell the world more about Israel – the Israel that, despite the conflict, adds value to the world everyday.

That’s what we at ISRAEL21c have been trying to do: not replace the well-intended and passionate defense of Israel mounted by many pro-Israel activists and advocates, but realign the amount of effort apportioned between the political messaging and the positive messaging.

When we are dividing our effort properly, the actions Israel takes to defend her citizens against terror attacks will be well-explained, and Americans, and others, will also know that there is much, much more to Israel than a conflict between Jews and Arabs. At AIPAC, Ariel Sharon showed that he’s on board with us.