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SECURING AMERICA, STRENGTHENING ISRAEL

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"Israel Must Remain a Cornerstone of America's Interests"

Op-Ed by Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Participant in JINSA's Trip to Israel for American Hispanic Leaders

[the original op-ed at Libertad.org can be found HERE]

At a time when America is working to strengthen its relationships with friends and allies overseas, the State of Israel is under heightened scrutiny by some misguided foreign policy observers who would like us to believe that our strong bilateral relationship is damaging to the United States.

Nothing could possibly be further from the truth. As a recent guest of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs on a week-long trip to the Holy Land, I've come to appreciate the miracle that is Israel and what our Israeli friends are doing to build their own country and strengthen the United States.

Time and again I hear the oft repeated refrain that, "Israel is strong when America is strong." Hotel clerks, bus drivers and even President Shimon Peres felt this to be the case because so much of our history and our futures - are intertwined. After meeting with politicians, military personnel, business leaders and religious figures, I am more committed than ever before that support for Israel is a moral imperative for those who stand for religious freedom, democratic values and a belief that the individual is responsible for shaping his own future.

Our Israeli hosts welcomed us with great enthusiasm to show us holy sites central to our Christian faith - protected from harm thanks to the vigilance of the Israel Defense Forces - as well as the modern business centers, technological incubators and cosmopolitan cities on the Mediterranean.

Later I discovered that Jews, Arabs, Druze, Bedouins and Christians serve side by side in the military, that several minority parties are represented in the legislature and that the Supreme Court has minorities on the bench. It would be a farce to conclude that minority communities in Israel have anything less than a well-represented voice in their country.

It is perhaps because of these liberal Western values that Israelis have not known a single day of peace in their 62-year history. Israel has been forced over the years to allocate an extraordinary sum of money towards defending against invading armies, suicide bombers, belligerent states, rocket attacks and all manner of terrorist plots. And yet, despite the economic and security challenges its enemies have heaved upon it, the people have given birth to a fertile land, rich with patriotism, that thrives on home grown technology and innovation.

The land beyond the Negev has yielded itself to lush farms and greenhouses thanks to pioneering drip irrigation techniques. Skyscrapers housing research and development firms working on medical advancements and new consumer technologies have risen from lifeless sand dunes. Clean technology is a booming industry with solar and natural gas leading the way towards more environmentally sound energy consumption.

It all begs the question: What if Israel wasn't forced to spend so much on self-defense? What if the government had the resources to pour more funding into research and development? What might this resourceful population be capable of?

The advancements being made in Israel - and the ancient ties that Americans of faith have to the land - have cemented my belief that a strong U.S.-Israel relationship must remain a cornerstone of our foreign policy, and that Israel is deserving of such support as a beacon of inspiration and moral righteousness in the Middle East.

- Abel Maldonado was California's 48th Lieutenant Governor. A family farmer, from 1998-2010 he served in the California State Assembly and Senate.

Click here to view a photo gallery from JINSA's Trip to Israel for American Hispanic Leaders

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