Myron Aronoff, professor of political science at Rutgers University, said the current state of Israel has been affected by the complex relationship between its politics and culture in a Thursday lecture held by the Institute for Israel Studies.
Aronoff shared his personal story of working and living in both the United States and Israel while also touching on topics such as foreign policy and politics.
“I’ve lived in a number of countries, and Israel is by far the most dynamic one,” Aronoff said.
Aronoff, a political anthropologist, said many of the problems in the current state of the Israeli political system are similar to those in the United States, including the rise of polarization in both countries and problems with both electoral systems, including Israel’s parliamentary system.
“Every sane person looking at the Israeli electoral system has to be in favor of changing it because it’s so broken right now,” Aronoff said.
Aronoff said he believes that polarization in the United States and Israel, mixed with other variables, has resulted in the two countries’ tense relationship.
The lecture comes at a time when Congress is considering the Iran Nuclear Deal, a major foreign policy initiative from the Obama administration that keeps Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The deal is strongly opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The [deal] is far from perfect, but what’s the alternative?” Aronoff said. “I haven’t seen anyone, including [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu, who’ve put anything on the table with any chance of success.”
Government senior Zach Baumann said he believes any Jewish-Americans working against the deal are informed by their deep understanding and unique perspective of the region.
“I think the reasonable opportunity for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon endangers every citizen of a nation Iran has antagonistic relations with, of which Jewish-Americans are obviously a part,” Baumann said. “I would say a great number of Jewish-Americans also identify with Israel, and that nation is also endangered in that scenario.”
Robert Abzug, professor of history and director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, said he believes Netanyahu has almost been acting as a partisan ally of the Republican Party throughout the Iran Nuclear Deal debates.
“How do you think Prime Minister Bebe Netanyahu’s campaigning against the Iran deal, almost as a partisan of the Republican Party, will affect American-Jewish opinions, which is largely liberal in its politics?” Abzug said.
Laura Evans, UT alumna and administrative assistant for the Institute for Israel Studies, said prior to the event that she was excited to hear about the “richness of Israeli culture” and how it intersects with the political system and relationship with the United States, something she said she takes great interest in.
“It’s a much more dynamic place than what some of us in the younger generations have in mind,” Evans said. “I’m excited to hear about all of the individual people and the different cultures that exist in Israel and have taken refuge there.”