By Amanda Eisenberg

Former Rep. Jane Harman believes in a few things: securing Israel’s borders, structuring a transitioning government for Syria, and sending love letters to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Photo Courtesy of the Gildenhorn Institute
Photo Courtesy of the Gildenhorn Institute

Harman, now the director, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, shared her thoughts on Israel’s security as an essential aspect of the U.S.’s foreign affairs on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the “Seismic Shifts in the Middle East” lecture.

“Treading water doesn’t work in tsunami waves, that’s a recipe for disaster,” she said.

Several countries are in the talks of Geneva II. The goal, she said, is to structure a transitioning government for Syria and a successor government that promises stability.

The direction is expected to look like Yemen if Geneva II works.

Harman jokes that a saying amongst her colleagues is “Yemen good enough.” She believes that “Syria good enough” is strongly in Israel’s interests.

The daughter of a Nazi Germany refugee, Harman comes from a strong, pro-Israel background.

“When I was elected to Congress, now 21 years ago, my father told me that growing up behind the store [in Cologne, Germany], he dreamed of escaping… but never imagined he could make it to the United States and have a daughter serve the United States congress,” said Harman.

During her time in Congress, Harman has made 25 trips to Israel “and many more after.”

Even just in the past 18 months, she has visited Egypt four times.

“Every time I go to Israel I feel at home,” she said.

To her, Israel is a powerful dream, and Harman looks for every way she can secure Israel’s borders.

“Making peace in the neighborhood is in Israel’s best interest. Israel will always be vulnerable… it’s 11 minutes by missile,” said Harman.

She believes the best way to secure Israel as a Jewish yet democratic state is to agree on borders that are smaller than they are now.

“The best time to do the peace deal is right now,” said Harman.  “The window is closing.”

Her views on the Middle East generated a lot of buzz in the surrounding areas of College Park, Md.

“I’m interested in listening to her approach to the problem and to see if she has any solutions,” said Judy Gordon, a member of Riderwood, a senior living community in Silver Spring, Md.

Similarly, Bethesda, Md., resident Lewis Biben was fascinated by her heritage. “…I’ve read several things from Jane Harman before. I know of some of her background—not all—and I just thought she’d be a charming speaker and she was, she’s fabulous.”

The lecture allocated time for a question and answer, in which Harman emphasized that the United States has been carefully supportive of Israel.

Harman spoke to a full house, according to Samantha Levine, program coordinator of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies.

“It was awesome to see Jane Harman speak, because she is someone whose policies I’ve admired for a while. Her discussion was witty, insanely intelligent, and informative,” said senior psychology major Hannah Weitzman.

Prior to the event, various leaders of different student groups of campus were invited to mingle with officials, including U.S. ambassador to Israel and President Loh.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of people that have very influential power and associations with Israel and other groups that support Israel,” said JSU Vice President of Organization Hailey Siller, summing up the night.


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