Opinion: Israel's Gilad Shalit Trade Shows Why We're Allies

SFC Gilad Shalit on the phone with his parents, after arriving back in Israel.

It's a long-awaited and emotional day in Israel today. Gilad Shalit is free, five years after he was captured by Hamas shortly before his 20th birthday.

The price was high, over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli soldier. There is debate whether the price was too high, and whether the exchange was the right thing to do, but these are discussions for another day. Today we celebrate Gilad's return.

Today is also a good day to remember why we have had such a special relationship with Israel. Sometimes when I'm arguing the pro-Israel side, on whatever the day's topic might be, someone will say that I am too biased toward Israel, with the implication that because I am Jewish I can not see the situation there clearly.

I'm willing to believe I have some bias toward Israel, but the fact that I'm Jewish and it is the Jewish homeland is secondary to the true reasons I favor Israel. I'm biased toward Israel because it is the only democracy, the only free country, the only healthy, functioning culture in the Middle East.

It is the only place where women have full rights, where religious Jews, secular Jews, Christians, Muslims and atheists live side-by-side and enjoy all the same freedoms and privileges as each other.

It's the only Middle Eastern country where gay people live openly, unafraid of being shunned or killed. It is a land where free speech is encouraged, protest isn't squashed and life is valued. In short, it shares the ideals and values which we treasure in America.

I am proudly biased toward a country where the idea of a child growing up to become suicide bomber fills people with revulsion. I'm biased towards a country which considers innocent human life when dealing with their enemies. And I'm biased toward a country that loves its children so much that it would exchange 1,000 of their enemies to get back one of its own. I might oppose such a deal in a political sense but I embrace it as a sign of a country with correct priorities.

America does not rest when an American is captured abroad, we value each and every one of our citizens (even the ones who return to tell us how awful we are) and I'm proud to support Israel doing the same.

There's no doubt that Barack Obama's time in office has damaged our bond with Israel. Our president's tantrums and inhospitable behavior led to one of the most public smack-downs of a U.S. president by another head of state in some time. Will it be a permanent rift? Of course not. This president won't be president forever, even if he manages to hang on until 2016, and if there's one thing our Israeli friends understand it's democracy.

Their non-democratic neighbors might not get it but Israelis will: One leader does not a country make. Our solid relationship will live on.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.