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Saturday, November 1, 2014

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Last week was an excellent one for Canadian-Israeli bilateral relations. The two countries signed agreements in two discrete realms of mutual interest and common benefit. (Please see the related story.)

It was also a good week for underprivileged peoples and developing countries around the world.

In Ottawa, the heads of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Margaret Biggs, and Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (Mashav), Daniel Carmon, signed a memorandum of understanding committing the two countries to joint projects aimed at reducing poverty, promoting democracy and protecting human rights. The two governments also signed a mutual customs pact last week and committed to joint initiatives to improve technology for the re-use of waste water. Meanwhile in Jerusalem last week, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent met with Israeli Minister of Energy and Water, Uzi Landau and they, too, discussed possible joint initiatives in broad environmental and water-reclamation matters.

Carmon placed in proper focus the potential for good arising from the commitment with CIDA. “Working together we can face, side-by-side, global challenges in development,” he told reporters. Even more significantly, he also explained why it was so important that the two countries act together. “We have obligations as developed countries,” Carmon told the Globe and Mail, “to not sit idle and see people in the developing world suffer or not get the education or the health or the most basic human rights and other rights that every human being should receive.”

Carmon’s articulation of these vital, moral imperatives was much overlooked last week in the din of invective directed at Israel for its announced plans to build more houses around Jerusalem.

But it is important to remember that “not sitting idle” has been the hallmark of Israel’s approach in reaching out to the needy of the world since the founding of the country nearly 65 years ago. Through the Mashav program, tiny Israel has trained hundreds of thousands of people in various scientific, agricultural and humanitarian fields of self-sustenance and has responded with numerous rescue missions to places and people struck by natural disaster.

Given the shared bedrock of values on which both countries are founded, it is only natural that Israel and Canada should join forces in delivering international humanitarian aid. Minister of International Co-operation Julian Fantino noted that “Canada and Israel share a bond of friendship, and we are allies in the democratic family of countries.”

If it is true as King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that a cord of three ties is not quickly broken, then the bilateral future between the two countries is full of hope and optimism. Strengthening relations between Canada and Israel also strengthens the myriad possibilities for doing good in the world.

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