Grapevine: O Canada!

By
October 24, 2013 20:27

Netanyahu and Peres reminded Mulroney that he had been the greatest supporter of Israel of any leader in the world.




Canadian flag at Parliament in Ottawa [file photo]

Canadian flag at Parliament in Ottawa 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Canada’s charge d’affaires James Fox and his wife, Nurys Narda De Jesus Estrella-Fox, hosted a dinner in honor of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and his wife, Mila, at the Canadian ambassador’s residence this week.

Despite his current rank, Fox is a seasoned ambassador in his own right, with an impressive record of service. He is filling in until Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird appoints a successor to Ambassador Paul Hunt, who concluded his tour of duty in June.

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Fox, who until recently was the Canadian ambassador to Italy, was all set to retire from the Foreign Service when he was asked to fly to Israel and hold down the fort until further notice. Being a loyal civil servant, he complied, and in the short time he and his wife have been here, have impressed everyone who has met them with the warmth of their personalities.

Mulroney, who served as prime minister from 1984 to 1993, was known during his tenure as the greatest of Israel’s friends among world leaders. Fox, in introducing Mulroney, said he had developed and promoted friendship between Canada and Israel – the legacy of which can be seen today.

The son of Irish Catholic parents, Mulroney, though born in Canada, speaks with a soft Irish lilt in his voice. Surprisingly, this is his first visit to Israel, and he’s loving every moment. In a single day, he met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he first met when the latter was Israel’s ambassador to the UN; President Shimon Peres, whom he has met in a variety of roles; and Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

In their meetings, both Netanyahu and Peres reminded Mulroney that he had been the greatest supporter of Israel of any leader in the world, but he said he lost that title to current Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Marveling at Israel’s “extraordinary accomplishments,” Mulroney remarked that young men have visions and old men dream dreams, “but it required an abundance of both to bring about this miracle.”

Relating to Israel’s meshing of history and vision, Mulroney said the past consumes the present, and the present is alive only because it gives birth to the future. He saw the embodiment of this in Peres, who he said began working with David Ben-Gurion when he was 24 years old. Adopting a tone of incredulity, Mulroney kept repeating 24 years old, saying that when he was that age he was driving a taxi.

Of course, he may have done that to put himself through law school; he earned himself a fine reputation as a labor lawyer before taking up the reins of office.

With regard to Lapid, Mulroney said he didn’t want to interfere in domestic politics, having enough of those at home, but the impression he received from his meeting with the finance minister was that he represented the future.

Mulroney, whose tour of the country took him to the Golan Heights, where the Canadian peacekeeping force serves as part of the UN mission, said that no other country of Israel’s size had been confronted by such tremendous challenges. He was proud, he said, that Canada had been helpful in regard to Israel’s prospects for peace and security, and peace for Israel with her neighbors.

He hoped that the Palestinians would do for their children what Israel has done for hers. They were all entitled to health care, education, peace and prosperity, he said, adding that he hopes young Palestinians will one day know the durable peace that recognizes the reality of one’s neighbors.

Mulroney also had good things to say about Fox, who he described as “one of Canada’s finest.”

One of the guests, Faigie Zimmerman, who attended with her husband, Reuven, hoped in vain that Mulroney would sing – as he had done at the wedding of Charles Bronfman and his late wife, Andrea. He didn’t, but perhaps when he comes again – as he has promised to do – he will.

■ IF MULRONEY and Harper can be counted as Israel’s best friends, Canada’s Brad Smith claims to be the busiest defense attaché in Israel. Smith, who has been in Israel for two years and has another two left to serve, says there are so many Canadian delegations and high-ranking dignitaries coming with such frequency that he barely has time to breathe. But he’s not complaining – it’s all a lot of fun, he says.

■ ONE OF Israel’s most prominent Facebook fans is President Peres, who when talking about hi-tech never tires of referring to Mark Zuckerberg’s conquest of the world without commanding an army, dropping a bomb or firing a single shot.

Peres, who has met Zuckerberg more than once, also has his own Facebook page. It was therefore par for the course that he should meet with a senior delegation from Facebook, led by Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, after the company purchased Israeli start-up Onavo for around $150 million-200m., and announced the creation of a research and development center in Israel.

Peres congratulated Facebook management, thanking the team for its significant investment in the Jewish state and calling on it to continue to invest in Israeli companies.

As he often does, the president noted during the conversation that lack of natural resources in Israel led to the development of great minds – in that necessity is the mother of invention. He was certain Facebook’s investments in Israel and the creation of its R&D center in this country will be of great mutual benefit.

Mendelsohn told Peres that Facebook has great respect for Israel’s hi-tech and innovation sector, and sees significant potential within it. She added that it had been a major decision for Facebook to open the first R&D center outside of the US, and that the company is proud that it will be in Israel.

■ MORE THAN one Hebrew newspaper carried a report last week that former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger had been seen at the employment bureau, apparently looking for a job. It seems a little far-fetched, but one never knows.

On the other hand, it’s not that difficult for former ambassadors to crème de la crème postings to get a job in an academic institution or a business enterprise that does a lot of high-end trading in the global marketplace. It was in the cards that Israel’s immediate former ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, would be courted by institutes of higher learning, so it hardly comes as a surprise to discover he was snapped up Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

Oren, who has a PhD in Middle Eastern history from Princeton University, has worked as a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale universities and has written extensively on the history of the Middle East, is joining IDC’s Lauder School of Government Diplomacy and Strategy.

■ EFRAT MAYOR Oded Revivi took time out from electioneering on Sunday and together with Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who is the founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, co-hosted a dinner with Zion’s Gate International to welcome the Oklahoma State Legislature Israel Delegation.

This year, the Oklahoma House of Representative’s legislature passed a unanimous resolution affirming that the State of Israel is “the national home for the Jewish people in the historical regions of the Land of Israel, including the areas of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.” Continuing their steadfast support for Israel, a House delegation arrived in Israel on Saturday to meet with Knesset and government officials, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the most recent issues affecting Israel and presenting the resolution.

Connie Bachman, co-founder of Zion’s Gate International – a faith-based family foundation from Oklahoma City – joined Riskin and Revivi in welcoming the delegation in a private reception at the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation.

“In a time where Israel may feel isolated on the world stage, it is important for us as Bible-believing Christians who are in positions of government to unequivocally declare our support for Israel,” Bachman declared.

During the reception the delegation was presented with the key to the city of Efrat, in appreciation of its support for Israel.

“The resolution is more than just a political statement; it is a sacred document that affirms our scriptural right to the land,” said Riskin.

■ SOON AFTER midnight, after polling stations had closed on Tuesday night, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar was interviewed at Central Election Committee headquarters by Channel 1’s Yair Weinreb. “I presume there are no questions from the studio,” said Sa’ar. “The law doesn’t permit, but you can send regards if you like,” responded Weinreb.

Sa’ar opted not to, but Weinreb decided to play intermediary and told anchorwoman Geula Even that she had warm regards from Sa’ar. The reason that she was unable to interview him was because he happens to be her husband.

There’s a lot to be said for pillow talk – even in the digital era.

■ THE ISRAEL Broadcasting Authority’s political commentator, Hanan Kristal, was incredulous in the wee hours of Wednesday morning when some of the results were made public. He could not believe that Kfar Saba, which he referred to as Pinchas Sapir’s city, and which was once the city of workers’ parties, did not vote in a single left-wing candidate to sit on its municipal council.

Sapir, who served in two ministerial capacities – finance, and industry and trade – was famous for carrying around a little black book in which he jotted down all his observations about the country’s economic needs and potential for growth. He lived in Kfar Saba for most of his adult life.

n ON HIS RETURN home this week following his recent visit to Israel, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced at a media conference that Papua New Guinea has agreed to open an embassy in Tel Aviv in 2014.

The country’s current ambassador to Israel resides in London. The new embassy will cater to the many thousands of Papua New Guineans who will come to Israel to visit Christian holy sites.

Ministers of Defense, Fabian Pok; Agriculture, Tommy Tomscoll; and Foreign Affairs, Rimbink Pato were a part of O’Neill’s delegation to the Jewish state. The prime minister said the primary purpose of the visit was to discuss his country’s development of agriculture, building a strong defense system, border security and surveillance; he signed a memorandum of understanding with Netanyahu on furthering these areas of development.

The support to be provided by Israel in these areas will include training, equipment, additional resources and new surveillance techniques. This new relationship will not only be military-based, but also will assist law enforcement in combating the trafficking of illegal items and even in the surveillance of illegal fishing. This will mean the protection of income and natural resources for the people of Papua New Guinea.

Another outcome of O’Neill’s visit to Israel was a visa waiver agreement, whereby Papua New Guinea’s nationals will no longer require visas to visit the Jewish state.

■ AS IT happens, Papua New Guinea will be represented by Religion, Youth and Community Development Minister Loujaya Toni at a gender-oriented conference at the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center from November 3-8.

Some 50 women leaders – mostly from developing countries – will discuss the remaining gaps in gender equality and women’s empowerment. Conference sessions will cover: advancing gender mainstreaming and increasing women’s participation in political decision-making at all levels; coalition-building for effective advocacy for the integration of gender equality; empowerment of women and girls and the enjoyment of their rights; and other gender- related global issues.

Among the outstanding women participating in the conference are: Christine Musisi, regional director for UN WOMEN, eastern and southern Africa; Sherry Tross, executive secretary for integral development, Organization of American States; Dr.

Malinka Koparanova, senior social affairs officer and gender focal point, Office of the Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Europe; Education Minister Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman, Republic of Ghana; Prof. Amsatou Sow Sidibé of Senegal; Dr. Cosima Schenk, president of the International Council of Women; and Prof. Ruth Halperin Kaddar, of the UN’s CEDAW.

■ THAT OLD bugbear of allowing politics to overtake the ethics of sportsmanship has reared its ugly head again in, of all places, Qatar – which not so long ago was quite friendly to Israel.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder on Tuesday protested Qatar’s removal of the Israeli flag from the premises of the FINA Swimming World Cup in Doha. The flag was removed from the Aspire Zone, a 2.5-sq.km. sporting zone in the Qatari capital where Israeli swimmers were competing. The flag was also expunged from television reports about the Israeli swimmers.

The removal violates the FINA code of ethics, which mandates that its tournament not discriminate “on the basis of gender, race, religion or political opinion.” Lauder demanded that Qatar immediately restore the Israeli flag to where it belonged, and to stop pandering to the worst sort of Arab rejectionism.

“If Doha won’t guarantee the participation of athletes from all countries and respect the neutrality of international sportsmanship, it has forfeited its right to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup in soccer.

That event should be moved from Qatar,” Lauder declared.

■ WHEN TEXAS Gov. Rick Perry was thinking of a suitable gift for Education Minister Shai Piron, as a means of expressing appreciation for the speed of approval of a Peace Campus branch of Texas A&M University in Nazareth, he was aware that the gift could only be symbolic – because legislators and government ministers are not permitted to accept expensive personal gifts. So he gave him a maroon-colored kippa with the university logo.

Both Perry and Texas A&M University system chancellor Prof. John Sharp noted that the first-ever on-campus branch of the Hillel Foundation had been established at Texas A&M University in 1916. Notwithstanding the fact that the university is more than 139 years old, 25 percent of its graduates, even today, are the first members of their families to attend college, said Sharp.

The Nazareth project is intended to provide the same in terms of excellence and opportunity for Peace Campus students.

“Here too, the power of education will change the lives of people forever,” said Sharp.

The Texas delegation included Rabbi Peter Tarlow, who since 1983 has been the Hillel executive director at Texas A&M University.

greerfc@gmail.com


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