Nearly all Israelis know that Micronesia is one of Israel's best friends and votes consistently in support of Israel at the United Nations. But Micronesia is not Israel's only good and loyal friend in the Pacific as testified on Monday by Kassai Hesa Note, the President of the Marshall Islands with which Israel has had diplomatic relations for the past 17 years.
Speaking at a state reception in his honor at Beit Hanassi, Note declared: "We stand proud as one of the very few, most willing and consistent supporters of your country, even on the most controversial of issues. We are proud to support the State of Israel as the vanguard of democracy in this region despite the constant acts of terrorism that have beset your great nation and people over the years."
Note said that he welcomed the opportunity to be in Israel to personally commend Israel's "political will and courage in doing what is necessary to achieve peace in the region."
He assured President Moshe Katsav - and through him the people of Israel - of his unwavering support for Israel, and expressed his pleasure that for the first time Israel has declared its candidature for nonpermanent membership in the UN Security Council for 2018.
Friendship is a two-way street. While Israel continues to give agricultural assistance and medical aid to the Marshall Islands, Note sought something far more important to his people. He wanted Israel's help in persuading the Americans to acknowledge culpability for the damaging long-term effects of nuclear weapons testing on the people of the Marshall Islands.
Between 1946 and 1958, he said, the United States detonated 67 atmospheric and ground nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. In an attempt to compare this to the nuclear tragedy which befell Japan, Note said: "My country experienced the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima sized bombs every day." Today, he added, the Marshall Islands continues to struggle with radiological burdens that have impacted on the environment, the land and the people.
Were it not for nuclear tests, he asserted, there would not be so many victims of cancer. There are areas within the Republic of the Marshall Islands which to this day continue to be contaminated from the residue of those tests and are unsafe for human habitation, he said.
There are many in the US Government said Note, who would prefer to forget what happened and claim that everything has been resolved..
From the standpoint of the Marshall Islands, much remains to be resolved.
In thanking Katsav for the assistance from Israel that has benefited the Marshall Islands, Note said: The sustainable development and economic prosperity efforts of his country would not be possible without the continued generosity of countries like the State of Israel.
Later at a state luncheon hosted by Katsav, Note reiterated his sentiments of the morning and said that the visit had enhanced his understanding of Israel's experience.
He once again pledged his personal and professional commitment to stand with Israel on issues important to survival, peace and prosperity. "Every citizen should enjoy peace, freedom and tranquility in his own country," said Note.
Katsav who had updated Note on Israeli-Palestinian developments in the course of a private meeting, said at the luncheon that Israel does not want to see anarchy or civil war among the Palestinians. "We want peace and prosperity for the Palestinian people," he said.
The Marshall Islands achieved independence in 1986 after nearly four decades under US administration. Its population numbers just under 60,000; its area is 181.3 sq. kilometers.