World democracies are warming up to Israel
Slowly but surely, it is becoming apparent that the international political climate in Israel is far better than had been predicted, and it seems to be getting better all the time.
No Israeli could have failed to notice the radical change in weather over the past two months. Forecasters predicted another dry winter, and fortunately they turned out to be wrong. And while Israel is still suffering from a water shortage, for the moment the situation is not as dire as we had thought.
But has anyone noticed that there is another change on the horizon, one that has confounded the prophets of doom? Slowly but surely, it is becoming apparent that the international political climate in Israel is far better than had been predicted, and it seems to be getting better all the time.
Last week the Canadian foreign minister, John Baird, announced during a visit to Israel that Israel has no better friend than Canada. "Ottawa", he said, "stands for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient." Baird added, "Israel is a beacon of light in a region that craves freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."
Ever since Stephen Harper became prime minister of Canada five years ago, Canada has consistently demonstrated its friendship with Israel. This had not always been the case, Canada's policy toward Israel over the years having been lukewarm at best.
It is not only Canada, a member of the G8 forum of industrialized nations and a NATO member, that is emphasizing its support for Israel. The policy of the recently constituted coalition government of the Netherlands, an important member of the European Union, is distinctly friendlier to Israel than that of previous Dutch governments. The Eastern European members of the European Union continue to consistently maintain close friendly relations with Israel. And last, but certainly not least, the sounds coming from the United States regarding the U.S.-Israeli relationship in recent months must be music to most Israelis' ears.
The U.S. presidential election campaign, beginning with Republican primaries, continues to bring forth statements of unqualified support for Israel from almost all of the Republican candidates. And this at a time when the United States is dealing with a severe economic crisis that must obviously be at the top of the political agenda.
But it is not just the Republicans. President Barack Obama, who in the past had been a frequent critic of Israel, also seems to to have left that criticism behind and has recently been singing the praises of Israel. This change in weather clearly goes far beyond politics and reflects the deep-seated support for Israel among the American people.
Who still remembers the carping complaints heard in Israel not so long ago that Israel was becoming isolated, and that it was being left without friends who would support it or who could understand its government's policies? Any regional event was pounced upon to support this argument. Israel should have apologized to Turkey, it was said, although any objective person knew that it was Turkey that should have apologized to Israel for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turkish activists were killed when they resisted the Israel Navy takeover.
Turkey's Islamist prime minister decided to try playing the role of the leader of the Islamic world and to turn his back on Israel, but Israel was blamed for its increasing isolation. The turmoil in Egypt and Syria was said to be leaving Israel without friends. Who was it that announced last year that a tsunami was approaching and would blow Israel away in September 2011? And all this could be avoided, it was claimed, if only Israel would offer far-reaching concessions to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
September has come and gone, and those who predicted a tsunami have learned again that making predictions in the Middle East is a dangerous business.
It is not surprising that democracies around the world are realizing that Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East where the rule of law prevails, that this small country has faced great danger throughout its 64-year history, and that it has courageously overcome repeated aggression and terrorist attacks. It is no surprise that they are realizing it is unwise to take any risks at this time, and that during this period of instability and violence in the region, Israel is the only ally that can be relied upon. Maybe now what is seen so clearly from a distance may become clear to the critics at home as well.