For many years, those wanting to emphasize the degree of Israel’s isolation in the international arena would ironically point to the fact that at the innumerable UN votes in the General Assembly on anti-Israel resolutions, Israel would be joined in the opposing vote by only the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia. Micronesia, that distant island nation in the western Pacific, would regularly vote with the U.S. at the UN. These two were presumably the only friends Israel had in the world − the U.S. and Micronesia. Since Stephen Harper became prime minister in 2006, Canada joined the list of true friends of the State of Israel.
It was not always that way. For many years Canada maintained a cool relationship with Israel. When during my tenure as foreign minister in 1990 I remarked that Canada shared the same values and ideals as Israel and the U.S. but maintained a rather distant relationship with Israel, unlike the U.S., it caused something of a commotion back in Canada, but did not bring about a change in that relationship. Harper changed all that.
It should come as no surprise that the U.S., the leader of the free world, a country whose foreign policy is traditionally anchored on the ideals of freedom and democracy, should have become over the years a close friend and ally of Israel. What is surprising is that other democracies espousing the very same values and ideals did not follow suit.
It was Britain that abstained on the UN partition resolution back in November 1947, supported the Jordanian army in its occupation of Judea and Samaria during Israel’s War of Independence and granted recognition to Jordan’s annexation of the area. Still remembered is the arms embargo that De Gaulle’s France declared on Israel on the eve of the Six-Day War at a time when the Israel Air Force was totally dependent on French equipment.
Unlike the U.S., the democracies of Western Europe sometimes let values and ideals take a back seat in determining their foreign policies. Defending Israel has not always been their top priority. They should listen closely to Harper.
“When Israel is the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, and is constantly and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, we are morally obligated to take a stand ... I will defend Israel whatever the cost”, he has said.
“Demonization, delegitimization, double standards, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of all to stand up to it”, says Canada’s prime minister, referring to the wave of attacks on Israel. He has termed Israel a “light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness”.
Harper’s visit to Israel is likely to be good news, especially to those Israelis who are trembling in fear that some EU bureaucrats in Brussels might succeed in their efforts to delegitimize Israel unless Israel were to withdraw to the 1949 Armistice lines. They don’t realize that many of those engaged in these efforts, especially the BDS campaigners, actually are aiming for the destruction of the State of Israel, rather than just a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.
The fact is that those Israelis calling for a withdrawal to those lines, or for agreement to John Kerry’s framework agreement which is based on the 1967 borders, do so out of concern for Israel’s legitimacy. They should have no fear. The State of Israel is more legitimate from every point of view than most of the states in the region, and than many others around the world. There is no need for Israel to endanger its security by agreeing to indefensible borders and exposing its population centers to rocket attacks from the east in a vain effort to have those who are no friends of Israel grant it “legitimacy.” The true friends of Israel will stand by it, come what may.