One of the great myths perpetuated by the media is that Israel stands alone, isolated in the international arena, or as the Hamilton Spectator put it in an article published on Israel's Independence Day, "At 64, Israel celebrates, but with fewer friends than before."
According to this narrative, Israel's supposed pariah-like status is the resultant effect of the Jewish state's disinterest in achieving peace with its Palestinian neighbours. Of course, only the inverse is true. As evinced by the 1993 Oslo Accords or other Israeli proposals in 2000 and 2008, Israel has consistently displayed its genuine interest in resolving the outstanding conflict.
Israel's repeated peace overtures have met almost all Palestinian demands for state sovereignty in areas Israel won in the 1967 war, including the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and close to 98 per cent of the West Bank.
In Facebook terms, Israel's "friend requests" have been ceremoniously rejected by Palestinian Arab leaders since time immemorial, because doing so meant accepting final status agreements, ending the conflict, renouncing future claims and importantly, acknowledging the existence of the Jewish state.
Friendship does have its benefits. Israel's 1979 treaty with Egypt saw it relinquish the Sinai, giving up close to $100 billion in oil reserves. And Israel's 1994 peace accord with Jordan still allows for the transfer of 50 million cubic metres of water on an annual basis.
Israel is situated in a very dangerous neighbourhood and it certainly wouldn't win a popularity contest in the region. Bordered by some nations that don't recognize its existence, Israel is surrounded by enemies who want to wipe it from the map.
Notwithstanding, Israel is well "liked" and it enjoys the support, respect, and admiration of those who share its interests and values. In sharp contrast, isolation is a term more apt for countries like Syria which has massacred over 10,000 of its own people, or Iran, whose atrocious human rights record and destructive pursuit of nuclear weapons has resulted in the country being an outcast in the international community.
According to Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, Israel has "excellent relations with the nations of Eastern Europe as well as Greece, India and China; and an unbreakable alliance with America. Many democracies, including Canada, Italy and the Czech Republic stand staunchly with us. Israel has more legations abroad than ever before and recently joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which comprises the most globally integrated countries."
On the YnetNews website, Israeli intelligence analyst Nimrod Asulin described Israel's "peripheral policy" of engagement where, "Israel and Cyprus have capitalized on their blooming relations with enhanced economic and security cooperation with regard to recently discovered natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Israel continues to maintain productive ties with Romania and other Balkan countries evident in recent joint-military aerial drills."
According to Asulin,
"Israel is expanding further still by forging relationships in Africa. Since 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other high ranking Israeli officials have been meeting with their counterparts from predominately Christian African nations, including Angola, Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda, among others... As tensions have soared between Israel and Iran over the last few months, another stage of Israel's strategy has surfaced -- strengthening ties with Georgia and Azerbaijan."
Israel recently won adulation from the Prime Minister of Albania who proclaimed that the two countries are a "model of co-existence and mutual respect."
Israel also recently secured membership in the executive committee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) where its members cited Israel's technological and agricultural know-how as just two reasons warranting its inclusion in this UN body. Israel also joined UN Women last year, a UN entity for gender equality and empowerment of women.
On the domestic front here in Canada, members of our municipal, provincial, and federal political parties have proudly declared that they are Israel's B.F.F. (best friends forever).
Meanwhile, the leader of the official opposition, the NDP's Thomas Mulcair, has been outspoken in his support for Israel, along with Liberal Party leader Bob Rae. When Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Ottawa a couple months ago, Canada's political establishment warmly embraced the Israeli leader who subsequently noted how impressed he was with the sense of kinship between both countries.
Indeed, much of the same is expected next week when Israeli President Shimon Peres arrives here in Canada.
It must be noted that celebrating Israel's Independence doesn't equal a negation or rejection of other communities, nor is it an appropriate time to conjure up an image of conflict or to falsely claim that Israel is being "unfriended."
As Netanyahu proclaimed in a speech marking Yom Ha'atzMaut (Israel's Independence Day), Israel is
"unique in having such passionate friends, Jews and non-Jews alike, for whom the well-being, security, and future of our country is so important. This passionate support, along with Israel's strong army, free economy and dynamic society is the pillar of our national strength and this Independence Day, I want to thank the tens of millions of friends of Israel throughout the world for their unwavering support for the one and only Jewish state."
Had the Spectator's coverage captured the essence in Netanyahu's words and/or focused on the historic revelry where tens of thousands of Canadians celebrated in cities like Hamilton, Montreal, and Toronto to mark Israel's 64th anniversary, the headline might have blared: "At 64, Israel celebrates, and is more popular than ever."
Follow Mike Fegelman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HonestRepCanada