Canada and Israel expand relations

Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Miriam Ziv, and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews signed a mutual customs assistance agreement in Ottawa. Photo courtesy of the Embassy of Israel]

Canada and Israel took another step forward to strengthen bilateral relations by signing an agreement to jointly foster economic and social development in the developing world.

The pact was signed last week in Ottawa by Margaret Biggs, the president of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and Daniel Carmon, director of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (Mashav).

Under the Memorandum of Understanding on International Development Cooperation, as the accord is officially known, Canada and Israel will focus on poverty reduction, an objective consistent with the principles of sustainable development, the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights.

The agreement institutionalizes an existing Canada-Israel project in agricultural, horticultural and water management in Ukraine and sets the stage for launching new joint projects, said Carmon in an interview.

Carmon was unable to say how many more projects Canada and Israel will work on in the future.

“But the sky is the limit,” he said. “We’ll talk about common interests, and each side will put on the table what it is respectively strong in.”

In signing last week’s agreement, the latest in a series consolidating Israel’s growing relationship with Canada, Carmon noted that both nations are interested in pursuing projects in such fields as public health and the empowerment of women.

“Canada is a close and intimate friend of Israel, and this pact is an important ingredient in our bilateral relations,” he added, noting Israel has similar agreements with the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. “Working together, we can face, side by side, global challenges in development.”

In commenting on the agreement, Canadian Minister of International Co-operation Julian Fantino said, “Canada and Israel share a bond of friendship, and we are allies in the democratic family of countries.”

Israel, having successfully made the transition from developing to highly developed country, is eminently qualified to share knowledge with countries in need of assistance, Carmon observed.

Mashav, founded in 1957, has expertise in areas ranging from irrigation, desert agriculture and rural and community development to early childhood education and emergency and disaster medicine.

Since Mashav’s inception, more than 270,000 people from around the world have taken its training programs.

Mashav has sent missions to 46 countries, and in response to recent earthquakes in the Caribbean and Asia, its personnel built a medical clinic in Haiti and a village in Turkey.

“Mashav has been in the forefront of Israeli diplomacy in the developing world,” said Carmon, who was Israel’s deputy representative at the United Nations until his most recent appointment. “Mashav has been there and is very well acknowledged and appreciated.”

Carmon said the agreement he co-signed in Ottawa on Dec. 11 reflects a commitment on the part of Israel and Canada to expand bilateral ties.

Also last week, Ottawa and Jerusalem signed a mutual customs assistant agreement and decided to work together to advance technology in waste-water reuse.

The customs agreement was announced in Ottawa by Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Miriam Ziv.

“This agreement strengthens our countries’ mutual abilities to investigate and prosecute customs offences and enhance global security,” Toews said in a statement.

Doron Arbely, director general of the Israel Tax Authority, called the agreement an important component of Israel’s economic relations with Canada.

 “It will serve as a platform to enhance bilateral trade and benefit the economies of both countries,” he said in a statement. “Not only will it facilitate exports. It will also help authorities enforce and monitor trade.”

Israel is currently Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise export market in the Middle East. Since the signing of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement 15 years ago, two-way merchandise trade has more than tripled.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent and Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Uzi Landau discussed a number of mutually relevant matters, including environmental issues.

Landau told Kent why Israel is a leader in reusing treated sewage water for irrigation. Kent expressed an interest in working with Israel, particularly in developing countries.

Since May 11, 2009, when Canada and Israel marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, they have deepened their burgeoning relationship by means of ministerial visits and bilateral agreements.

Nearly two years ago in Jerusalem, for example, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay and his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, signed a memorandum of understanding on military relations.