This past Monday I accompanied ZFA President Dr. Danny Lamm and VP Sam Tatarka to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Melbourne where we spent an hour talking to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Danny had just returned from the 37th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem where he met with senior officials in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He was thus able to bring our Foreign Minister up to speed on the resilience of Israeli society in the face of the recent wave of terrorism.
Danny conveyed to Ms Bishop the very high regard in which she and Prime Minister Turnbull are held by the Israeli Government. Particular appreciation was expressed by senior MFA officials for Australia’s vote last December against a Palestinian-authored UN Security Council resolution calling for an unconditional Israeli-withdrawal from Judea-Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The discussion ranged over a number of issues that included the current terrorist violence in Israel, the challenge of BDS and developments in the broader Middle East and Europe. Sam Tatarka also addressed the unique set of security concerns faced by the Australian Jewish community at the present time.
The meeting was extremely warm and constructive and it ended with an agreement that the ZFA would maintain regular contact with Ms Bishop’s office and that additional meetings would be held in the not-too-distant future.
Meanwhile in Washington, the Atlantic magazine yesterday featured a story about how Israel and the Obama administration are trying to reset bi-lateral relations between the two countries to a more positive note.
Entitled “Bygones, Israel and the U.S. try to move beyond Iran”, the piece discusses the dispatch of Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon to D.C for talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Questioned by the media about his outspoken opposition to the Obama Administration’s Iran deal, Ya’alon responded with typical directness: “The Iran deal is a given. Our disputes are over. And now we have to look to the future.”
Particularly noteworthy are the Secretary Carter’s remarks about the contribution made by Israel to US national security:
“It’s a two-way relationship There’s no question that it’s not symmetric, but it is two-way—we really do get things from the Israelis in technology. I hesitate to make invidious comparisons, but if you’re making comparisons to, say, the European legacy arms [industry], the guys who have made the tanks and planes and ships in Europe, they’ve been very slow to come out of the industrial age. The Israelis you will find to be more clever and more innovative … The Israelis were really quite ingenious in this area [countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs)] and we got a lot from them. There’s no question that lives were saved as a consequence of their [help]. They’re not good in everything across the board, but they’re as good as us in some areas. They’re in a league that has very few members.”
So the next time you hear someone badmouthing Israel as a foreign aid bludger on the United States, you can set them straight by quoting Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense to the effect that Israel saved American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beyond these ministerial-level talks, the Ya’alon visit to Washington was also intended to lay the ground work for a meeting this coming Monday between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama. We will observe with interest whether the same spirit of détente that prevailed at the Pentagon will be in evidence on Monday at the Oval Office.
And I’ll conclude this week with one of those real life stories that appear at first glance to be stranger than fiction. An Israeli business traveller on Ethiopian Airlines was attacked by Sudanese and saved by – amongst others – a Lebanese.
It all happened shortly before the flight was scheduled to land at the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. As reported by YNet, the 54-year-old Israeli businessman said:
“About 20 minutes before the plane started its descent the passenger sitting behind me identified me as Israeli and Jewish. He came up behind my seat and started to choke me with a lot of force and at first I couldn’t get my voice out and call for help. He hit me over the head with a metal tray and shouted ‘Allah akbar’ and ‘I will slaughter the Jew.’ Only after a few seconds, just before I was about to lose consciousness, did I manage to call out and a flight attendant who saw what was happening summoned her colleagues.”
A fellow passenger from Lebanon was among those who rushed to the aid of the Israeli businessman:
“After we landed the Lebanese guy told me that I’d been saved twice, because after they’d overpowered my attacker he said to everyone: ‘Let’s finish him [the Israeli businessman] off.’”
It defies logic or understanding precisely why the terrorist thought he could incite murder just as he was being bundled away to prison. I suppose homicidal hope springs eternal in the jihadi mind.
So there you have it, the mother of all silver linings to a very black cloud; a good news story of coexistence and mutual respect arising out of a bad news story of jihadi violence.