Good News Friday

It’s time for another installment of my Good News Friday series, and since today is both Rosh Chodesh (1st of the month)  and Chanukah, this week’s post will include extra goodies beyond the usual 3 items in honour of the special day.

We’ll start with a great Chanukah picture (via Israellycool) which speaks for itself.

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. — Isaiah 2:3-4

And they shall beat their Qassams into Hannukiot

I find this picture very evocative and moving. It demonstrates how Israelis can find the positive in any bad event. Or to put it another way, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  If only our enemies would take the same attitude – well, I suppose they would stop being our enemies.

Next we have two related items:

Despite the sometimes frosty relationship between the two countries, Britain has appointed a special technology ambassador to Israel:

Britain was the first — and still the only — country to established a special government-sponsored mission in Israel, called the UK-Israel Tech Hub, to deal specifically with programs that will facilitate cooperation between Israeli and UK companies, universities, and institutions to develop leading-edge technology in computers, networks, medical devices and technology, and other high-tech areas. That program has been so successful — and important — to London that Prime Minister David Cameron himself announced the appointment of British businessman Saul Klein to the post of tech envoy to Israel, an appointment Cameron said he hoped would further enhance tech relations between the two countries.

Announcing the appointment Tuesday, Cameron said that the UK “wants to work much more closely with Israel on innovation and technology. That’s why a year ago we launched the UK-Israel tech hub at our embassy to link up with UK Israel Business, the Israeli Embassy here in London and countless talented young people in both our countries. I am delighted to announce today that we are appointing Saul Klein, someone with huge experience in early-stage investment, to be the UK’s first tech envoy to Israel.”

That the prime minister himself would personally announce such an appointment is impressive — but just as impressive is the fact that Cameron is apparently keeping track of the breadth and depth of those relations.

“Just last week the Tech Hub and the UK Trade & Investment organization brought over 19 Israeli tech companies over here to meet the best of British companies and investors,” the prime minister said.

Lest one think that Cameron was “going through the motions” and reading a prepared statement for some political purpose, Matthew Gould, the UK’s ambassador to Israel, said that the government in London sees developing tech relations between Israel and Britain as a top priority.

This is excellent news, and a great kick in the teeth to the BDS brigade.

The second, related item is by Arsen Ostrovsky in Ynet, who asserts that contrary to the generally accepted opinion, Israel is actually winning in Europe:

Before the ink was even dry on the Palestinian vote at the UN last week, headlines already started flooding on how Israel ‘lost Europe.’ The reality however, could not be further from the truth, as Israel continues to make stunning headway in its trade and bilateral relations with the EU.


Regrettably, when commentators lament how Israel has ‘lost’ Europe, they overlook the impressive list of achievements by this government in the past four years.

For example, in May 2010 the OECD unanimously voted to invite Israel to join the organization. This was no small achievement, and came despite intensive lobbying by the Palestinians. Even countries like Norway, Spain and Ireland, traditionally the most hostile to Israel in Europe, voted in favor.

In September 2011 Israel became the first non-European member of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, while in July this year the EU and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen their scientific cooperation in the fields of energy and water desalination, where Israel is a world leader.

Moreover, in October the European Parliament ratified the ACAA agreement (Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products) with Israel. The agreement is unprecedented in that it recognizes Israel’s industrial standards as equivalent to those in Europe, especially in healthcare, and is a prime example of a ‘win-win’ situation for both Europe and Israel.

According to David Saranga, the head of European Parliament Liaison Department for the Israeli Mission to the EU:

“The ACAA protocol will eliminate technical barriers to trade by facilitating the mutual recognition of assessment procedures. This will in turn help lead to facilitating imports of high-quality, low-cost Israeli medicines into the EU, while at the same time increasing medicinal choice for European patients and healthcare professionals.”

In the last few years, Israel has also held an increasing number of government-to-government meetings at the highest level of Cabinet with various European allies, including the Czechs, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and Germany (with whom Israel is meeting in Berlin this week). As a result of these meetings, Israel has signed a number of significant bilateral agreements in areas of high-tech, green energy, culture and the sciences.

This year alone, Israel has signed multi-billion dollar gas deals with Cyprus and Greece; Israel’s Aerospace Industries has secured two contracts worth nearly $1 billion to provide Italy with air force military equipment; whilst the past year has also been Israel’s “best tourism year ever”, with more than 3.5 million visitors to the Holy Land – most of whom have come from European countries.

Importantly, in 2011 the EU was Israel’s largest trading partner, with total trade amounting to approximately €29.4 billion for the year – an increase of 45% from 2009; and this came during the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis in Europe.

This article reminds us how important it is to keep a sense of proportion and a sense of history, and in fact chimes in with what Prof. Barry Rubin wrote in his article that I posted yesterday.

My next item comes under the category of “NOW you remembered?”. Israel is launching a public diplomacy (hasbara) department in Arabic. I assumed that such a department has existed for ages, but it appears I was wrong. Better late than never:

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry Director-General Ronen Plot released this statement: “In the era of the Internet and the social networks, when the Internet influences strategic changes in the character of the regimes around us, the State of Israel’s public diplomacy efforts in Arabic are of utmost importance. In keeping with the policy outlined by Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, the ministry is placing emphasis on public diplomacy infrastructures in Arabic, both on the Internet and social media and vis-à-vis the relevant elements in the media.”

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry Spokesman Gal Ilan reiterated in an email to The Algemeiner that the department was started, in part, as a way for Israel to combat its negative image in the Arab-speaking world through the same channels that have worked so effectively in recent regional uprisings.

I’m sure we all wish this Arabic department the best of luck and success in their very important endeavour.

And to finish up today’s expanded edition, I bring you (again courtesy of Israellycool) a beautiful video of Chanukah in Jerusalem.

Wishing all my readers Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh tov and Chanukah Same’ach!

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