Is­raeli am­bas­sador seeks to build ties with Sask.

Regina Leader-Post - - Local - EVAN RAD­FORD THE STARPHOENI­X er­ad­ford@thes­ twit­­rad­ford

SASKA­TOON — In the wake of a newly an­nounced part­ner­ship be­tween Saskatchew­an and Is­rael fo­cused on re­search and de­vel­op­ment in agri­cul­ture, min­er­als, food se­cu­rity and nu­clear en­ergy, Rafael Barak, the cur­rent Is­raeli am­bas­sador to Canada, vis­ited Saskatchew­an for the first time.

The for­mer Is­raeli deputy for­eign min­is­ter sat down with The StarPhoeni­x to dis­cuss the new part­ner­ship, con­nec­tions be­tween Is­rael and Saskatchew­an and ne­go­ti­a­tion is­sues be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans.

This is an edited ver­sion of the in­ter­view with Am­bas­sador Barak.

StarPhoeni­x: What’s your re­sponse to the part­ner­ship be­tween Is­rael and Saskatchew­an?

Rafael Barak: First of all, I’m very pleased with my first visit to your prov­ince and that we can bring to­gether more Is­raelis and their col­leagues in Saskatchew­an. I think it will be an in­ter­est­ing part­ner­ship, be­cause we have chal­lenges that are sim­i­lar on is­sues of agri­cul­ture and is­sues of min­er­als, of en­ergy. I think those el­e­ments are so im­por­tant for your econ­omy here, and they are also a fo­cus point for Is­rael.

Hope­fully we can cre­ate pro­grams and prod­ucts that will in­crease jobs and the econ­omy (in both re­gions).

SP: What are the ben­e­fits Is­rael will see from the part­ner­ship?

RB: It will be a mu­tual ben­e­fit. To be happy, both sides should be tak­ing some profit from it. It will open the at­ten­tion and in­ter­ests of Is­raelis to come here, to visit Saskatchew­an, to dis­cover the op­por­tu­ni­ties. In this world we live in, you have to co­op­er­ate; you can­not do things by your­self.

SP: How much do Is­raelis know about Saskatchew­an?

RB: (Laugh­ing) Too lit­tle. Even they have dif­fi­culty pro­nounc­ing it cor­rectly. This is part of my chal­lenge (as an am­bas­sador): ed­u­cat­ing Is­raelis about Saskatchew­an, that it’s a place they have to know.

SP: Based on your past ex­pe­ri­ence as a co-or­di­na­tor in the 1993 Oslo Ac­cord, how would you as­sess the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion be­tween Is­rael and Pales­tini­ans?

RB: ... (T)here are no new sur­prises. You al­ready know, be­fore some­one opens his mouth, what he’s go­ing to say.

We have been dis­cussing com­pro­mises for many years — is­sues with bor­ders, wa­ter, Jerusalem, refugees. In one way or another, we can come to a two-state so­lu­tion. But, as Is­raelis, we need a part­ner that can pro­vide the nec­es­sary ex­changes we are de­mand­ing.

For us, the most im­por­tant word is se­cu­rity. In 2005, we gave them Gaza; we re­moved ev­ery­thing and re­quested only one thing — se­cu­rity, no more rocket at­tacks from Gaza, and we didn’t get it. So this has a very heavy in­flu­ence on the at­ti­tude of Is­raelis.

SP: Are there any ar­eas you feel that Is­rael made mis­takes or ac­tions it shouldn’t have taken, whether mil­i­taris­tic or diplo­matic?

RB: Def­i­nitely; ev­ery coun­try and ev­ery hu­man be­ing makes mis­takes. To­day, 70 to 80 per cent of Is­raelis are ready for com­pro­mise. (Pales­tini­ans) are still on the same po­si­tions as they were at Oslo in 1993, and they are split.

CHRIS MORIN/The StarPhoeni­x

Is­raeli Am­bas­sador Rafael Barak says both sides stand to ben­e­fit from a new Saskatchew­an-Is­rael part­ner­ship.

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