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Relations with Ottawa at Low Ebb, Arens Tells Delegation from Canada

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Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens told a gathering of Canadian Jews in Jerusalem on Wednesday that the relationship between Canada and Israel has sunk so low that “there is nowhere to go but up.”

Arens said Ottawa seemed to be fostering poor relations with the Jewish state by voting to condemn it for the Temple Mount riots on Oct. 8 and by offering no financial aid whatsoever to help Israel absorb thousands of immigrants.

Arens addressed 150 delegates attending the national executive meeting of the Canadian Jewish Congress, which is being held in Israel for the first time in the organization’s 72-year history.

The group was addressed Tuesday by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who acknowledged that its presence was an act of solidarity with Israel at a time when many were canceling visits because of the possibility of war in the Persian Gulf.

“We don’t always feel that we have strong support from Canada,” Arens said, according to reports from Jerusalem.

“When the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel for the Temple Mount incident, Canada was part of that vote,” he said.

The United States also joined in the unanimous condemnation.

Arens went on to say he was disappointed by the absence of financial aid from Canada, “one of the richest nations,” in support of Israel’s absorption of Soviet immigrants.

“The Canadian Parliament must know about our great need for assistance,” he said.

“There has been a sign of a burden-sharing effort around the world for countries which have been affected by the Gulf crisis,” Arens added, but “not a penny of this has gone to Israel.”

He said that while recipient countries–Egypt, Jordan, Turkey — are deserving of assistance, “the country which is facing its greatest economic challenge yet is not getting this support.

“I wonder if anybody in the Canadian Parliament gets up and talks about this?” Arens asked.

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy told the Canadian visitors he hoped to continue the “fruitful discussions” he had with the Canadian minister for external affairs, Joe Clerk, when he visited Israel in November.

Shamir, in his address Tuesday, called for unity among Jews and stressed solidarity with Israel at this crucial time.

“Your presence is a manifestation of unity which is the essence, the strength of the Jewish people,” Shamir said.

“When you return to your families and your communities, please tell them that life in Israel goes on normally. There is no reason and no justification for our own people, for our Jewish brethren to cancel or postpone their visits to this country.”

Shamir expressed hope for a peaceful resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis.

But he insisted it must not only remove the Iraqi army from Kuwait but remove the Iraqi military threat from the region.

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