Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Visits Israel for the First Time
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Israel for the first time and had the opportunity to address the Israeli Knesset. In his speech to the Knesset, Prime Minister Harper expressed Canada’s ardent support for Israel and eloquently described the friendship between the two countries.
He outlined a vision of a future with two states for two peoples and spoke pragmatically about his role as a foreign leader visiting Israel. You can read his full speech to the Knesset here.
Prime Minister Harper also outlined three specific measures of support for Israel:
- Canada deplores that some in the international community still question Israel’s right to exist;
- Canada believes Israel should be able to exercise its full rights as a UN-Member state; and
- Canada refuses to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.
At a press conference later in his trip, Prime Minister Harper was asked about Canada’s view of Israeli settlements. He responded by saying that Canada’s view was “publicly available,” but that he was not in Israel “to single out Israel.” Prime Minister Harper was able to note in the press conference that Canada has a “different position than Israel” on the settlements without making it the focal point of his visit.
The Canadian PM has a long history of publicly and fervently supporting Israel and Canada’s relationship with Israel has been featured prominently in his foreign policy considerations–he was the first Western leader to cut aid to the Palestinian authority after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections and replaced Fatah’s rule in the Gaza strip, the first to withdraw from the UN World Conference Against Racism, also called Durban II, when criticism of Israel became a central topic, and also opposed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s successful bid for “non-member” status for Palestine at the UN.
Prime Minister Harper and Prime Minister Netanyahu also signed an extensive set of bilateral goals, under what’s called the Strategic Partnership memorandum of understanding. The memorandum the two leaders signed covers goals pertaining to trade, innovation, energy, international aid, and human rights.
Prime Minister Harper’s first visit to Israel was interesting and exciting. One thing is clear: Canada, and Prime Minister Harper, support Israel, and will continue to say so on the international stage.
Image courtesy of Canadian Press