Israel and Canada are “natural allies,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday. Addressing the Knesset, Harper told MKs that Canada would stand with Israel no matter what, “through fire and water."
On his second day in Israel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to MKs.
The bonds between the two countries, said Harper, were “very strong. Our friendship has its roots in history, and is nourished by our shared values,” as well as the trade between the countries. In addition, he said, Israel and Canada were close military allies, with Israeli-made equipment and technology saving the lives of many Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, where they are stationed as part of the international peacekeeping force.
“In order to understand the depth of the ties” between the two countries, Harper said, one simply has to look at the respective societies. Jews have lived in Canada for over 250 years, and the 350,000 Jews in Canada are proud of their own country, and of Israel's accomplishments, as he and his wife Laureen were, he said.
“We understand that supporting Israel is the right thing to do,” said Harper. After generations of persecution the Jews were finally able to live in their own state, and Canada supported Israel because of the rightness of its cause – which, he said was “a very Canadian thing to do,” without expecting anything in return, and it was something Canada was proud to do for Israel. "History proves that those who started out hating Jews in the end hated everyone who was not like them," he added.
Harper's comments were received with a standing ovation by all MKs – except for one. During the speech, Arab MK Ahmed Tibi shouted down Harper as he expressed his affection for Israel and the Jewish people, shouting that Israel was an “apartheid state.” He then walked out of the plenum.
Harper, the first Canadian leader to address Israel's parliament, is a "great friend of Israel," said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier. Welcoming Harper to Israel earlier Monday, Netanyahu said that while the world is “often cynical and hypocritical, you have shown great moral leadership. When it comes to fighting terrorism, you know that there cannot be any politically correct double talk, but only unequivocal condemnation and united international action.
Harper and his wife Laureen arrived in Israel Sunday on an official four-day visit. The Canadian Prime Minister is accompanied by ministers, MPs and business people. This is Harper's first visit to Israel and the first by a serving Canadian Prime Minister since 2000. After addressing the Knesset Monday, the Canadian PM will meet with President Shimon Peres and attend a joint meeting of the Israeli and Canadian governments at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Tuesday. An official dinner for Prime Minister Harper, his wife and the accompanying delegation will be held Tuesday evening in Jerusalem.
On Wednesday, the Harpers will tour Christian holy sites in northern Israel, after which they will go to Tel Aviv University, where Prime Minister Harper will receive an honorary doctorate and meet with students.