'Here, in This House, Lives the Democracy of Israel'
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Monday welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Israel's parliament. Addressing Harper, Edelstein stressed the “democratic spirit” of Israeli democracy, along with the “spirit of justice and equality, freedom of expression, and equality of opportunity” that characterized Israel.
Harper, who along with his wife Laureen arrived in Israel Sunday on an official four-day visit, is the first Canadian leader to address the Knesset, and took the podium after Edelstein's welcoming remarks. Seeking to belie the claims of leftists that Israel is an “apartheid state” that grants no rights to its Arab minority, Edelstein stressed Israel's inclusiveness.
“Here, in this house, lives the democracy of Israel, where the representatives of the Israeli people ensure that those who sent them – the citizens of Israel – are ably represented,” said Edelstein. We have representatives from a wide range of communities, religions, ethnicities, and identities, all of whom are residents of Israel.
“Before you in this hall are Knesset members who are Jewish, Arab, Bedouin, Druze, rightwing and leftwing, veteran Israelis and new immigrants, male and female, religious and secular,” said Edelstein. “All receive the same treatment, all are able to express their opinions and to vote according to their conscience.”
Edelstein expressed Israel's appreciation for the Prime Minister's strong support for Israel. “The clear words that you bravely speak are for us a source of support, pride, and confidence, that Israel does not stand alone in its battles. Anyone who hears your words about Israel will realize the great love you have for this country,” the Knesset speaker told Harper, adding that, “like a line from a song by the Beatles, the band you love so much, you have remembered 'to let her into your heart, and then you can start to make it better.' There is no doubt that the State of Israel lives in your heart, and only from there can you act in order to help make things better here.”
Since Israel's establishment, said Edelstein, Israel has been threatened by many forces, most recently “by countries like Iran seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction to use against us, and by terror groups supported by Iran. Israel is persecuted by the new anti-Semites, who blame Israel for anything and everything, for crimes the country has never committed.” As a result, he said, Israel greatly appreciated Canada's support.
What Israel needs more of, Edelstein said, was “P2P,” a term usually used for content downloading, but as Edelstein defines it, “people to people,” “partner to partner,” and “parliament to parliament.” These “P2Ps” were required in order to build relations with Israel's neighbors. “We need all three P2Ps in order to build relations that are solid, in order to jumpstart the peace process, and to reach a true peace.” If Canada can help with Israel's “P2P” efforts, the country would welcome it.