A group of demonstrators gathered outside the Knesset on Monday for a positive purpose: to show gratitude and support for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his delegation, who has been visiting Israel since Sunday.
The group, mostly Canadian-Israelis, were seen happily singing Canada's national anthem and waving posters, flags, and banners.
Harper spoke at the Knesset Monday to great acclaim, being the second foreign Prime Minister to do so. During the speech, he stressed the close ties between the two countries, who he said are "natural allies."
The bonds between the two countries, said Harper, are "very strong. Our friendship has its roots in history, and is nourished by our shared values," as well as roaring 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 justness of its cause – which, he said, was “a very Canadian thing to do". That support is given without expecting anything in return, he emphasized, and added that 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.
The Canadian Prime Minister announced his visit to Israel during a speech he gave at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) annual fundraising gala Negev dinner which was held in Toronto in December.
Last month, reports surfaced that Harper was planning to announce his resignation following the Israel visit, but his spokesman Jason MacDonald recently told CTV News that those reports were “absolutely false.”
Harper has long been recognized a strong friend of the Jewish state.
"[W]hen Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand," Harper said in 2011.
Harper emphasized at the time that Canada must oppose demonization, double standards and de-legitimization of the Jewish state.
"History shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israel mob tell us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are in the longer term a threat to all of us," he declared.