PM Binyamin Netanyahu
PM Binyamin NetanyahuIsrael news photo: Flash 90


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will make an official visit to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 2.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office officially announced the visit on Monday. The Israeli embassy in Ottawa confirmed on Tuesday that Netanyahu would make a "stopover" in Ottawa before heading to Washington.

Netanyahu is set to meet US President Barack Obama on March 5 where the two leaders are expected to discuss the "full range of security issues of mutual concern."

Iran's nuclear program, the deteriorating situation in Syria, and the Islamic rise to power in northern Africa - especially Egypt - are widely believed to top the agenda.

Of key concern are tensions between Jerusalem and Washington over how to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Obama administration insists sanctions will succeed, while Netanyahu last week said sanctions are "not working."

His statement was echoed by a senior US intelligence official who told US lawmakers that Iran was "nowhere near" giving up its nuclear weapons program.

Several members of Netanyahu's government - including Defense Minister Ehud Barak - are said to favor a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu will also speak at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, as is customary for Israeli leaders. The conference runs from March 4-6.

Netanyahu met with Harper and Obama at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The Prime Minister's early March visit follows a high-profile Middle East tour by key Harper cabinet ministers in late January. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty met with top Israeli financial, trade and defense officials during the tour.

The upcoming Ottawa visit by Netanyahu is widely seen as a public show of thanks for the strong support Harper's government has shown for the Jewish state during a time when the US - long Israel's strongest ally - is increasingly seen in Jerusalem as unreliable.

Baird in particular spoke positively of Netanyahu's leadership and Israel's position vis-a-vis negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, going so far as to tell officials in Ramallah that their unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations was "profoundly wrong."

He also spoke enthusiastically of his support for Israel at the recent Herzliya conference, saying, "Canada does not stand behind Israel; Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel."

Baird told Israeli reporters during his visit, “whether it is rockets raining down on Israeli schools, or the constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization, Israel is under attack.”