Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen HarperReuters

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen will arrive in Israel Sunday on an official four-day visit

The Canadian Prime Minister will be accompanied by a delegation of over 200 people, including ministers, journalists, and parliament members. This is Harper’s first visit to the Middle East since he was elected as Prime Minister in 2006, and the first by a Canadian Prime Minister since 2000. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement.

"Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a great friend of the State of Israel," Netanyahu stated in a Saturday release. "He has strongly opposed attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and has taken a praiseworthy moral stand against these attempts."

"I welcome his arrival together with his wife and the members of his delegation," the Prime Minister continued. "We will work together to further enhance the important relations between our two countries."

Netanyahu and his wife Sara will welcome Prime Minister and Laureen Harper in an official ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. The Netanyahus will later host the Harpers for dinner at their official residence in Jerusalem.

On Monday, Harper is set to address the Knesset, and will be the first Canadian Prime Minister to do so. 

On Tuesday morning, Harper 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. Prime Minister and Sara Netanyahu will, afterwards, accompany the Harpers to Yad Vashem. An official dinner for Prime Minister Harper, his wife and 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.

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. "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 maintained.