Knesset ovation for Canada’s pro-Israel PM

Few world leaders have so enthusiastically endorsed Israel’s policies as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper did this week during his first visit to Jerusalem.

The Conservative premier has long been an outspoken supporter of Israel and, on Monday, in the first speech by a Canadian prime minister to the Knesset, he said that “the Jewish people deserve their own homeland, and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland” and that “Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so”, even if doing so is not “convenient or popular”.

Mr Harper ticked all the boxes during his speech, calling upon the Palestinians to abandon terrorism as prerequisite for the establishment of a Palestinian state, fiercely attacking Israel’s critics around the world and endorsing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that it be recognised as the Jewish state.

He also announced that Canada’s sanctions on Iran would not be removed and called for further sanctions if Iran fails to abide by the terms of the Geneva agreement.

The speech was received by the Knesset with standing ovations and Mr Netanyahu responded by thanking Mr Harper for “having the courage to say the truth”.

The only dissenting voices were those of Arab MKs, Ahmad Tibi and Taleb Abu Arar, who heckled Mr Netanyahu and left the plenum when Mr Harper denied that Israel was an apartheid state.

A much more lukewarm reception awaited Mr Harper when he arrived in Ramallah for a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas.

Despite pointed questions by reporters on the settlements, he refused to speak on the issue, saying he was not prepared to “single out the state of Israel for criticism”. However, prior to the visit, the Foreign Ministry in Ottawa said that their policy remains that the West Bank settlements are illegal.

The Canadian government was one of the main international voices opposing the Palestinian attempt in 2012 to upgrade its status at the UN.

Last updated: 4:45pm, January 23 2014