Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the Israeli Knesset Monday night in a historic, overwhelmingly pro-Israel speech. Harper, the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset and Canada’s first evangelical prime minister in 50 years, is known as an outspoken supporter of Israel. His speech briefly touched upon the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and avoided general criticism of Israel.
Harper recognized Israel’s right to exist when he said “After generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland, and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.” He reiterated Canada’s support of Israel and said “it is right to do so.” Addressing Israeli MKs, Harper boldly stated “It is Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”
At one point in the speech, Harper was heckled by two Arab MKs sitting in the audience. Harper was in the middle of denouncing critics of Israel who call Israel an apartheid state when the two MKs, Ahmad Tibi and Taleb Abu Arar, began to shout at Harper. MK Taleb Abu Arar shouted: “It is,” referring to Israel as an apartheid state.
Arab MKs heckle PM Stephen Harper
“Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state,” Harper said. “Think about that. Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: A state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.”
Before Harper’s address, these same two MKs heckled Netanyahu during his welcome address to Harper and opposition leader Issac Herzog who spoke prior to Harper. Eventually, the two MKs walked out of the Knesset chamber. Upon their leaving, the Knesset chamber burst into applause in support of Harper and gave the Canadian Prime Minister a standing ovation.
Harper called out Palestinians and their common use of violence and terrorism. “A Palestinian state will come, and one thing that will make it come is when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realize that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence,” he said. In recent weeks, terrorist activity has seen a steady increase in Israel ranging from rocket attacks, stone throwing attacks, and individual attacks against civilians.
Canada, which has a large Jewish population, is, according to Harper, “immensely proud of what the people of Israel have accomplished here, of your courage in war, of your generosity in peace, and of the bloom that the desert has yielded, under your stewardship.”
Harper also commended the military cooperation that takes place between Israel and Canada. Harper thanked Israel for “the use of Israeli-built reconnaissance equipment [which] saved the lives of many Canadian soldiers.”
Regarding Iran, Harper stated that the Canadian government approves of exploring diplomatic channels to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Harper’s stance on Iran is divergent from Netanyahu’s hard-line stance on the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, Harper made it clear that should Iran not stick to the current agreement it made with the P5+1 to halt uranium enrichment, “Canada will be a strong voice for renewed sanctions.”
Harper closed his speech praising the accomplishments of the State of Israel and proudly stated “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”