WATCH: Harper gets rock star welcome in Israel

Harper on first tour of Middle East as PM

Prime minister Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper basked in a hero's welcome in Israel on Sunday as he arrived for his inaugural visit to the Middle East.

His Israeli counterpart literally rolled out the red carpet for his Canadian friend.

Harper is "a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people," Prime Minister Netanyahu said at an elaborate welcome ceremony for Harper held inside a tent pitched outside his office that featured the two leaders reviewing an honour guard as a military band played.

Chatting amiably, the two men then greeted a receiving line of several high-ranking Israeli and Canadian cabinet ministers, diplomats and rabbis from both countries.

Netanyahu told the reception that Harper has shown "great moral leadership" in fighting terrorism and taking a stand against anti-Semitism and Iran.

"I think in all this, and in so many other things, you`ve shown courage, clarity and conviction," Netanyahu said. "The people of Israel and I deeply appreciate your friendship, and the friendship of the people of Canada to us."

Netanyahu's remarks came after the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting earlier Sunday, in which he exalted Harper once again to his fellow Israeli politicians.

"Prime Minister Harper articulates a clear, courageous and moral stance in relation to the truth and the standards needed by the international community regarding Israel and the conflict here," he said.

"I think he has taken a moral stand worthy of admiration, and I welcome him on behalf of the Israeli government and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel."

After beaming through Netanyahu's praise for him, Harper strode to the podium to say he was delighted to be in Israel, but added he'd save further comments for his speech to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, on Monday.

Harper will be the first Canadian prime minister to ever address the Knesset , comes hours after the prime minister travels to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He's expected to announce further aid to the Palestinians during that visit.

During his six-day tour of the Middle East, Harper will also visit Jordan and the West Bank.

He and his wife, Laureen, were greeted at the airport by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign affairs minister, and Vivian Bercovici, Canada's ambassador-designate to the Jewish state.

Harper is travelling with six cabinet ministers, a senator, 30 top business executives that include David Asper, Philip Reichmann and Air Canada CEO and president Calin Rovinescu. 21 rabbis and a priest also accompanied Harper.

In total, there are as many as 300 people in the delegation, including cabinet ministers, MPs and support staff. Canadian taxpayers will be covering the entire cost of travel and accommodations for at least 30 of them.

Spokesman Jason MacDonald says Harper will promote commercial relations, as well as peace and security in the region, when he meets with Israeli leaders and, later in the week, with the King of Jordan.

"This is a historic occasion," said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, one of the cabinet ministers in Israel this week.

But Oliver said the visit was critical not just because it forged closer political ties between the two countries, but also on the commerce front.

"There's an opportunity that didn't exist before to actually play a role in the development of Israel's natural resources because they found the largest discovery of natural gas in the last 10 years," he said.
"And we have a lot of expertise, obviously, in off-shore and non-conventional oil."

Nonetheless, Harper has shifted his government's Middle East policy decidedly in favour of the Jewish state during his eight years in power, marking what has been widely viewed as a departure from Canada's so-called honest broker position in the troubled region.

In the summer of the 2006, while Israeli warplanes were pounding Lebanon after Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, Harper characterized the response as "measured."

That comment angered Canadians of Arab and Muslim descent, and was widely viewed by analysts as marking a significant shift away from Canada's traditional role in the Middle East.

Since then, Conservative support has manifested itself in myriad ways, including Canada's vocal opposition against the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations. Canada was one of only nine countries to vote against the Palestinian efforts.

Leave a comment:

showing all comments · Subscribe to comments
Comment Like
  • 15
  1. Manuel posted on 01/19/2014 10:10 AM
    There goes Stephen cohort ing with the occupiers again. I think most Canadians don't really care what Stephen thinks about Middle East policies. Canada has no sway. Canada hasn't earned the right to have a seat at the UN Security Council because mostly of Harpers outlook on many things including this. He doesn't speak for me or many others..Harper promoting peace in the region is insulting to those living under oppression.
    1. Frankie posted on 01/19/2014 12:13 PM
      @Manuel Your racism along with ignorance is revealed for all to see.
    2. donny p. posted on 01/19/2014 01:38 PM
      @Frankie It's you that's up on your history. Israel is a pure NAZI state, exceeding NAZI learned it's lessons well, like the Taoists say "you eventually become what you hate".

      He's right about Harper as well...Canadians know that Harper is only going here Bush has already been. Israel is nothing but a racist would open concentration camps for the Arabs...oh wait, they call them Gaza and The West Bank down there.
    3. Frankie posted on 01/19/2014 04:50 PM
      @donny p. You're similarly racist and incredibly ignorant. If you ever bothered to read history you'd understand. Israel is as much a nazi state as you are as intelligent as Einstein. At least you're not afraid to demonstrate your ignorance and racism.
    4. donny p. posted on 01/19/2014 05:05 PM
      @Frankie Ummm...your post makes no sense, none whatsoever. My parents lived in Palestine from 1944 to 1950, their stories of Jewish atrocities against the British and Arabs make the NAZI Germans look like the Mother Theresa.
    5. Frankie posted on 01/19/2014 05:44 PM
      @donny p. Yes there were atrocities. To equate this with Naziism shows your anti-semitic attitude and complete ignorance of Naziism.

      Let's not forget all the atrocities committed by the Arab nations and Palestinians against Israel and Jews, and Jews before Israel even existed. I wouldn't dare compare that to Naziism however Israel's atrocities however odious, pale by comparison.

      Before you embarrass yourself further try educating yourself with Naziism and what they did.

      Fortunately we have a Prime Minister who understands racism and anti-semitism for what it is, despite what many other Canadians think.

      Majority of Germans supported Hitler; doesn't mean they were correct.
    6. SCOTT posted on 01/19/2014 05:44 PM
      @Frankie Frankie, are you illiterate or just some little kid typing on your mom's keyboard? Donny is right, you're not making any sense. Perhaps, if you're a grown up, you need to crawl out of the bottle, come back when you sober up.
    7. donny p. posted on 01/19/2014 05:47 PM
      @Frankie Most of my family died in the camps in Poland, my uncle died after being tortured for 8 days by the parents made it out under British command and were transferred to Palestine. Trust me, I have very first hand experience.

      You need to grow up.
  2. kenfromcanada posted on 01/19/2014 05:55 PM
    donny p

    I love reading these diatribes. All the legitimate history in the world - and we always find a boob whose ' parents lived in Palestine from 1944 to 1950, their stories of Jewish atrocities against the British and Arabs make the NAZI Germans look like the Mother Theresa.'

    1. donny p. posted on 01/19/2014 06:02 PM
      @kenfromcanada Why would you call me "a boob"...unless you're a NAZI apologist or a historical revisionist, your comment is somewhat insulting. My dad is 95, still has the scars from Auschwitz and Birkenwald. His brother died an agonizing death after 8 days of torture.

      My mom attended midnight mass in Bethlehem in 1944...her convoy was blown up by the Irgun on the way back to camp, killing all the British soldiers and a lot of the kids...she still remembers their names.

      You need to explain this "boob" comment.
    2. donny p. posted on 01/19/2014 06:05 PM
      @kenfromcanada Unless your parents have a number tattooed on their arms, you need to STFU.
  3. kenfromcanada posted on 01/20/2014 10:45 PM
    donny p.

    Looks like you have been voting for yourself again.

    1. donny p. posted on 01/21/2014 07:45 AM
      @kenfromcanada Please explain what you mean by this.
  4. contiki posted on 01/21/2014 08:17 AM
    Taxpayers should cover the cost for The Harpers. Everyone else should pay their own way in full.
  5. kenfromcanada posted on 01/21/2014 05:27 PM
    donny p

    You two were so QUICK to post on this page when news of Harper going to Israel came out. Yet, when other (GOOD) news is posted - go to:

    you two trolls are no where to be seen. Manuel with his 'cohort ing' and donny p with his Jewish Nazi crap. Well, it is to be expected, good news doesn't further
    the agenda of revisionists and out right liars.

showing all comments

Sign Up For Breaking News Alerts

Becoming a member only takes 60 seconds! Members get access to exclusive information and products that non-members do not, including concert ticket presales, trips, advance notice on upcoming entertainment events, movie screening passes, music giveaways and more!

Login with Facebook

Top Stories

Today's Poll

Toronto has one team in the playoffs. The Raptors begin their quest for NBA glory. How far do you think they'll go?

Voting is restricted to one vote every 24 hour(s) VoteResults


Stay connected 24/7! Receive breaking news and programming alerts right to your inbox. CLICK HERE to sign-up.