PM Harper tells Knesset Canada will back Israel ”through fire and water”

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In his address before the Knesset plenum on Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his country would stand with Israel ”through fire and water” and would not tolerate its delegitimization.

Speaking in both French and English, Canada`s national languages, Harper told the Israeli parliamentarians that ”To truly understand the ties between Canada and Israel one must go beyond the institutions and look at the ties between peoples. Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years… 350,000 Canadians share with you their heritage. They are immensely proud of what was accomplished here.”

”Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so,” he said. ”We stand up for a free and democratic Jewish state.”

”On many occasions, Canadians have even gone so far as to bleed and die to defend the freedom of others in far-off lands. To be clear, we have also periodically made terrible mistakes as in the refusal of our government in the 1930s to ease the plight of Jewish refugees. But, as a country, at the turning points of history, Canada has consistently chosen, often to our great cost, to stand with others who oppose injustice, and to confront the dark forces of the world,” Harper told the Knesset.

In his speech, PM Harper declared that ”It is right to support Israel because after generations of persecutions the Jewish people deserve their own homeland.”

Harper, the first leader of his country to address the Knesset, said Canada also supports the establishment of a Palestinian state. ”Just as we support Israel we support peace for the Palestinians,” he said, and later added that ”I believe that a Palestinian state will come when the people will realize that peace is the way.”

Canada, Harper told the Knesset, will not accept the delegitimization of Israel, ”Canada finds it horrible that there are those in the international community who challenge Israel’s legitimate right to exist,” he said. ”That with one solitary Jewish state among many others, it is all too easy to isolate Israel.”

The Canadian leader also told the Israeli lawmakers that he believed expression of anti-Zionism to be on par with anti-Semitism. ”Anti-Semitism still exists in its traditional form based on ignorance in some of the dark corners of the world,” he said. ”In the Western world it takes on a more sophisticated form. With some intellectualized arguments on some campuses. This is the new face of anti-Semitism.”

Addressing the issue of Iran, PM Harper vowed that ”Canada`s sanctions against the Islamic Republic ”will stay in place.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Canadian counterpart that the people of Israel thank him for his ”steadfast support and sincere friendship.”

Turning to Harper, PM Netanyahu said: ”You chose to begin your visit to Israel by touring Jerusalem; this is the same Jerusalem which has been the eternal capital of the Jewish nation for more than 3000 years, from the times of King David. In the international community there are those who try to deny our connection to our capital, Jerusalem. In the international community there are also those who recognize the facts. But you Stephen, you have the courage to stand up for the truth and the courage to say the truth. ”

”We live in an age of hypocrisy. Instead of dealing with mass slaughter, the oppression of women and of religion, there are those who point an accusing finger only at Israel, the only democracy in the area which respects human rights and promises the freedom of religion to all of its citizens. In this age of hypocrisy that we live in, Canada is a moral compass and a beacon of good sense,” he added.

”You stand at the side of Israel in its war against terror; you fight vigorously against anti-Semitism and recognize our desire for a true peace based on a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people; a peace that is based on a strong security arrangement.”

”Stephen,” Netanyahu said, ”You made the trip from Jerusalem to Ramallah and saw that the distance is not great. This illustrates why we strive for peace, but it also illustrates why we need stable security arrangements. In such short distances we have no room for error. We must make certain that after an agreement, what will break out of the ground in Ramallah are residential towers and not rockets and missiles, as is happening in Gaza today.”

In his speech Netanyahu also criticized the interim Iranian nuclear agreement, saying it does not prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons. The PM urged the international community to stop Iran from obtaining these arms.

The ”international community must take the Iranian nuclear train off the tracks in a permanent agreement… it is about time the international community stop legitimizing Iran while it is still calling for the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, whose speech opened the special plenum session in honor of PM Harper, said ”It is a great honor for us to host you here in Israel and in the Knesset as the head of the government of our friend Canada and as someone who displayed courageous and consistent support for the State of Israel.

”Your clear words that you proudly announce from any stage without thinking of the possible political consequences are a source of support and pride for us. They provide us with the knowledge that Israel does not stand alone in its struggles,” Edelstein stated.

”A few years ago, I sat not far from you at a ceremony dedicated to the struggle against anti-Semitism that was held in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. I was excited to hear your words, and I quote: `When Israel is the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, and is constantly and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, we are morally obligated to take a stand … against Demonization, double standards and delegitimization.`

”I think, Mr. Prime Minister, that whoever listens to the way that you talk about Israel will not just find someone with a real-politick common interest or even just someone with a strong moral obligation to the promotion of an open society and a strong democracy,” said the Knesset Speaker. ”Whoever listens to your words on Israel with great attentiveness will find within them a great affection.”

Addressing the US-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Edelstein said, ”When you want to begin a peace process you need a partner. Today, sadly, the Palestinian Authority and its leadership do not constitute a partner, as long as the wild incitement continues, including the use of Nazi symbols…in the schools and kindergartens of the PA.”

”As long as anti-Semitic expressions are used by the Palestinian media and on the streets with the guidance and support of the PA, which is supposed to act as a partner, we cannot speak seriously of a peace process,” the Knesset Speaker argued.

Opposition leader Issac Herzog thanked PM Harper for his ”strong position, which is based on moral clarity towards what we in this House represent and towards the Zionist vision in general.”

Turning to Harper, Herzog said ”I have often heard my friends in the Jewish community in Canada speak excitedly about your deep emotional connection to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

In his speech, Herzog mentioned that Canada took in tens of thousands of Jews who fled the Holocaust and stated that Canada has supported Israel since its inception. Herzog, the leader of the Israel Labor Party, said Israel and Canada share a ”vision of advanced and enlightened countries; we share a vision of peace, and we share a concern about the Iranian nuclear program…we thank you and your government for your strong and determined stance in the international arena against Iran`s maneuvers to develop weapons of mass destruction.”

Herzog, who spoke after PM Netanyahu, continued to say that the Opposition he heads ”believes in the crucial need to separate from the Palestinians while preserving Israel`s security.”

”Our position is that a Palestinian state should be established alongside Israel, on the basis of the 1967 lines, with the annexation of large settlement blocs and land swaps,” he declared.

Herzog urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to take advantage of the ”rare opportunity presented to both nations and advance towards peace with courage and determination.”

The Opposition leader also called on both sides to support the peace efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry

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