Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Great friend of Israel' Harper arrives

PM treated as a rock star during Jerusalem visit

  • Print

JERUSALEM -- 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, taking in a sweeping mountaintop view of Old Jerusalem before his Israeli counterpart literally rolled out the red carpet for his Canadian friend.

Canada's prime minister is "a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people," Prime Minister Benjamin 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 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.

'I think he has taken a moral stand worthy of admiration'

-- Benjamin Netanyahu

"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, today.

That historic address -- 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.

Harper arrived in Israel earlier Sunday to kick off his inaugural visit to the Middle East, accompanied by a sizable entourage that flew into Tel Aviv under brilliantly sunny skies. He'll also visit Jordan at the end of the six-day visit.

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.

The Harpers then travelled via motorcade along a winding, scenic highway to the Mount of Olives to take in its spectacular views of Old Jerusalem. At various points along the way, children stood at the side of the road waving as they watched the motorcade go by.

As the sun began to sink slowly in the west, Haim Cohen, a research fellow at the University of Haifa, pointed out the many points of interest to the couple, the most imposing being the glittering Dome of the Rock directly across from their stunning perch. The Harpers asked several questions and intently listened to Cohen's responses.

The Mount of Olives is important in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, and has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years. It's named after olive groves that once clambered up its hillside.

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. Twenty-one 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.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2014 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


In the Key of Bart: Can’t It Be Nice This Time?

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the suspensions levied against three bantam hockey players for abusing game officials?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google