Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset on Monday, during the leader’s first visit to Israel since taking office in 2006.
In his remarks, Harper reiterated Canada’s close relationship with the Jewish state, saying his nation supports Israel “because it is the right thing to do.”
“After generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland, and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland…Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so,” Harper said. ”We stand up for a free and democratic Jewish state.”
He added: ”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.”
On the issue of continued peace talks with Palestine, the Canadian leader added he supports a Palestinian state within the confines of a secure Jewish state.
“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.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on hand to greet Harper, welcoming him to the Jewish state and thanking him for his continued support.
“When it comes to anti-Semitism, you have stood up unabashedly at the side of Israel and the entire Jewish people, I think at the side of decency and fairness to everyone: Jews and non-Jews alike,” Netanyahu said.
“And when it comes to Iran’s repeated calls for Israel’s annihilation and its unrelenting development of nuclear weapons, you and Canada have stood unflinchingly on the right side of history.
“And finally, when it comes to peace, you recognize that a genuine peace, a lasting peace, must be based on mutual recognition and sound security arrangements on the ground. I think in all this and in so many other things, you have shown courage, clarity and conviction.”
Canada was one of the few nations, along with Israel and the US, to vote against elevated status for Palestine within the UN last year. Also last year, Canada closed its embassy in Iran after the Islamic republic’s continued calls for Israel’s annihilation.
While in the Jewish state, Harper will meet privately with Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres to discuss strengthening trade ties. The Canadian leader is in Israel for four days.