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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reiterated his nation’s staunch support for the Jewish state.

Harper, who has been a long advocate for Israel, gave an address Sunday at a dinner for the Jewish National Fund of Canada. In his remarks, the leader also announced he will be visiting Israel early next year, making him just the second Canadian prime minister to do so.

“[Israel is] a light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness,” Harper told the 4,000-strong audience.

“We understand that the future of our country and of our shared civilization depends on the survival and thriving of that free and democratic homeland of the Jewish people in the Middle East.”

“And I tell you friends, we understand that. And that’s why Israel will always have Canada as a friend in the world,” he added.

In a videotaped message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Harper for “unabashedly, unapologetically” standing by Israel.

“Stephen doesn’t follow the herd. He has stood up for the truth, time and time again. Stephen doesn’t want to be politically correct, he wants to be correct. He had the courage to stand up for what he believed,” Bibi said.

“For your clarity of conviction and thought, I salute you, Stephen.”

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