The Canadian Foreign Minister, Rob Nicholson, received thanks and praise for being a friend of Israel from top Israeli officials Wednesday, on his first visit to the region since taking over from John Baird.

In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier thanked Canada for its friendship, before focusing on a less positive subject for the country.

Netanyahu was angered that the UK’s National Union of Students passed a motion Tuesday, which endorsed a full boycott of Israel.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has received increasing attention in Israel. The new government has said it will be prioritizing a fight-back against de-legitimization on the international scene, to be led by Minister Gilad Erdan.

Canada is a leading partner of Israel in fighting BDS activism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called anti-Zionism “the new face of anti-Semitism” in a speech in Israel’s parliament last year. He also singled out campus activism as central to the problem.

The foreign minister’s warm welcome continued in the President’s Residence. “You are a dear friend of Israel, and we listen to your comments with respect, even when we disagree,” Rivlin said to Nicholson.

Nicholson in turn responded that “Israel is a beacon of light, hope, a source of democracy, and an example to the whole world, and I am proud of Canada’s consistent, long term support for Israel.”

Before arriving, the minister had published an official statement, saying that “Israel is a close friend and partner. We will continue to affirm Israel’s right to exist and prosper as an independent Jewish state, and in its right to defend itself and its citizens.”

By Zach Pyzer
Tazpit News Agency