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To Repeated Standing Ovations, Canadian PM Delivers Historic Knesset Address

Vowing to stand with Israel “through fire and water,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper today became the first Canadian premier to speak before the Israeli parliament. Amid successive standing ovations, as well as heckling from MKs Ahmad Tibi and Taleb Abu Arar of the Ra’am-Ta’al party, Harper laid out the central principles of Canada’s middle east policy, and expressed his government’s unyielding support for Israel, calling such support a “moral imperative.” (Full transcript can be found here.)

Speaking on the day that the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran and Western countries in Geneva takes effect, Harper announced that his government believed that “every diplomatic measure should be taken to ensure that regime [Iran] never obtains a nuclear weapon.” Accordingly he announced that Canada would not lift or relieve sanctions on Tehran, and that those sanctions “will remain fully in place” until Iran renounces nuclear weapons. “And should our hopes not be realized,” Harper warned, “should the present agreement prove ephemeral, Canada will be a strong voice for renewed sanctions.”

Harper’s staunch support of Israel, he stressed, grew out of a strategic calculation, a historical connection, and a profound commitment to shared values. Both Israel and Canada, Harper said, are founded on long traditions of  “freedom, democracy, and the rule of law,” which he called “the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.”

But the most impassioned part of his speech was reserved for his criticism of the attacks on Israel across the public and academic spheres, which he called “the new anti-Semitism” and condemned it as “nothing short of sickening” — triggering a standing ovation in the plenum and the departure of the two heckling MKs.

Attacks on Israel, Harper said, have become a “mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism,” while on campuses “intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students… it is nothing short of sickening.”

Regarding the negotiations with the Palestinians, Harper emphasized the need for a “viable, democratic, Palestinian state, committed to living peacefully alongside the Jewish state of Israel.”