Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered the following speech to the Israeli Parliament on Monday January 20, 2014:
And thank you for inviting me to visit this remarkable country, and especially for this opportunity to address the Knesset.
It is truly a great honour.
And if I may, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my wife Laureen and the entire Canadian delegation, let me begin by thanking the government and people of Israel for the warmth of your hospitality.
You have made us feel extremely welcome.
We have felt immediately at home.
Ladies and gentlemen, Canada and Israel are the greatest of friends, and the most natural of allies.
And, with your indulgence, I would like to offer a reflection upon what makes the relationship between Canada and Israel special and important because the relationship between us is very strong.
The friendship between us is rooted in history, nourished by shared values, and it is intentionally reinforced at the highest levels of commerce and government as an outward expression of strongly held inner convictions.
There has, for example, been a free trade agreement in place between Canada and Israel for many years, an agreement that has already proved its worth.
The elimination of tariffs on industrial products, and some foodstuffs, has led to a doubling in the value of trade between our countries.
But this only scratches the surface of the economic potential of this relationship and I look forward to soon deepening and broadening our mutual trade and investment goals.
As well, our military establishments share information and technology.
This has also been to our mutual benefit.
For example, during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, our use of Israeli-built reconnaissance equipment saved the lives of Canadian soldiers.
All such connections are important, and build strong bridges between us.
However, to truly understand the special relationship between Israel and Canada, one must look beyond trade and institutions to the personal ties of friendship and kinship.
Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years.
In generation after generation, by hard work and perseverance, Jewish immigrants, often starting with nothing, have prospered greatly.
Today, there are nearly 350,000 Canadians who share with you their heritage and their faith.
They are proud Canadians.
But having met literally thousands of members of this community, I can tell you this:
They are also immensely proud of what the people of Israel have accomplished here, of your courage in war, of your generosity in peace, and of the bloom that the desert has yielded, under your stewardship.
Laureen and I share that pride, the pride and the understanding that what has been achieved here has occurred in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust; the understanding that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.
Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.
This is a very Canadian trait, to do something for no reason other than it is right even when no immediate reward for, or threat to, ourselves is evident.
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.
It is, thus, a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.
But, I would argue, support today for the Jewish state of Israel is more than a moral imperative it is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own, long-term interests.
Ladies and gentlemen, I said a moment ago, that the special friendship between Canada and Israel is rooted in shared values.
Indeed, Israel is the only country in the Middle East, which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
These are not mere notions.
They are 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.
These values are not proprietary; they do not belong to one nation or one people.
Nor are they a finite resource; on the contrary, the wider they are spread, the stronger they grow.
Likewise, when they are threatened anywhere, they are threatened everywhere.
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