Harper enters Middle East crucible, and provides fuel to his critics - Macleans.ca

Harper enters Middle East crucible, and provides fuel to his critics


OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first full day in the crucible of the Middle East was marked by two extremes — one loud and proud, the other deafeningly silent.

On one hand, there was passionate support of Israel paired with the unequivocal moral condemnation of the Jewish state’s enemies; on the other, stony silence on the intractable issue of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory.

Some moderate Jews, Palestinians and other analysts believe those two extremes have converged at one key effect: emboldening hardliners in the Israeli government, which could make life more difficult for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s current push for peace.

“I don’t know that Canada has such enormous influence that his speech will make a lasting impact. But ultimately it’s just giving more support and adding to the motivation of many Israeli politicians to continue looking at the settlements as not really being an issue,” said Tyler Levitan, spokesman for the group, Independent Jewish Voices — Canada.

“Palestinian human rights activists support universal human rights for all people, so we are not singling out Israel. It is Harper, who refuses to challenge Israel’s systematic human rights abuses, who is making an exception of Israel by exempting it from criticism.”

Harper explained Monday in a historic speech to the Israeli parliament why he supports the Jewish state so strongly: he sees it a matter of global security and moral conviction.

Israel’s enemies are the enemies of Canada and its allies, he told Israeli lawmakers. And, as other of his cabinet ministers have done before, he evoked the Holocaust and said those who oppose the Jewish state are part of an insidious new brand of modern anti-Semitism.

Harper began the day in the West Bank, where he announced $66 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority — and abruptly shut down reporters who tried to get him to condemn Israeli settlements there.

Canada’s written foreign policy expresses such condemnation, but it has proven impossible to get Harper, his senior spokesman or Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to utter it verbally.

Harper’s message to journalists Monday was blunt and clear: stop trying, because I won’t criticize Israel on this trip.

Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian official, said he has no objection with Canada supporting Israel, but said Harper’s government has “really deviated from the long-standing Canadian policy and has also deviated from the international consensus,” which opposes Israeli settlements.

“At the time when Mr. Kerry is really trying his absolute, absolute best and utmost best to resolve the conflict, is when Mr. Harper is supporting some extreme elements within the Israeli political system,” Zomlot said in an interview with CBC television.

Monday represented a “lost opportunity” by Harper to show some true international statesmanship on the Middle East peace process, said Paul Heinbecker, Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations and a senior foreign policy adviser to former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.

“I’m disappointed that an opportunity was not taken to deliver a message to the Israelis that the world is expecting progress on this issue, and the world is judging Israel by the progress it makes or doesn’t make,” said Heinbecker.

“If he was a true friend he would have spoken more directly to what needs to be done to a two-state solution.”

Harper should have said more to support Kerry’s peace initiative, but by staying silent on the settlements, he offered “some succour to those hardline Israelis who don’t want to give up any land in the West Bank,” said Heinbecker.

“He casts this in moral terms, but what’s moral about taking people’s land and bulldozing their housing and making it difficult for them to get an education? Where’s the morality in that? Where’s the principle?”

Roland Paris, the director of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies, said Harper was right to condemn anti-Semitism but was way off-base when he said it would be “weak and wrong” to criticize Israel.

He said Canada should be willing to say publicly that “new Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories are unhelpful and should be stopped. The United States says this. So do the Europeans. Are their positions ‘weak and wrong’?”

Fen Hampson, director of Global Security at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said that at the end of the day, nothing Harper said or did represented a fundamental change in policy.

“Harper’s speech was masterful in the sense that it played to the sensitivities of his Israeli hosts, reinforced Canada’s tilt towards Israel, but it was not a 180 turn in terms of Canadian policies, which in terms of our fundamental position on the so-called occupied territories of the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem have not changed.”


Harper enters Middle East crucible, and provides fuel to his critics

  1. The US wil love us to bits eh?

    • The oracle has spoken.

  2. Do we(Canada)need to be rattling sabers in foreign countries ? So Obama says no to the Keystone Project and Harper seems to think its O K to rub dung in his face. Obama is looking like Canada used to be, a nation of building bridges to peace, now we are rattling sabers. have we lost our way ?

    • Not lost our way. Lost our minds letting this guy get in front of a mike in a foreign country

  3. The leadership group of the Palestinians have as a central tent to their constituting documents the destruction of Israel. Their children have a “Jew hating bunny” as a popular cartoon show. Palestinian schools teach children that Jews are subhuman creatures. They openly celebrate suicide bombers.
    Meanwhile Arabs have seats in the Israeli parliament. Why? Because Israel is a Westernized democracy.
    Folks who think both sides need to move to “make peace” need to give their head a shake. Israel has always wanted peace, while the Palestinians and their neighbors and supporters in Iran and Syria have always wanted the destruction of the Jewish homeland.
    It’s like trying to mediate a divorce between a wife (who’s demanding certain financial safeguards) and a Husband who openly vows to one day murder his wife. Finding “common ground” is ludicrous.
    Until the West decides to follow Harper’s lead and recognize that radical despotic regimes that preach barbarism are not to be placed on an equal footing with Western democracies, there will never be peace in the Mideast.
    Bravo Mr. Harper. Bravo, for showing true leadership in the region.

    • Would you care to back up your opening assertions with a decent source article? It’s not that I take the Palestinians cause as being blameless – far from it. I simply refuse to believe anything you assert without evidence. Surely you’ll have little difficulty backing all this up.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm8w7_P8wZ0





        Palestinians are the darlings of the “mainstream media” they would never dare report this.
        Want the link to the charter re: the destruction of Israel?? How about Palestinians celebrating suicide attacks on innocent Children?? The links are everywhere if you choose to see them.
        Obviously you could have easily searched and found what I linked to. But you prefer the leftist narrative, so you choose to ignore the very stark realities of the above.

        • Took you a couple of days to find anything. Odd considering you say it’s everywhere. Did you have to ask Soudas for a link or two in the end? Just wanted to see if you would ever back any of your assertions up there Biffer.
          Am i supposed to be shocked now? I don’t see rational people defending Hamas, and Hamas does not speak for all Palestinians. What’s more i’d bet you’re lying about mainstream media carrying anything like this if it is in fact everywhere.
          This another pathetic attempt on your part to imply there is no moderate middle that isn’t already Conservative. Anyone who dares to continue to speak on behalf of Palestinian right must just be part of the “leftist narrative”. It is true that the issue is badly polarized with far too many who feel for the Palestinians not providing a balanced view. But this is not made any better by trolls like you insisting this is simply a black and white issue and the righteous simply must line up behind Israel or simply shut up.

    • That’s why we need peace, to stop this kind of racism and indoctrination on both sides, because if you looked deep inside Israel, you would find the similar indoctrination and racism. So, no Bravo, to Harpo.

    • Are you suggesting I can build my new house on my neighbours yard and he will think this is fair..

      • If your neighbor attacked you three times to ensure your destruction and in your fight back you took over his land as a buffer. Yes. That’s seems reasonable. That’s how borders have changed for a millennium. Of course in dictatorships accountability never lies at the feet of those who started the wars to wipe out Israel. You’ll never hear complaints from the Palestinian people that it may not be a good idea to hide and launch rockets in schools and hospitals. Not publicly anyway. That’s how people in terrorist run regimes disappear. No, the Palestinian “victims” are always suffering at the hands of the Jews you know, never their own terrorist, corrupt thug leaders.
        Fun question: Do you know how many “Palestinian refugees” there are vis Arab countries? Yeah, don’t hear about those much huh? How about the persecution and exodus of Christians and Jews from their “homes” in the middle east? Nah, that never happens – so say our bettors in the media who decide the only persecution in the Mideast are the Palestinians, and only at the hands of the Jews.

  4. Harper has further entrenched Canada’s image in the international community as an “outlier”.

    This certainly ain’t yer grandpa’s Canada anymore.

  5. One of the fools below writes that palestinians (which group genius) founding document declares support for the destruction of the state of Israel. What a simpleton. The PLO (Fatah) and its former leader Arafat have acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. The Arab league has as well. Hezbollah has even stated that it will recognize 2 states if the Palestinians agree to a deal.
    The problem is Israel. It has yet to move towards a fair and just peace deal. Even the Israeli FM, Ben Ami, stated that if he was a Palestinain he would not have accepted the israeli offer at Camp David. Olmert moved closer to a fair peace offer, but fell short and ran out of time. Netanyahu and the Likud are criminals who expect the Palestinians to live in a truncated quasi state.
    The Palestinians have made concessions on every major issue: borders, settlements, and right of return. The Israelis continue to steal land and build settlements in contravention of int’l law. It is time to boycott the Israelis and shame them into recognizing Palestinian rights and international law.

    • After Harpers speech do you think we mere Canadian voters could shame them. I think the only thing we could do is shame Harper. Kick him out. On the other hand I can remember not buying S. African wine because Nelson Mandella needed help.. That worked.

    • I think it might be better to say Israel is “a” problem, rather than “the” problem.

    • Yes, the amassing of rockets and firing them into Israel after each “peace” accord is to be stricken from the record.
      Yup, the terrorist run states are chalk full of desire for peace. It’s the Israelis who really don’t want it.
      Heck Hamas is literally synonymous with the word peace actually. Jim knows what’s real.

  6. I guess that makes Paul Heinbecker an anti Semite by the framing of the new anti Semitism Harper laid down today. This guy looks more and more like a throwback to another age – maybe Victorian moralism. Gladstone even? – then a modern day statesman.
    Harper can grandstand on his principles all he wants. But he’d better be aware he probably just burned the last of his bridges to Washington. There was no reason for him to go bathe in the adulatory praise of Israeli hawks right now( other then it is a highly convenient channel changer) Harper absolutely must know he was queering Kerry’s pitch; the very man that could push keystone through. Principles don’t come cost free. Mr Harper just made himself and perhaps Canada irrelevant in Washington untill ’15 at the earliest. I hope he thinks it was worth it.

    • Harp’s blind stupidity.

      • I nearly choked on my coffee listening to this speech. What happened to dealing a fair hand. That speech was a disgrace

        • I know how you feel. We were supposed to be helping them negotiate a peace settlement…..not pour gas on the fire.

          I think it has to do with Harp’s religion. But Harp’s religion has no business in Canada’s foreign policy.

          • His religion is starting to scare me. I think most of this elected party are way too far to the right and winning an election is all that counts. Untruths dont seem to be a problem for them. This is the worst government I have ever seen. I find them scary

          • His religion involves using Jesus to hurt people….and things like Armageddon. Nothing like ‘love thy neighbour’.

  7. Harper’s history lesson forgot about the Balfour Declaration , the way Israel was created 60 years ago and Canada’s reputation as objective peacemaker is in ruins on the International stage. Harper is a huge embarrassment for all Canadians.

    • Maybe he will just stay there. He has more love for Israel than he has for Canada.

  8. “…which could make life more difficult of SoS Kerry…”

    Meaning: “Approve Keystone, choomsters, and before 2015.”

    What a great and pointed jest if that’s Harper’s real thrust in Israel (in addition to consolidating the ex-Liberal money spigot in Montreal). Kerry is mister let’s-not-rush-into-this on the pipeline? Harper just sent it back with a single digit bouquet in Bethlehem.
    What’s not to like about the PM’s gamesmanship? (It’s not as if anything Canada did or said over there would make a milligram of difference either way.) He knew exactly how this would play out, of course–the same high dudgeon from the same noisome element. That’s irrelevant, as always. It’s whether the Kerry face wash gets the message across in Swamptown on the Potomac.

    Stay tuned, droids.

    • I’m genuinely curious as to how poking a stick at the Obama administration, re: Israel, could leverage a “yes” on Keystone. No snarkiness intended. I’d really like to follow your logic, from A to B. Thanks in advance.

      • I’d like to think there’s a bit of hardball diplomacy in evidence here. The Obama administration has been foot-dragging on Keystone forever. Harper knows Kerry is seemingly desperate for some M.E.feather in his cap. What better way of putting the cat among the pigeons than to make that already impossible goal all the harder to accomplish?

        Or maybe they’ve got word that it’s going to be a negative call on Keystone, and this is Harper’s revenge. I’m good with that call as well.

        • None of this is of any use if you need your largest neighbour to do anything for you at any time in the next two years. It was all grandstanding, but it wasn’t aimed at the US but at the ever dwindling number of actual Canadian voters Harper prays can keep him in power in the next election.

          • What are they doing now, Obama’s crew? F.A. They’re clueless, so screw’em for the transitory frisson, if nothing else. The Magic Negro is polling worse than Mr. Drunken Stupour anyway. He’s only a danger to his few remaining allies. Read this way, Harper flips one bird and gets two stoners (har).
            (You really have to laugh to see all the right people exercised over this trip, though. One would like to think it was deliberate.)

        • Thanks for the reply. I appreciate it. Honestly, I don’t see Harper having much influence on the US-Israeli relationship dynamic. I’d say your second scenario is the more likely. However, I don’t know that PMSH is, in fact, playing hardball here. I believe his convictions on Israel are heartfelt.

          Again, thank you for laying out your thoughts.

          • Happy to do so, pc. (You do realize I’m a dyed-in-the wool Che-mocker? And a crypto-fascist, non-homophiliacical hater as well. You’d do well to steer clear of me. I’m regarded as an evil-tongued, offensive pot-stirrer by many–most of them brainless swine, though that’s not a swipe at GMFD above.)

  9. This speech is what is wrong with Harper in a nutshell. He is running OUR country. That does not entitle him to impose his own personal moral stance on the rest of us, or the world.

  10. Sure, Jews building near their 3,500 year old capital are an “obstacle” to peace – not the Sunnis and Shias who gas each other and kill each others kids.