Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a sizable entourage will leave Ottawa on Saturday night for a Middle East trip that will include visits to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

The visit to Israel will be Harper's first since his election in 2006. While in Israel, he will address the Knesset - the first Canadian prime minister to do so. He will also receive an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University.

Harper's spokesman, Jason MacDonald, said the prime minister would promote commercial relations, as well as peace and security in the region, when he meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders, as well as the King of Jordan.

Harper is known as a passionate supporter of Israel and can be expected to receive a glowing reception from Israeli leaders.

The prime minister's delegation will include six cabinet ministers, at least 30 business people and community leaders and a large media contingent.