It’s been a long time since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has looked so satisfied as he did during the speech of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Knesset on Monday. Relaxed in his chair and with a big smile on his face, Netanyahu became engrossed in flattering words in English and in French that Harper showered on him from the podium.
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The Harper festival confused Netanyahu, who gave an arrogant speech, patronizing Israel’s Arab citizens; but it also confused MK Isaac Herzog, the chairman of the Labor Party, who only remembered after 10 minutes into his Knesset speech that he was there in the role of leader of the opposition.
But it seems the person who the speech went to his head the most was Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who a short time later compared the rocky hills of the controversial E- 1 area to the holiest place for the Jewish people.
Harper said on Monday important and correct things. He expressed unconditional support for Israel, for its right to exist as a Jewish state and of its obligation to defend itself against terror, defamation and discrimination in the international arena.
On the other hand, his speech was lacking in any criticism of the Netanyahu government’s policies. He completely ignored such issues as the occupation or settlements, expressed only weak support for the establishment of a Palestinian state and even granted Israel the right of a veto on this matter.
The impression Harper left on Monday was that he is a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu more than he is a true friend of Israel; that his support for the policies of the government of Israel is blind. His words blinded the eyes of Netanyahu and the ministers in his cabinet. He gave them the false feeling that everything is okay, that they are right, that if we only stand firm a bit longer, a lot more Harpers will sprout at the heads of the Western powers.
Harper spoke in his speech of the hypocrisy of the international community, but he was the one who spoke against the declared policy of his own government on the Palestinian issue. Only a few days before he arrived in Israel this policy was updated on the Internet site of the Canadian Foreign Ministry. For example, it states there that the settlements are illegal and represent an obstacle to peace.
If the Prime Minister of Canada thinks his words in the Knesset will advance peace, it seems that the opposite is true. His speech only served Netanyahu's repression instinct and strengthened his feelings of victimization and isolationism that already exists in him. Harper put Netanyahu back months from the standpoint of his attitude concerning the peace process.
Netanyahu and Harper spoke quite a lot in the Knesset in favor of telling the truth and against hypocrisy. But the truth is that with all due respect to the prime minister of Canada, his relevance in the international community, his influence on what goes on in the Middle East and his ability to help Israel in matters of life and death are inversely related to the size of his country.
Harper said a lot of important and true things on Monday, but his speech will be remembered mostly for the things he did not say and for the truths he chose to sweep under the carpet. This is not how a true friend behaves. Harper earned himself a cabin in the first class berths on the Titanic that is called the government of Israel. It will be interesting to see if that helps someone when it hits an iceberg.