Sarah Palin, Aljazeera and the Jerusalem Post weigh-in on Stephen Harper’s Israeli stance

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Stephen Harper's middle eastern tour is getting a lot of media coverage, not only in Canada, but around the world.

The attention should be a surprise: Stephen Harper — a leader of a G-8 country — has positioned himself as the one of the world's most staunch supporter of the Israeli regime in the very divisive conflict with Palestine.

On Monday, he became the first ever Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, speaking of the bond between the two countries and explaining his unflinching support for the Jewish state.

"We either stand up for our values and our interests here in Israel, stand up for the existence of a free, democratic and distinctively Jewish state, or the retreat of our values and our interests in the world will begin," Harper said to great applause.

His stance has won some high profile bouquets and beefs.

On Tuesday morning, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin took to social media to laud Harper for his "exemplary support" for Israel.

Here's a snippet of what the now right-wing pundit posted on Facebook on Tuesday morning.

"Thank you to our good neighbors led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for their exemplary support of our friend Israel.

As significant and dangerous progress is made by Iran no doubt wanting nukes, and with the continued threats against Israel by radicals in the region, Canada's steadfastness is praiseworthy.

Friends, THIS issue, along with innumerable domestic failures of government, should warrant more concern and focus than things like, oh, say, how a Seattle Seahawk verbally ramped up after intense competition and hard fought victory.

Hold the media accountable as its priorities in coverage perhaps distract from REAL issues that actually affect your life. Hold government accountable. Let's do our own homework in order to know how the actions of leaders worldwide impact America.

And thank you, friends to (my) East! It's wise and prudent for Canada and America to stand together against evil that would seek to destroy Israel."

Praise from Sarah Palin might not be what Stephen Harper strategists ordered, but as a politician struggling in the opinion polls, you'll take what you can get.

[ Related: Stephen Harper’s ‘historic’ trip reignites debate about his staunch support of Israel ]

The beef is a biting one from John Bell, a former UN and Canadian diplomat who is now director of the Middle East and Mediterranean Program at the Toledo International Centre for Peace in Madrid.

His column was published by Aljazeera.

"Certainly, in Europe, where I live, people are baffled by Canada's zealous support for Israel," Bell wrote.

"Harper's stance is personal and ideological, not calculated interest. He may embrace a deeply held view of Israel's place in Christian eschatology, a "moral" position where Israel's existence rights historical wrongs, while also heralding of a Christian messianic future. This translates politically into a view that Israel is a country under threat that needs to be defended - more like Israel of 1966 than 2013.

"The whole affair may come down to one man's world view, Stephen Harper's, a fantasy while a long suffering Middle East goes on with its battle of tribes, its shifting sands, and its endless "tale of sound and fury". His positions may simply not matter so much there. When Mr Harper moves on, Canada, its people and its public servants may well return to a more natural role but, in the meantime, the cost is paid by the diminishing of an exceptional country: Harper's positions on the Middle East matter less than the opportunity cost to Canada's role as a catalyst of solutions. A country that could lead globally through its highly educated population, and its past excellence in multilateral diplomacy (not only on the Middle East but on climate change) is mired in a leader's myths from the 19th century, while the realities and challenges of the 21st rage on."

[ Related: Harper's security team accused of roughing up journalist on Middle East tour ]

And, finally, not surprisingly, the Jerusalem Post praised Harper's strong language in his speech.

"Like US President Barack Obama’s keynote address during his visit here in March, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech to the Knesset on Monday paid tribute to Israel’s values of freedom and democracy.

Like French President Francois Hollande, who addressed the Knesset in November, Harper also hailed Israel’s spirit and resilience.

What distinguished Harper’s comments was that the 'honey' of his praise was not then tempered by the 'vinegar' of his criticism."

No wonder, also, that most of the rest of the House stood up at the end and gave him a rousing ovation. It’s not every day that Israel, increasingly feeling isolated and alone, hears such words of praise and friendship."

Harper's middle eastern tour ends concludes on Saturday.

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