On the very day 70 years ago when Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel by reading out the Declaration of Independence, some 1000 Montrealers gathered at the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue to celebrate the special anniversary by paying tribute to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada, for his unflinching support of Israel throughout his political career.
Raquel Benzacar Savatti, chief executive office for Israel Bonds Canada which organized the event, affirmed the importance of such a gathering to highlight Israel’s development and global presence since the state was declared on May 14, 1948. She emphasized that since its creation, Israel Bonds has exceeded expectations of success, noting that sales routinely surpass $1 billion a year. Savatti reiterated the words of Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, to emphasize his outspoken appreciation for Israel Bonds and the Jewish diaspora as “necessary pillars for Israel’s development.”
Israel’s Consul-General David Levy also congratulated Israel Bonds for contributing to Israel’s development as a world leader in science and technology, and “proving the skeptics wrong.”
Robert Issenman, co-chair of the event and executive vice-president of Israel Bonds, introduced Harper as an outspoken and peerless defender of freedom and democracy who paved the way to a new era in the relationship between Canada and Israel and praised him as a “fierce critic of anti-semitism.” Issenman asserted that Harper was driven to do what is right rather than what is easy, referring to his speech as Prime Minister in 2014 at the Knesset in Israel when he declared, “Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so, and through fire and water, Canada will stand by you.”
As the former Prime Minister took the floor to a standing ovation, he revealed his reasoning behind his unequivocal support for Israel – despite often being a minority voice amongst international leaders – and provided his insight on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Harper affirmed that the West ha choice to make: “either we stand by our values and interests and support our only unequivocal ally in the Middle East or the greatest threats – from countries and movements that scorn modernity and despise the values of others – will prevent us from carrying on with our daily lives in a free society.”
He went on to say that Israel was the frontline nation in western civilization’s current existential struggle against “Islamist jihadis.” He quoted his father who he said came away with an important lesson from the thirties and the war years. That lesson was “what may begin as attacks on Jews eventually become attacks on everyone.” Harper said that support for Israel was in the interests of all western nations including Canada because the only difference between Israel and us is that ”Israel is closer to the frontlines of the enemies of freedom.” To rousing applause he declared, “Our support for Israel’s right to exist is unwavering, her right to self-defense unequivocal and her right to peaceful recognition unfaltering.”
. The former Prime Minister also discussed the JCPOA agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program, denouncing the agreement as a “road map” for Iran to eventually facilitate greater nuclear capacities. He concluded his speech with advice to those in attendance: “never be afraid to take the right position for the state of Israel and never be reluctant to be proud of this position.”
A question and answer session with Murray Dalfen followed his remarks, during which Harper was asked questions pertaining primarily to the Iranian nuclear deal and his stance on the possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.