It turned badly in Israel

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Yet it began so well three days earlier



Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to Israel this week. His first trip there since he came to power.

Harper travelled in his private jet, the big Airbus 310 that once belonged to Jean Chrétien. That was before Harper spent $ 10 million repainting it from the military grey to the bright colors of the Conservative Party.

Harper invited his staff and dozens of friends and party donors, among them some of the most important Jewish businessmen in Canada, plus six cabinet ministers and nine Conservative MPs most of whom will be counting on the Jewish vote in their constituencies to help get elected.

Harper also brought along a flock of journalists, all well-chosen, plus 21 rabbis. As if there were not enough in Israel.

Harper paid the bills with Canadians taxpayers’ money. He won’t how much it cost. Wait until next year for the exact amount. Probably after the general elections.

The visit started off well. Harper began throwing flowers at the Israelis the moment he arrived. Not a single bit of criticism, not one word about the treatment of Palestinians, or about the controversy over construction of Jewish homes in occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Harper just had nice things to say about his pal Netanyahu.

Harper spoke in the Israeli Knesset and was cheered (except for two Israeli Arabs who jeered and walked out.) The Ma'ariv newspaper reported Harper’s address was "one of the friendliest Israel had ever heard from a foreign leader. »

The Israeli leader was at the height of his glory. At a private dinner he even snatched a microphone from the hands of his guest and called him «a Canadian rock star. »

Harper responded by singing the Beatles hit: «With a little help from my friends. »  Everybody knew who he meant.

That’s when things began to go wrong. The Israeli news media turned.

Too much was too much. They began to mock Harper and Netanyahu.

Cartoons appeared in the Israeli media showing the two leaders dancing together intimately. What had begun two days earlier as a sincere friendship was turning into the ridiculous.

One Israeli newspaper wrote that Harper sounded like «a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Relations Ministry. And Harper was described as a foreign visitor «who has his head in the sand " and doesn’t know what is really happening in Israel.

Israel is a democracy. Israelis don’t all think the same. And Netanyahu is not more popular in his country that Harper is in his.

Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent of the great Ha'aretz newspaper wrote that Harper «left the impression that he is much more a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu that he is a friend of Israel. » Harsh words!

Ravid continued: Harper expressed «blind support" for Netanyahu policies, he wrote, while the Israeli leader was” too quick to fall back in his old feelings of victimization and isolation.” No clippings there for the files.

Harper set back the Middle East peace process for several months, Ravi concluded. What an insult!

Not newspaper clippings either that Harper will be bringing back to Canada to show everybody.

There’s a lesson in all this. Politicians should avoid trying to please too much.



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Derniers commentaires

  • Sue Calhoun
    24 janvier 2014 - 16:58

    This is an enlightening overview of Harper's visit to Israel. You are the only Canadian journalist, that I've been able to see, who is actually reading Israeli newspaper reports on the visit. Bravo! This kind of reporting is sorely needed in Canada.