Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hurray for Harper

Hurray for Harper

Ruthie Blum

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the Knesset on Monday and delivered a speech that should be required reading for all Israelis, particularly those in positions of power.

"Support today for the Jewish state of Israel is more than a moral imperative," he said. "It is also of strategic importance, also a matter of [Canada's] own, long-term interests. … Indeed, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law."

Harper then went on to expose the people who threaten the societies that uphold such ideals, as "those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others, and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt. Those who often begin by hating the Jews, but, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them. Those forces, which have threatened the State of Israel every single day of its existence, and which, today, as 9/11 graphically showed us, threaten us all."

Arab members of Knesset were not pleased. After heckling their esteemed guest, they stormed out of the hall. As radical Muslims in Western countries always do, these particular parliamentarians manipulate the tools of democracy to undermine it.

Harper, however, was undeterred; he's used to getting flak for his unflinching support of Israel and tough stance against the enemies of freedom. If anything, the little Arab walk-out served to illustrate his overall argument.

This argument, in relation to the Palestinians, was that the onus lies with them to make peace with Israel -- and to make their peace with its existence as a Jewish state.

"Our commitment as Canadians to what is right, fair and just is a universal one," he said. "It applies no less to the Palestinian people than it does to the people of Israel. Just as we unequivocally support Israel's right of self-defense, so too Canada has long supported a just and secure future for the Palestinian people. … We share with Israel a sincere hope that the Palestinian people and their leaders … will choose a viable, democratic, Palestinian state, committed to living peacefully alongside the Jewish state of Israel."

And then came the clincher: "As you, Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], have said, when Palestinians make peace with Israel, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations -- it will be the first. Sadly, we have yet to reach that point."

There we have it. No amount of negotiations brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will do anything to change the situation as it currently stands. And nothing Israel can agree to, propose or compromise on will cause the Palestinian leadership to shift its ideological objective: Israel's demise.

Recognizing this fact isn't that hard to do, with the Palestinian Authority actively promoting hatred of Jews and Israel in its media and school system. Still, one has to be paying attention and living in the real world to acknowledge it. Harper is doing both.

"I believe that a Palestinian state will come," he said. "And one thing that will make it come is when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realize that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence."

It is this message, as well as his referring to anti-Israel boycotts and "intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies" as the "new anti-Semitism," that President Shimon Peres, Justice Minister and chief Israeli peace negotiator Tzipi Livni and 100 leading members of Israel's business community should be heeding and spreading.

Alas, they are doing just the opposite.

Peres met with visiting Romanian President Traian Basescu on Monday, and impressed upon him that "a failure to [reach a peace treaty with the Palestinians] would be tragic for the Middle East," which could "flare up overnight if the talks fail."

Livni, in Washington on Monday and Tuesday to meet with Kerry and U.S. negotiator Martin Indyk, has been vocal in her claims that additional housing slated to be built in existing Israeli settlements is a "provocation" that jeopardizes the peace process.

As for Israeli's captains of industry: They are heading to the Davos Economic Forum next week, where they intend to emphasize the urgency of peace with the Palestinians, claiming it is the only way for Israel to maintain a stable economy. Last week, a group of them met with Netanyahu to prepare him for what they are planning at Davos and warn him of the consequences of Israeli intransigence.

At that meeting was First International Bank of Israel CEO Smadar Barber Tsadik, who told the prime minister that "the largest investment fund in Holland has already announced that it will not invest in Israel anymore because of its treatment of the Palestinians -- and that's a problem."

In other words, boycotts, divestment and sanctions are Israel's fault for not doing enough to make peace with the Palestinians.

It is not only shocking that Israel's upper echelons are going around humming and hammering in this false mantra; it is reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome. Luckily for Israel, the Canadian prime minister is not similarly afflicted.

Hurray for Harper.

Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"