Full Transcript: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Speech to Israel’s Knesset

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The following is the full transcript of remarks made by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Israel’s Knesset on January 20th, 2014.

“Shalom.

“And thank you for inviting me to visit this remarkable country, and especially for this opportunity to address the Knesset.

“It is truly a great honour.

“And if I may, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my wife Laureen and the entire Canadian delegation, let me begin by thanking the government and people of Israel for the warmth of your hospitality.

“You have made us feel extremely welcome.

“We have felt immediately at home.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Canada and Israel are the greatest of friends, and the most natural of allies.

“And, with your indulgence, I would like to offer a reflection upon what makes the relationship between Canada and Israel special and important because the relationship between us is very strong.

“The friendship between us is rooted in history, nourished by shared values, and it is intentionally reinforced at the highest levels of commerce and government as an outward expression of strongly held inner convictions.

“There has, for example, been a free trade agreement in place between Canada and Israel for many years an agreement that has already proved its worth.

“The elimination of tariffs on industrial products, and some foodstuffs, has led to a doubling in the value of trade between our countries.

“But this only scratches the surface of the economic potential of this relationship and I look forward to soon deepening and broadening our mutual trade and investment goals.

“As well, our military establishments share information and technology.

“This has also been to our mutual benefit.

“For example, during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, our use of Israeli-built reconnaissance equipment saved the lives of Canadian soldiers.

“All such connections are important, and build strong bridges between us.

“However, to truly understand the special relationship between Israel and Canada, one must look beyond trade and institutions to the personal ties of friendship and kinship.

“Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years.

“In generation after generation, by hard work and perseverance, Jewish immigrants, often starting with nothing, have prospered greatly.

“Today, there are nearly 350,000 Canadians who share with you their heritage and their faith.

“They are proud Canadians.

“But having met literally thousands of members of this community, I can tell you this:

“They are also immensely proud of what the people of Israel have accomplished here of your courage in war, of your generosity in peace, and of the bloom that the desert has yielded, under your stewardship.

“Laureen and I share that pride, the pride and the understanding that what has been achieved here has occurred in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust;

“the understanding that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.

“Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.

“This is a very Canadian trait, to do something for no reason other than it is right even when no immediate reward for, or threat to, ourselves is evident.

“On many occasions, Canadians have even gone so far as to bleed and die to defend the freedom of others in far-off lands.

“To be clear, we have also periodically made terrible mistakes as in the refusal of our government in the 1930s to ease the plight of Jewish refugees but, as a country, at the turning points of history, Canada has consistently chosen, often to our great cost, to stand with others who oppose injustice, and to confront the dark forces of the world.

“It is, thus, a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.

“But, I would argue, support today for the Jewish state of Israel is more than a moral imperative it is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own, long-term interests.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I said a moment ago, that the special friendship between Canada and Israel is rooted in shared values.

“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.

“These are not mere notions.

“They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.

“These values are not proprietary; they do not belong to one nation or one people.

“Nor are they a finite resource; on the contrary, the wider they are spread, the stronger they grow.

“Likewise, when they are threatened anywhere, they are threatened everywhere.

“And what threatens them, or more precisely, what today threatens the societies that embrace such values and the progress they nurture?

“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.

“And so, either we 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.

“Ladies and gentlemen, just as we refuse to retreat from our values, so we must also uphold the duty to advance them.

“And our commitment as Canadians to what is right, fair and just is a universal one.

“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-defence, so too Canada has long-supported a just and secure future for the Palestinian people.

“And, I believe, 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.

“As you, Prime Minister [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.

“But, when that day comes, and come it must, I can tell you that Israel may be the first to welcome a sovereign Palestinian state, but Canada will be right behind you.

“Ladies and gentlemen, support – even firm support – doesn’t mean that allies and friends will agree on all issues all of the time.

“No state is beyond legitimate questioning or criticism.

“But our support does mean at least three things.

“First, Canada finds it deplorable that some in the international community still question the legitimacy of the existence of the state of Israel.

“Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable.

“Second, Canada believes that Israel should be able to exercise its full rights as a UN member-state and to enjoy the full measure of its sovereignty.

“For this reason, Canada has spoken on numerous occasions in support of Israel’s engagement and equal treatment in multilateral fora.

“And, in this regard, I should mention that we welcome Israel’s induction this month into the western, democratic group of states at the United Nations.

“Third, we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.

“Now I understand, in the world of diplomacy, with one, solitary, Jewish state and scores of others, it is all too easy “to go along to get along” and single out Israel.

“But such “going along to get along,” is not a “balanced” approach, nor a “sophisticated” one; it is, quite simply, weak and wrong.

“Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where that kind of moral relativism runs rampant.

“And in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted.

“And so we have witnessed, in recent years, the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain.

“We all know about the old anti-Semitism.

“It was crude and ignorant, and it led to the horrors of the death camps.

“Of course, in many dark corners, it is still with us.

“But, in much of the western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society.

“People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East.

“As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel.

“On some campuses, intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.

“Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state.

“Think about that.

“Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism.

“It is nothing short of sickening.

“But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism.

“It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make  the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.

“Of course, criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-semitic.

“But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to defend itself while systematically ignoring – or excusing – the violence and oppression all around it?

“What else can we call it when, Israel is routinely targeted at the United Nations, and when Israel remains the only country to be the subject of a permanent agenda item at the regular sessions of its human rights council?

“Ladies and gentlemen, any assessment – any judgment – of Israel’s actions must start with this understanding:

“In the sixty-five years that modern Israel has been a nation, Israelis have endured attacks and slanders beyond counting and have never known a day of true peace.

“And we understand that Israelis live with this, impossible calculus:

“If you act to defend yourselves, you will suffer widespread condemnation, over and over again.

“But, should you fail to act, you alone will suffer the consequence of your inaction, and that consequence will be final, your destruction.

“The truth, that Canada understands, is that many of the hostile forces Israel faces, are faced by all western nations.

“And Israel faces them for many of the same reasons we face them.

“You just happen to be a lot closer to them.

“Of course, no nation is perfect.

“But neither Israel’s existence nor its policies are responsible for the instability in the Middle East today.

“One must look beyond Israel’s borders to find the causes of the relentless oppression, poverty and violence in much of the region, of the heartbreaking suffering of syrian refugees, of sectarian violence and the fears of religious minorities, especially christians, and of the current domestic turmoil in so many states.

“So what are we to do?

“Most importantly, we must deal with the world as we find it.

“The threats in this region are real, deeply rooted, and deadly and the forces of progress, often anaemically weak.

“For too many nations, it is still easier to scapegoat Israel than to emulate your success.

“It is easier to foster resentment and hatred of Israel’s democracy than it is to provide the same rights and freedoms to their own people.

“I believe that a Palestinian state will come, and one thing that will make it come is when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realise that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence.

“Which brings me to the government of iran.

“Late last year, the world announced a new approach to diplomacy with the government in tehran.

“Canada has long held the view that every diplomatic measure should be taken to ensure that regime never obtains a nuclear weapon.

“We therefore appreciate the earnest efforts of the five permanent members of the security council and germany.

“Canada will evaluate the success of this approach not on the merits of its words, but on the implementation and verification of its promised actions.

“We truly hope that it is possible to walk the iranian government back from taking the irreversible step of manufacturing nuclear weapons.

“But, for now, Canada’s own sanctions will remain fully in place.

“And should our hopes not be realized, should the present agreement prove ephemeral Canada will be a strong voice for renewed sanctions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with this thought.

“Je crois que l’histoire d’israël est UN très bel exemple pour le monde entier.

“I believe the story of Israel is a great example to the world.

“It is a story, essentially, of a people whose response to suffering has been to move beyond resentment and build a most extraordinary society a vibrant democracy a freedom-loving country… with an independent and rights-affirming judiciary, an innovative, world-leading “start-up” nation.

“You have taken the collective memory of death and persecution to build an optimistic, forward-looking land one that so values life, you will sometimes release a thousand criminals and terrorists, to save one of your own.

“In the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our government takes as articles of faith, and principles to drive our national life.

“And therefore, through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.

“My friends, you have been generous with your time and attention.

“Once more, LKaureen and I and our entire delegation thank you for your generous hospitality, and look forward to continuing our visit to your country.

“Merci beaucoup.

“Thank you for having us, and may peace be upon Israel.”

23 COMMENTS

  • I’m sure he has to realize that the very ones who are guilty of the libels against Israel – and by extension – the Jewish people are those that he says should get a ‘state’ – the faux people, the ‘palestinians.’ But while the whole world is watching – and especially from Ramallah – he had no choice but to say that he supports a pal state.

  • His sincerity is real; and sadly very different than what is being expressed by US leaders – including President Obama.

  • Nice to know that Israel still has one friend in North America.

  • Prime Minister Harper’s speech proves there is a distinction between a statesman and a politician.

  • The speech has been made. To those who welcome the words, and don’t publicly stand with Israel, I have one question: What else are you waiting for?

    Who Canada is friends with is a reflection of Canada. The same can be said for each person, and each country on the face of the earth.

    May Peace be multiplied to Yisrael.

  • I am in the United States and sadly, we don’t have the leadership with Obama or Kerry that have the same knowledge of history, or the honor or the heart to do for Israel what Canada and Harper are offering. From millions of Americans we apologize for the treatment of Israel and sadly the Syrians and Iraqis that deserve more.

  • Where would humanity be if some brave people did not take risks to make this world a better, safer place? Thank you, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for your courage to speak out on behalf of Israel. Thank you for Canada’s partnership with Israel. What a better world this would be if more leaders followed in your footsteps.

    • Alan Nathan Cahn

      Bravo to a Prime Minister Harper for having the fortitude to stand on the principles of democracy that Canadians and Americans have laid their lives for.
      What does that say for our leadership .
      Israel is the light unto all nations.
      Am Yisrael a Chai,

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    Harper is setting an example for others to follow!

  • I am an octogenarian from Hungary live in this beautiful country 56 years and very very proud to notice that our prime-minister was invited to the Knesset…Mazel-tov

  • Rhonda Blender

    Mr. Harper, I ran home as fast as I could so I could get online and read your remarks. Hopefully, I can find a copy of your speech being delivered. Thank you, thank you for your comments. You are a person of integrity because you have a “True North” moral code. I hope you enjoy your time in Israel and have a safe journey home. Besides Israel, I’ve only ever visited one other country and that was Banff, Canada. I’m glad I can say I visited Canada.

  • Despite much maligning from other prominent leaders, Israel remains a beacon of light in a world that often does not welcome any light whatsoever. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands mighty tall in keeping the lights of freedom. of liberty and of democracy burning in his elegant address to the Israeli Knesset.
    If only more leaders of the stature of Mr. Harper would stand equally tall by blessing the continued existence of the State of Israel and giving thanks for all that Israel has contributed these many years.

  • ahad haamoratsim

    Israeli, Harper may be a friend, he may deserve our gratitude for his support, but there is no god except G-d, and only G-d deserves to be called G-d and to have our total gratitude.

    G-d gave us — and continually gives us — life and all of creation.

    That being said, thank you, Mr. Harper, for the courage to speak the truth when it is unpopular.

  • If only Obama and other leaders would emulate this clear thinker. Harper is a leader who cares more about truth than votes. He is not lost in moral confusion and political correctness. He does not pander to terrorists. He fears not their conquest, their anti-Semitism and their terror. G-d bless Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.

  • You may not be able to publish this (it’s from TimesofIsrael article comment), but I read the
    prior quote and left it in my last post which is attributed to the comment by “hskl2″ (whoever that is), I believe here is the source:

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-to-kerry-palestinians-continuing-incitement-against-israel/

    “There has NEVER EVER in the history of mankind been a Palestinian people; never an economy, a sovereign nation, unique language, economy etc. NOTHING. Google it. The Palestinian people was was politically invented by Egyptian Yasser Arafat (Born in Cairo) to destroy the sovereign Jewish state. The “Palestinians” are Arabs, most of whom are from surrounding areas who moved here because jobs were booming after the Jewish people started returning EN MASSE in addition to their hoemland.

    Our name is Jew, where does that come from? JUDEA (Latin for “Judah”) Where is the territory of Judah/Judea? Its the “west bank” Our 4000 yr history to this land originates in Judea/west bank.

    Its our homeland. There are equal rights for others here; its a country of all its citizens, Jew, Christian, Muslim, but a nationalism for one people, the Jewish people, and that is ZIONism.

    This is our ONLY homeland. Arabs & Muslims control 56 countries, a land mass 1000x bigger than the Jews, yet this comparative speck of land they are jealous about.

    Arab Palestinians rejected their own state in ’36, ’39,’48, ’00, ’07. The issue is not an one piece of land, its ANY Jewish sovereignty. They cannot accept this, because they are institutionalized to be close minded, violent, hateful bigots.”

    ———————

    This comment was so well written I couldn’t say it better. BTW, when will anyone mention the nearly 1 million Jews from Arab nations (Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Morocco)who left those countries? Why is there never any mention of compensation for them or their ‘descendants’ or THEIR right of return? The truth needs to be told.

  • Harper, you are my god.
    I wish leaders of the world will learn from you, and have the courage to stand up for the right causes, stand up against terrorism, and not against a country that fights it day and night.
    You stand for what you believe in, even when the rest of the the western politicians choose to support the other side, and that is beyond admirable.

    Peace.

    • Dear G-d: Just say, “Thank you Mr. Harper.” Don’t make him into a god.

      • Sonia Willats

        Yes, I remember a comment from Menachem Begin : “The Jews bow only to G-d.”

        Stephen Harper is a hero of moral courage, and he and his nation will be blessed for their stand in the face of a world full of convenient ‘political correctness’ and moral relativism, which acknowledges neither justice nor the ONLY TRUE G-d. I am pretty sure his stand takes account of the fact that Judaism, and true Christianity (not the type that hates and murders Jews) were at a time sects of one faith.

  • Victoria Gibson

    Beautifully, honestly said! Thank you. I hope the U.S. wakes up soon!

    • I am impressed with the Canadian President. He understands history and the history of Jewish people and the Erez Israel as the home of all Jews.

Yoynbee- Herzog debate McGill University 1961

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March 24, 1961

JERUSALEM (Mar. 23)

President Ben-Zvi said today he had sent a communication to Yaakov Herzog, Israel’s Ambassador to Canada, praising the envoy’s initiative in inducing British historian Arnold Toynbee to engage in a public debate on the historian’s anti-Israel charges in February.

The President expressed gratification at the tone and content of Mr. Herzog’s presentation in a two-hour debate with Dr. Toynbee on February 1, at the Hillel House at McGill University in Montreal. The envoy issued the challenge after Dr. Toynbee repeated to Hillel House audience a week earlier his public stand that there was a moral parallel between the Israeli treatment of the Arabs during the War of Independence and the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

Read more: http://www.jta.org/1961/03/24/archive/israel-ambassador-in-canada-lauded-for-his-debate-with-toynbee#ixzz2r0h93u00

DOES CROSSING THE GREEN LINE AFFECT BOWEL MOVEMENT?

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The “Green Line” is the pre-1967 border of the State of Israel, and “crossing it” means going into the ancient Jewish regions of Judea and Samaria, AKA the West Bank.

And apparently is does make one’s bowel movement more odorous, this according to the Sept. 30, 2013 PNN ( Palestine News Network) Headline : Israel Uses Settler Feces as Bio-Warfare.

Here is a quote from the article:

The Israeli army has developed a large vehicle for spraying sewage waste and feces at Palestinian protestors and homes, reportedly, in the towns of Abu Dis, Aizariah, Bil’in and Nabi Saleh.

Spraying sewage waste has become so common a weapon used by the Israeli Army that the combination of sewage water, feces, and human urine has been named “skunk”.  B’Tselem reports that ‘skunk’ and the vehicle used to disperse it, have been added to Israel’s armory for crowd control.

Here’s a short youtube about the skunk mixture.

Let’s analyze this together. [Try to keep a straight face]

  1. Premise: The Palestine News Network reports only facts.
  2. Premise: The PNN made the scientific determination that the skunk mixture contains excrement of “settlers” (as per the story headline: Israel Uses Settler Feces as Bio-Warfare).
  3. Premise: The editorial board has no access to the Skunk laboratory, rather they identified the settler BM odor solely based on its distinct smell.
  4. Conclusion: Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it: Crossing the Green Line into the Jewish villages of Judea and Samaria absolutely and positively affects the odor of one’s bowel movement.
The Skunk lifts its tail

I am shocked that the US State Department has not yet come out with a notice to US Citizens travelling in these areas.

The Truth About Palestine and The Palestinians

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Published on Jan 17, 2014
Palestine – To was or not to was? That is the question, which 2 Palestinian chicks tried to answer in an attempt to debunk, pwn and otherwise refute claims made in another video titled “Israel Palestinian Conflict: The Truth About the West Bank” – from the crafty hands of Danny Ayalon who seems to be enjoying making videos ever since he left the Israeli parliament. Well, now the poor girls got a Joniversity response.

A few links to feast on:
My facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Joniversity
Genocidal Race Traitor: http://genocidalracetraitor.blogspot….
A video where I deal with Biblical Archeology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrMNGj…
Danny Ayalon’s original video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGYxLW…
The response video by the two Arab chicks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBYkBq…
The Bill Maher bit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmizyH…

Stuff I talked about:
Anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda vs Arab anti-Israel propaganda: http://www.antisemitism.org.il/eng/Ar…

The view of the West Bank as Disputed Territory rather than Occupied Territory: http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp470.htm

Palestine laid waste with little population: http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~peters/d…

Demographics of Palestine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demograp…

League of Nations Mandate for Palestine: http://cojs.org/cojswiki/League_of_Na….

Palestinian nationalism (nice article where Benny Morris reviews Rashid Khalidi’s book): http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&…

The two chicks based some of their stuff on works by Ilan Pappe. Here’s Benny Morris shredding him one passage at a time http://www.newrepublic.com/article/bo…

My personal views:
For me personally the legal case for the West Bank as disputed territories seams sketchy, and I have a hunch that most Israelis are on the same page as I am on this. Also, I for one, do not think that the fact that the Palestinian national identity was manufactured not long ago (mainly for political reasons, but yes, also in response to a more organic sense of identity that has developed over time) means that they have more or less rights than the ancient Jewish national identity. The way I see it, trying to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict by benchmarking it against a historical justice/injustice scale simply seams extremely counter-productive – it is a fight both sides can potentially win at the face value argument level. Although Palestinians have the “advantage” of appearing as the weak party, which automatically makes a certain type of people unite in defense of the poor suffering brown native noble savage (just as they did for Israel when it was the weak party), after all weak = victim, and victim = just. Didn’t you know? And yes, it helps when that poor suffering brown native noble savage has petro-dollar money pushing its propaganda.
Be good.
Jonny.

Israel’s ex-PM Ariel Sharon dies

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Ariel Sharon (November 2005)

Ariel Sharon’s life was intimately entwined with the life of the country he loved from the moment of its birth.

He fought in its war of independence in 1948 and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role.

He was always a controversial figure in Israeli politics – certainly not universally loved – but in mourning his passing, Israelis are marking the loss of one of the few public figures left whose career stretched back to the earliest days of their state.

Ariel Sharon’s roots were in the world of Zionist pioneering zeal – he was born between the two world wars in Palestine when it was under British control – to a Jewish couple who had fled to the Holy Land from Belarus.

Ariel Sharon in Sinai (October 1967)Sharon was admired among Israelis for his military exploits

His reputation as an uncompromising and unapologetic defender of his country’s interests dates back to his military career.

He was still a teenager when he fought in the war of 1948 and in his autobiography, fittingly called Warrior, he described intense fighting against soldiers from the Jordanian Arab Legion for control of a crucial police fort on the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

He and his men lay in fields ignited by gunfire in the burning heat with water and ammunition running low.

He remained a soldier for many years afterwards, fighting with distinction in Israel’s battles with its Arab enemies in the wars of 1967 and 1973.

He helped set up Unit 101 – a commando detachment whose job was to conduct reprisal operations across the border in Arab territories to retaliate for attacks against Israel.

Such was his reputation as a military commander that some accounts of his army career say he was nicknamed the Lion of God after a particularly daring tactical parachute operation against Egypt in 1967 in the Sinai desert.

Shadow of Lebanon

But already there was a dark undertone. Allegations emerged that Egyptian prisoners had been shot and there were questions at home about whether the operation had been a military necessity.

Fifteen years later, it was another dark episode that brought Ariel Sharon international attention.

Continue reading the main story

Political Career

  • 1973: Elected Knesset member for Likud
  • 1975-77: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s special security adviser
  • 1977-81: Minister of Agriculture
  • 1981-83: Minister of Defence
  • 1984-90: Minister of Trade and Industry
  • 1990-92: Minister of Construction and Housing
  • 1996-98: Minister of National Infrastructure
  • 1998-99: Foreign Minister
  • 2001-2006: Prime Minister
  • 2005: Left Likud to found Kadima

He was minister of defence when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. The strategic goal was to bring stability to the country’s northern border by crushing Yasser Arafat’s PLO, which was then holed up in southern Lebanon and Beirut.

But the war was deeply controversial at home as well as in the wider world.

And there was worse too.

Fighters from a Christian militia group which was co-operating closely with the Israelis carried out extensive massacres in Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Shatilla.

It is likely the names of those camps will be associated with Mr Sharon’s own name as long as the history of that conflict is remembered.

Eventually an Israeli inquiry held that Ariel Sharon was “indirectly responsible” for the killing.

The war cost many lives – Israeli as well as Palestinian and Lebanese – and it casts a long shadow over his historical legacy.

Second intifada

Within Israel Mr Sharon was not finished though.

Long a supporter of the settlers who moved on to the lands Israel captured in the war of 1967 in defiance of international opinion, he saw himself as a natural leader of the Israeli right.

In a volatile place, he could be a provocative figure.

Paul Adams looks back on the life and legacy of Ariel Sharon

In the year 2000, flanked by hundreds of Israeli riot police, he staged a visit to the area of the Old City in Jerusalem which contains sites sacred both to Jews and Muslims – the Temple Mount or Harem al-Sharif.

Even though the area is in the part of East Jerusalem captured by Israel in the war of 1967, Jewish rights to pray there are limited – and it is a microcosm of the tensions that fuel the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Intense rioting followed his visit there and many people trace the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada to that moment.

Ariel Sharon was characteristically unrepentant.

Bold moves

He became prime minister in 2001, promising to bring peace and security to his country but it was a turbulent period in Israeli politics and he eventually left the governing Likud party to found his own Kadima movement while still in office.

Ariel Sharon in Nitzanim, north of Gaza (May 2005)Sharon pulled Israeli troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, a move which divided his supporters

Peace remained elusive then as it is elusive now.

It was on his watch as prime minister that construction of a barrier began with the intention of preventing suicide attacks on Israel from the Palestinian territories.

His supporters would argue that it worked. Its detractors would say it entrenched an already deep sense of separateness.

He did not shy away from bold political moves though. The man who had supported Israeli settlers ordered their removal from Gaza when he decided to withdraw from the Palestinian enclave beside the Mediterranean in 2005.

It was precisely his reputation as a hardliner that allowed him to sell to his supporters a decision with which many felt instinctively uncomfortable.

Not long afterwards, he slipped into the coma from which he was never to emerge and we will never know how he would have followed up that decision or where it might have led.

Ariel Sharon died hated by Israel’s enemies but there are plenty of Israelis who would argue that the depth of that hatred was a measure of the success with which he always defended the country he served.

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The Islamization of France in 2013

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Inside Israel’s White House: How Netanyahu runs the country

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Decisions and planning increasingly concentrate around PM, who has enlarged role of key advisers, placed more value on inner cabinet, marginalized certain ministries

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consults with his advisers at Blair House in Washington, May 2011.  Gil Shefer is at far left. Dore Gold is at far right. Ron Dermer sits, second from the right, with back to camera in short-sleeved shirt. Yaakov Amidror (bearded), Yitzhak Molcho (partially obscured by Netanyahu) and former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser (black T-shirt, spectacles) are also at the table. (Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Flash90)

Benjamin Netanyahu will complete his eighth (nonconsecutive) year as prime minister in March 2014, more than any Israeli premier except the state’s founder, David Ben-Gurion.

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And as the years go by, unsurprisingly, Netanyahu is leaving a deepening imprint on the way in which the country is governed.

Turnover is relatively high among his innermost circle of advisers and aides, who frequently last as little as two years at his side and all too often, especially in recent years, leave amid a cloud of scandal and negative press. At the same time, the role of some of those advisers has become increasingly central, as the Prime Minister’s Office seems to be filling an ever-more influential role in national policy.

“There is an international phenomenon of concentration of foreign policy power in the hands of presidents and prime ministers,” noted Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser who has writtena book about Israel’s decision-making process. And this consolidation has happened quickly in Israel, where the PMO now handles all major issues of diplomatic and security policy, including the peace talks with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear crisis and the most important of Israel’s diplomatic relationships, such as those with the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at an October 9, 2012 press conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, announces he's calling elections. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In the PMO under Netanyahu, that sees a great deal of close consultation with key advisers, a notably expanded role for the National Security Council, and a changing structure of the inner “security cabinet” of top ministers.

It also means less influence for the individual ministries and ministers in some areas that used to be their exclusive purview.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer at a press conference in the Knesset, June 24, 2013. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster / Flash90)

When Netanyahu was finance minister under prime minister Ariel Sharon, for instance, it was he who recruited Stanley Fischer as governor of the Bank of Israel. When Karnit Flug was appointed Fischer’s successor in October, in a chaotic and protracted process, by contrast, Finance Minister Yair Lapid most emphatically did not exclusively oversee the selection.

Likewise, the question of Bedouin resettlement would in previous years have been a matter overwhelmingly for the Interior Ministry. Under Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s Office has been centrally involved.

‘A dialogical personality’

Amid the process of consolidation, Netanyahu is said to be more open than some of his predecessors were to the views of trusted staff around him.

“Bibi has a dialogical personality,” said one confidant who asked not to be named. “He makes decisions in the course of discussion. He needs a conversation partner to make those decisions.”

Netanyahu takes a close interest in the views of those around him, confirmed another source familiar with the prime minister’s deliberative process. “He’s always asking questions, interrogating you for your opinion, and writing down what you’re saying.”

That aspect of Netanyahu’s personality is both an advantage and a crutch, the confidant added.

The advantage: Netanyahu is “flexible and thorough” when making decisions. “Every decision requires 10 discussions. He’s not hasty like some previous prime ministers.”

The disadvantage: “He can seem indecisive, fickle. No decision is final until it’s actually being implemented. Decisions often change in the course of discussion, both because his reasoning continues to develop and because those who know him well know how to focus their arguments to reach certain conclusions.”

Whether or not this personality trait is beneficial to forming national policy, there is no doubt it gives an outsize role to those who surround and engage the prime minister in those policy discussions.

As power concentrates around a premier who gives added weight to his advisers’ views, those advisers are becoming increasingly important for any understanding of how the machinery of power is managed and critical decisions are made in the State of Israel.

Enlarged role for the NSC

The shift of diplomatic and security policymaking into the hands of the prime minister is a global phenomenon. In part, this is due to inevitable changes in technology, Freilich explained.

“Foreign ministries face a real question. Why are they needed? Today, if a prime minister wants to know what the Americans are thinking, he calls up [Secretary] Kerry or [President] Obama. Foreign ministries don’t have the roles they used to have, where ambassadors on the ground were absolutely essential, especially [in light of modern] media and communications.”

The issues now handled in the PMO “don’t leave the Foreign Ministry with much of anything of consequence,” noted Freilich. “I think that’s understood by most people today. The Foreign Ministry deals with day-to-day caretaking and maintenance of relations.”

In order to effectively manage this workload in the PMO, Netanyahu has slowly constructed over several years Israel’s first policy planning staff directly answerable to the prime minister.

Founded in March 1999 by the first Netanyahu government, just three months before that coalition’s demise, the National Security Council struggled for a long time to find its place in the decision-making structures under other premiers. It received a significant boost when its responsibilities were anchored in law in July 2008, just in time for Netanyahu’s return to the Prime Minister’s Office in March 2009.

All former officials and confidants who spoke with The Times of Israel for this story emphasized the enlarged role Netanyahu has carved out for the National Security Council. Its head, the national security adviser, has his office just meters away from the prime minister in the Aquarium, the glass-fronted inner sanctum in the PMO reserved for the premier himself and his closest aides.

The NSC is now responsible for the highest-level contacts between Israel, the US, major European powers and even, more recently, Russia. It regularly communicates, officially and unofficially, publicly and secretly, with the highest levels of these governments. It even handles the high-level policy workload on broader issues of geopolitical import, such as Israel’s gas exports.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to Barack Obama at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem in March. (photo credit: Pete Souza/Official White House)

One recent example is telling. After the public spat between Netanyahu and Obama over the interim nuclear deal with Iran in November, the two leaders agreed in a December phone call that Israel would send a senior official to Washington to handle US-Israeli talks on the permanent agreement with Tehran. For perhaps the most critical and sensitive discussions on the issue Netanyahu himself has called his government’s number one priority, the prime minister chose to send his newly installed national security adviser, Yossi Cohen.

When he appointed Cohen’s predecessor, former IDF major-general Yaakov Amidror, to the top NSC post in 2011, Netanyahu’s public statement left little doubt as to how he viewed the position. Amidror, he said, “will lead the National Security Council as a body central to determining Israel’s national and security policies.”

Yossi Cohen, who's been appointed to chair Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's National Security Council (photo credit: courtesy)

The two national security advisers who preceded Cohen were former Mossad head of intelligence Uzi Arad, a noted expert on the Iranian nuclear question, and Amidror, who has written extensively on the security challenges posed by neighboring Arab states and Palestinian terror groups. Both are known as wide-ranging strategic thinkers.

But the choice of his newest adviser, a former Mossad number two, has raised eyebrows. Cohen is generally thought of as a keen operations man, say insiders, not a strategic and policy planning expert.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert at his last cabinet meeting, March 29, 2009. (Photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski / Pool / Flash 90)

“Cohen’s predecessors all had extensive strategic and diplomatic experience,” said Freilich. “Ilan Mizrahi [who served for a year and a half under Ehud Olmert from 2006 to 2007] was, like Cohen, a Mossad operations man. But even he had some diplomatic experience by the time he became the national security adviser. Cohen doesn’t seem to have that background.” Even so, Freilich concluded, Cohen “is a very smart man and can learn.”

“Yossi Cohen is an operational guy,” agreed a source close to the PMO. “He’s very much about implementation. But that’s also part of the NSC’s work. It prepares briefing papers for meeting foreign officials, writes briefings, handles a lot of day-to-day diplomacy. A lot of foreign governments speak to the NSC.”

Cohen is one of a triumvirate of key national security advisers on whom Netanyahu relies on a daily basis, according to several sources familiar with the inner workings of the PMO. The other two are the prime minister’s military secretary, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, and the cabinet secretary, former chief military advocate general Maj. Gen. (res.) Avichai Mandelblit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his former National Security Adviser Ya'akov Amidror and (background) cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at the PMO in Jerusalem on November 3, 2013. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Not all cabinet secretaries have been influential figures in recent years, with some chosen by the prime minister for their past loyalty or effective management skills.

But Mandelblit is in the room a lot with the prime minister, several sources said. “He has a quiet and low-key personality, but quiet waters run deep,” said one. “He is an expert in international law, so he’s in a lot of diplomatic meetings where you didn’t necessarily see his predecessor.”

With Mandelblit’s appointment in April, “the status of the post has possibly been enhanced.”

But the rise of the NSC has not occurred without causing friction with the other major national security advisory post, that of the military secretary.

Unlike the national security adviser, “the military secretary doesn’t have a support staff. He has one or two people working for him,” notes Freilich.

Freilich believes “there has to be a serious change in the role of the military secretary. He shouldn’t be in charge of preparing meetings. He has to be a serious strategic planner. Maybe the military secretary should become deputy head of the NSC.”

Israeli Ambassador to the US presents his credentials to President Barack Obama at the White House, December 4, 2013 (photo credit: Twitter/ Amb. Ron Dermer)

The NSC’s centrality is also highlighted by the fact that it took on most of the duties held by Netanyahu’s former adviser and new ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer.

The US-born Dermer, who cut his teeth in political consulting as a Republican pollster in the United States in the 1990s, held a unique position at Netanyahu’s side as a political adviser, foreign policy analyst, and a key source of insight into Netanyahu’s main foreign policy target: the United States. He left the PMO in March and was appointed ambassador to Washington in July.

Tellingly, Dermer is not being replaced.

“Dermer was personally close to the prime minister. His job was to be the close adviser,” said one former official. “Now the head of the NSC is filling that role.”

“There’s no doubt Dermer had a unique role with the prime minister,” said another source familiar with the pair. “They had a relationship that predates him taking office. [Dermer advised Netanyahu from 2008, a year before he became prime minister.] Now that Dermer has moved on to Washington, different parts of his responsibilities were divided up. A lot of it went to the NSC.”

The growing centralization of policymaking around the prime minister is also highlighted by Netanyahu’s preference, like other recent premiers, for “external” advisers, individuals who are given senior policy roles but are not government employees. The two key external advisers are attorney Yitzhak Molcho and former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold.

While Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is the top political face of the peace talks with the Palestinians, Molcho is the personal representative of the prime minister. It is significant that as per Netanyahu’s instructions, the negotiators cannot meet without Molcho being present. A close personal confidante of the prime minister, who also serves as Netanyahu’s family attorney, Molcho has served as Netanyahu’s chief peace negotiator for many years, managing his contacts with Yasser Arafat during his first government in the 1990s, and again with Abbas since 2010.

Gold has a similarly long relationship with the prime minister, having served as a peace negotiator alongside Molcho in 1996-7, and then spending much of Netanyahu’s first term, from 1997 to 1999, as Israel’s ambassador to the UN. An outspoken activist — Gold has published three books in recent years about the radical ideology of the Saudi state, Iran’s nuclear drive and the future of Jerusalem — Gold has served as president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a conservative policy think tank in Jerusalem, since his retirement from public service.

Last month, it was announced that Gold would return to Netanyahu’s side as an external adviser. While Netanyahu has emphatically placed the peace talks in the hands of Molcho, US-born Gold’s experience at the UN and other international forums, his expertise in Middle East politics (he holds a PhD on the subject from Columbia University) and his knowledge of the United States suggest he will likely fill part of the role left vacant by the departed Dermer.

Sara Netanyahu

No survey of Netanyahu’s inner circle is complete without noting the looming presence, or at least the allegations of the looming presence, of Netanyahu’s wife.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah on September 27 at the UN in New York after Netanyahu's speech to the General Assembly (photo credit: Avi Ohayun, GPO)

Sara Netanyahu, a child psychologist, has been the target of scorn and criticism from many Israeli journalists and news outlets, and indeed won a major libel suit against an Israeli paper for its critical portrayal of her, a remarkable feat given Israel’s comparatively strict legal definitions of libel.

It is not always easy to sift through the over-the-top criticism, much of it generated by her husband’s opponents, to understand her precise role at the prime minister’s side.

There is no doubt she plays a central role in the prime minister’s inner circle. Netanyahu “listens to her on almost everything,” said a former official. “Not on Iran, of course, but on almost everything.”

Nor does he consult with her on peace talks with the Palestinians, said another source.

In fact, she does not advise the prime minister on policy, most former officials and observers agree, but rather on political questions. She is his self-appointed but much-trusted political handler and occasional media adviser.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen with his wife Sara and their son Yair, celebrates his 64th birthday, at the PMO in Jerusalem, October 20, 2013. (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon GPO/FLASH90)

“She’s very concerned with what happens to him,” said one source close to the prime minister. “She admires [Netanyahu], thinks he is practically a gift from God to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and is very sensitive to attacks on him. She also follows the media carefully.”

Netanyahu’s outgoing chief of staff, Gil Shefer, made a point of involving Sara in all goings-on in the Prime Minister’s Office and in his political activities, sources said. Shefer’s replacement, the US-born Ari Harow, who is returning to Netanyahu’s side after having served as an adviser and chief of staff from 2007 to 2010, is also expected to make coordination with Sara Netanyahu a key function of his job.

The chief of staff role is larger than mere coordination with Israel’s First Lady, of course. But with Sara taking a keen interest in the prime minister’s domestic political position, and with the effective merger of a PM’s personal and professional lives once he or she moves into the Prime Minister’s Residence, it is not a minor part of the role, either.

What about the cabinet

Finally, Netanyahu’s decision-making process cannot be understood without examining the changing structure of his cabinet. In the last government, Netanyahu appointed a security cabinet — the committee of ministers charged by law with national security decisions — that hovered around 15 members. But he was frustrated repeatedly by leaks and indecisive debate in the large group, and decided to form an ad hoc “Group of Seven” cabinet that eventually expanded to become a Group of Nine. It was in this smaller, unofficial committee where real decisions and high-level policy discussions actually took place.

Netanyahu has applied that lesson to his current government. He restructured the security cabinet down almost to the minimum size required by law. It now comprises just eight members: Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Justice Minister Livni, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Home Front Security Minister Gilad Erdan. It is advised on an ongoing, permanent basis by two senior officials, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and — who else? — the prime minister’s national security adviser Yossi Cohen.

According to those familiar with its workings, the cabinet meets “very regularly” and is now the main forum where “the serious discussions are held.”

The Israeli White House

Many of these changes in the structure of national security decision-making at the highest levels of the Israeli government will likely outlive Netanyahu’s premiership. Indeed, the impulse to concentrate policy around the prime minister extends beyond security questions.

The Prime Minister's Office (photo credit: Flash90)

Netanyahu more or less openly acts as the nation’s top economic planner, taking a decisive role in appointing the new Bank of Israel governor and setting macroeconomic targets. Under him, key questions of domestic policy, including extending free public schooling down to the age of three, Bedouin resettlement plans and Arab sector economic development, have been brought under the umbrella of the PMO’s Planning Directorate headed by Udi Prawer.

Netanyahu, who speaks native English and was an early adopter of American political campaign methods into Israeli elections, has often been called Israel’s most “American” prime minister.

Whatever truth there may be in these claims of cultural affinity, there is little doubt the PMO under Netanyahu, with its advisers and policy planners and growing control over ever-expanding policy arenas, is looking more and more like Israel’s White House.

Read more: Inside Israel’s White House: How Netanyahu runs the country | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/inside-israels-white-house-how-netanyahu-runs-the-country/#ixzz2phh6IjLc
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