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.

Sharon’s political legacy: Livni and Lapid are in his debt

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Pulling Israel out of Gaza, Sharon created a new constituency of Israeli voters looking for peace but without compromising on security. Its impact is felt even today

His military prowess made him famous, his disregard for the rules infamous and his decision to pull Israel out of Gaza a legend, but few outside of Israel remember him as the unlikely father of the Israeli political center.

Kadima election poster (Photo: Gilad Kollorchik)
Kadima election poster (Photo: Gilad Kollorchik)

Following his overwhelming defeat in the 1999 elections,Benjamin Netanyahu resigned the Likud leadership, and Sharon was elected as his successor in Israel’s right-wing party.

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In 2001, with the Likud under his control, General Sharon ran against Ehud Barak in a special election for prime minister, and won by a landslide. Sharon was still the epitome of the Israeli rightwing: Militant, headstrong and unabashedly opposed to the land-for-peace formula.

But after two years of a brutal and bloody intifada, which left more than 4,000 Palestinians and Israelis dead, Sharon began to promote his plan for unilateral Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

The plan swayed neither to the left nor right: On the one hand it called for the uprooting of Israeli settlements, settlements Sharon himself had built as housing minister, yet it wasn’t leftist: its underlying rationale was not one of dialogue and peace, but rather a unilateral “disengagement” from the Palestinian people – a severing of a rotting umbilical cord, not an end to the occupation.

More importantly, the plan was primarily concerned with Gaza, and not with the West Bank.

Against all odds, and despite a severe internal crisis within the Likud, the Disengagement Plan took place in August of 2005; eight thousand settlers were removed from Gaza, and their homes demolished. In the aftermath and the not unexpected political fallout, Sharon announced his departure from the Likud to establish a new party – Kadima , or Forward.

The rationale behind the party’s formation was both ideological and political: Sharon had come to understand that he would not be able to realize his vision for the region through the Likud – yet it was obvious that he had no viable home in the Labor party that he despised, and which despised him just as much.

Pulling moderates from the Likud and disgruntled Labor MKs – among them current President Shimon Peres – Arik created ex nihilo a centrist party based around the premise of unilateral disengagement from Palestinians, a vaguely liberal ideology and a capitalistic agenda.

While it was far from being Israel’s first centrist party, Kadima succeeded where others had failed, overcoming classic political and ethnic fault lines and consolidating a constituency underrepresented on either the right or the left; both in terms of economy and security.

Unlike its political predecessors Shinui (Change) and before that Dash, which ran on a strong liberal and anti-religious agenda and failed to step beyond the niche of wealthy Ashkenazi voters, Kadima managed to pull in right-wing Sephardic votes – at the expense of the Likud – as well pragmatic and free-market oriented Labor voters.

Riding on Sharon’s political and military clout, Kadima managed to present a viable alternative to the classic left-right (Likud-Labor) divide. It allowed the middle class to vote for a two-state solution, without compromising on security. It was a peace-oriented jingoism of sorts.

Thus, Sharon, the man who always got his way, cashed in on a crisis of representation and facilitated a new type of politics in Israel – one unbound by international demands or messianic land-grabs.

Kadima’s impressive success in the elections after Sharon’s collapse consolidated the center as a long-term presence in the Israeli political scene; not so much as any specific party, but as a political force to be reckoned with.

And although Kadima failed to follow up on its 2006 victory, and its power seemed to slowly ebb away, the modest success ofTzipi Livni ‘s Hatnua and the massive win by Yair Lapid‘s Yesh Atidgive weight to the belief that there is a large number of Israelis still in search of a political home.

Lapid managed to pick up the votes that Livni and her Kadima successorShaul Mofaz lost, but the pool of voters over which they’re fighting is Sharon’s doing. Thanks to Sharon, a new constituency has been born in Israel.

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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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