Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t seem to get enough of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stealing the microphone briefly during a big private dinner in Jerusalem last night to gush that he was hosting "a Canadian rock star!”
Indeed, Harper did serenade him — and a couple of hundred other Israeli and Canadian guests — by singing part of his Beatles repertoire. Including, appropriately, With a Little Help from My Friends.
Few can remember such strong political support for Netanyahu from any visiting foreign leader.
But beyond Official Israel, Harper’s impact here has been minimal; his visit barely creeping onto the front page of any Israeli newspaper, especially the big Hebrew-language ones, or on radio or TV.
Far less coverage than other visiting leaders have had, including France’s François Hollande, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and, of course, U.S. President Barack Obama.
The media reported a few lines from his speech to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, with the daily Ma’ariv calling it "one of the friendliest speeches of support ever heard from the leader of a foreign country in the Knesset."
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Summing up the visit, today’s editorial cartoon in the English version of Haaretz showed Harper and Netanyahu dancing closely, while a dejected looking leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, looks on.
The left-leaning Haaretz wasn’t impressed. In an analysis piece, its diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid concluded that "the impression Harper left… was that he is a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu more than he is a true friend of Israel; that his support for the policies of the government of Israel is blind."
"If the Prime Minister of Canada thinks that his words in the Knesset will advance peace," Ravid writes, "it seems that the opposite is true. His speech only served Netanyahu’s repression instinct and strengthened his feelings of victimization and isolationism that already exists in him. Harper put Netanyahu back months from the standpoint of his attitude concerning the peace process."
The right-leaning Jerusalem Post noted that Israel’s Zionist Left was also critical.
"I felt his head is in the sand and he hasn’t seen what’s really happening here," said Zehava Gal-On, who described him as a "spokesman of Israel’s Foreign Ministry."