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PM Stephen Harper at Yad Vashem
photo by Ian Rabb

Prime Minister Harper, Pime minister Netanyahu, David Asper and Michael Kowalson


MP Joyce Bateman: The Prime Minister’s visit to the Middle East was focused on increasing trade and investment and regional security

by Rhonda Spivak, January 22, 2014

There is no question that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is very popular in Israel and that Canada is considered  Israel's best friend in the world.


As a driver for one of Israel's Knesset members from the opposition said in the lobby of the David Citadel Hotel, "Is Harper Jewish? He should run for Prime Minister of Israel. He'd be elected. He would make a good Israeli Prime Minister."


The sentiment was echoed by another employee at the hotel who said, "What I like about Harper is that he is authentic-the real thing. He says what he really thinks and he is not afraid to stand up for us. If there were three or more world leaders who spoke more like him, it would make a world of difference for Israel."


"We're used to seeing [US Secretary of State] John Kerry in this hotel with his entourage every few weeks.  I'd much rather see Harper than Kerry," a doorman at the hotel commented.


The American Jews in the lobby of the hotel, where Canadian flags were placed on the street outside, said "We wish Harper were our Prime Minister instead of Obama."


As a Hebrew media outlet had reported there is a joke in Israel that every time Bibi has to meet Obama he stops first in Canada to get encouragement from his friend Harper.


Another Jerusalemite said "Thank goodness for Harper. Israel is entitled to have one friend in the world."


Other Israelis noted that they had realized someone important was at the hotel since security was tight "and we saw snipers on the roof." A nearby restaurant owner added "Oh, the Canadian Prime minister is here. That's why there was such a big traffic jam today"--since Harper's large entourage was noted as it traveled to places such as the Western Wall, the Knesset, and Prime Minister Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem.


There was an issue about the hanging of flags outside  the entrance of the David Citadel Hotel as the custom in Israel as decided by a state committee is that flags are only put out for a head of State ( This would mean that for Canada, flags would be put up for the Queen). Down the street at the King David Hotel flags were put up for the President of Romania but not for Harper. However, Netanyahu personally intervened and told the committee that there would be an exception to the usual norm, and ordered them to put the flags up.


Phillip Reichmann of Toronto, Co-Founding Partner of ReichmannHauer Capital Partners, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review he was very excited to be part of the Prime Minister's delegation to Israel. "This is a great moment. The Prime Minister is a great friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish community. He deserves all of the accolades he is getting."


The close friendship between Israel and Canada was not lost on anybody in the visiting Canadian delegation of 200 people who arrived with Harper, and who were at dinner events hosted by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Jewish National Fund.


As an article by Avi Baneihu in the Hebrew media newspaper "Sof Hashavua" noted, Canada under Harper's leadership has stepped into the vacuum created by Obama's foreign policy failures in the region. As he wrote, Canada's close relationship with Israel will no doubt result in increased trade and economic co-operation between the two countries, in addition to political friendship.


As MP for Winnipeg South Joyce Bateman told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “The Prime Minister’s visit to the Middle East was focused on increasing trade and investment and regional security. I am particularly proud to have joined the Prime Minister on this mission, following his historic speech to the Knesset that underscores the special friendship and shared values between Canada and Israel.


"The delegation was strengthened by many prominent Jewish community and business leaders from Winnipeg. As the focus of our mission was creating jobs and increasing trade, I am confident that the strong representation, especially from Manitoba’s respected business community, helped our Conservative Government achieve that objective."


In a similiar vein, CIJA Chair David Koschitzky added that Harper's visit "has served as a platform for deepening the bilateral relationship [between Israel and Canada] across a range of economic, scientific and strategic sectors."  Amir Gissin, former Israeli Consul General in Canada, who has recently founded Circleaders told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he had recently founded Circleaders, a private business initiative to increase trade and business ties between Canada and Israel.


As Marty Morantz, one of the Winnipeg delegates on Harper's mission told the Winnipeg Jewish Review "I was honoured to be a delegate to the Prime Minister's official state visit to Israel. It was the experience of a lifetime. Seeing the Prime Minister address the Israeli Parliament was a very special moment. His speech was of historic importance.  All Canadians should be proud of the relationship Canada has developed with Israel."

Michael Kowlason, another one of the Winnipeg delegates added " It was an honour to be asked to join Prime Minister Harper and our local MP Joyce Bateman as a member of the official delegation for this historic state visit. I was particularly honoured to have been introduced to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu by Prime Minister Harper and to have a brief chat with him. He certainly knew all about Winniepg and our strong vibrant Jewish community. Canadian Jews and the State of Israel have never had a better friend than Stephen Harper !."


The Winnipeg Jewish contingent for PM Harper's hisitoric visit to Israel was: David Asper, Howard Morry, Marsha Cowan,  Bob Freedman, Sandy Shindleman, Robert Shindleman, David Kroft, Robert Gabor, Marty Morantz, Michael Kowalson, Ian Rabb, Dr. Catherine Chatterely, Rabi Shmuely and Adina Altein, and Gary Bronstone.  (Editor's note: This list of names is in no particular order).



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.