Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Israel’s best friend among world
leaders, is coming soon for his first visit to Israel.
While this trip is
a great opportunity to celebrate the unique friendship Harper has shown towards
the Jewish state, it should also be a day of soul searching for the Foreign
Foreign policy cannot be seen as the forbearer of
Harper’s loyalty to Israel. His friendship towards the Jewish state is
commendable despite foreign policy.
Harper and the Foreign Affairs
Ministry speak in opposing rhetoric. While Harper embraces the righteousness of
the Zionist cause and the justice which Israel symbolizes, the ministry is busy
using an apologetic language.
If Israel wants more Stephen Harpers in
this world, it needs to start studying what it is doing wrong, and understand
the framing through which Harper looks at the State of Israel. Only then will we
be able to reproduce this framing amongst other world leaders. Only then will we
get more Stephen Harpers instead of getting more boycotts and sanctions against
Ever since the start of the Oslo peace process, the Foreign
Affairs Ministry has stopped defending Israel. Instead, it started defending the
During Oslo, with President Shimon Peres serving as
foreign affairs minister and its architect, the traditional discourse of the
ministry shifted dramatically.
Israel was not to justify its connection
to all parts of the land, including Judea and Samaria, but rather it was to
embrace the two-state solution and yearn to implement it. Israel was not to
attack our enemies diplomatically, but, rather, it was to highlight advances in
the peace process.
This mind-set became so entrenched in the minds of
Israeli diplomats that the ministry then became known as the “Foreign Affairs
Ministry of the Two State Solution.”
Even after Israeli policy shifted
away from the peace process, the diplomats kept pushing it forward. This not
only caused bad relations between elected officials and those diplomats, but
also incredibly bad foreign policy.
As the peace process became
completely irrelevant, instead of once again changing its framing and going back
to defending Israel, the ministry pushed on with the very same framing. Instead
of looking for other diplomatic possibilities, Israel kept arguing for the
twostate solution, while blaming the Palestinians for the failure to implement
However, according to this policy, the solution was still the right
one. It was still being pushed forward. The framing did not change.
ministry became the place in which people went in order to achieve peace,
instead of being a place where people went in order to help Israel.
reasoning behind such a flawed strategy is clear. The ministry was so entrenched
in that framing, that it believed it was impossible to speak to the world in any
other frame of mind. The only way to gain world support, the diplomats thought,
is by embracing the two-state solution. The world, they thought, will support
the side which shows the greatest embrace of the peace process and of the
The real problem with this approach is that the very
acceptance of the two-state solution means that Israel should not be in Judea
and Samaria since, in the twostate solution, Israel needs to get out of these
areas. If Israel should not be there, it is acting as an occupying force. By
using a framing which accepts the two-state solution, Israeli diplomats invited
international pressure and boycotts.
It is not surprising that – during
my time working in the Foreign Affairs Ministry – I heard many of Israel’s own
diplomats saying that the boycotts against Judea and Samaria might be good since
they might pressure the Israeli government to “finally” reach a peace deal.
Israel’s own diplomats, when they needed to choose sides between Israel and the
two-state solution, chose the side of the two-state solution.
framing of Israel’s diplomacy will never create more Stephen Harpers.
will just create more boycotts.
The Canadian prime minister’s great
friendship with Israel shows that this strategy was based on nothing more than
When speaking about Israel, Harper never mentions the
peace process. It’s not that he opposes a solution, he supports the
establishment of a Palestinian State. Yet a more pressing matter for him are
Harper sees Israel as an outpost of democracy in a sea of
tyrannical regimes. As a supporter of democracy, he cannot negate the only
stable democracy in the Middle East.
Harper looks at Israel as the front
line in the war between Western free society and Eastern dark regimes. In this
clash of civilizations, how can one not side with freedom? He speaks often of
his total opposition to anti-Semitism. To him, the singling out of the Jewish
State is no different than the singling out of Jews.
Anti-Zionism is the
continuation of the horrible anti-Semitism that has plagued the world for
Finally, Harper also sees the story of the Jewish nation
returning from exile after 2,000 years as a symbol of hope.
story between a nation and its land, which were separated for so long and are
now reunited, is the source of great hope for all people, including Harper
In short, the Canadian prime minister embraces Zionism. He looks
at Israel with the admiration that great Zionists do. The question of the
Israel-Palestinian conflict is then looked at in the correct context and
To bring these thoughts to the practical sphere, a few
principles can be outlined to guide the actions of Israeli diplomats in building
positive support for the state: First, Israeli diplomats should never
differentiate between Judea and Samaria and the rest of Israel. The very
differentiation between these areas assumes our presence in Judea and Samaria is
unjust and makes us look like wrongdoers. This invites both pressure and
Second, diplomats should learn to tell Israel’s story without
relation to the Israeli- Arab conflict. Israel’s story is a story of great hope
and can be inspiring to all people. Israel’s strategic importance as an outpost
for democracy and as the front line in the battle for freedom is something that
is completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian territorial
These things need to be emphasized rather than letting
ourselves be dragged to questions of borders.
Third, diplomats should use
all the tools available to them to defend Israel’s right to all parts of the
Land of Israel.
This includes the Edmund Levy Report that justifies
Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria. The reason is simple: Even if one
believes in the two-state solution, shouldn’t he want Israel to get to the
negotiating table in the best possible starting position? In order to get to the
best possible starting position, it is crucial to use all the tools we have in
order to get there. Without doing this, we are once again inviting more
Finally, diplomats need to stop playing defense and start
Israel’s goal should not be to justify itself against
accusations of apartheid or occupation. Its goal should be to be the one to set
the agenda. Once we set the agenda as a Zionist agenda, everything else is seen
from a different perspective.
This should be our goal.
diplomats were to follow all of these principles, boycotts would be replaced by
celebrations of Zionism, and international pressure would be replaced with
Harper would stop being the exception to the
rule, and instead, the standard for heads of state the world over. The writer
is an attorney who graduated from McGill University Law School and Hebrew
University’s honors graduate program in public policy. He is currently working
as a research fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.
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