A Fresh Perspective: Let there be more Stephen Harpers

"Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Israel’s best friend among world leaders, is coming soon for his first visit to Israel."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
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 Affairs Ministry.
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 Israel.
Ever since the start of the Oslo peace process, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has stopped defending Israel. Instead, it started defending the two-state solution.
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 it.
However, according to this policy, the solution was still the right one. It was still being pushed forward. The framing did not change.
The 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.
The 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 two-state solution.
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.
This flawed framing of Israel’s diplomacy will never create more Stephen Harpers.
It will just create more boycotts.
The Canadian prime minister’s great friendship with Israel shows that this strategy was based on nothing more than pure conjecture.
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 ethical issues.
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 centuries.
Finally, Harper also sees the story of the Jewish nation returning from exile after 2,000 years as a symbol of hope.
This romantic 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 himself.
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 proportions.
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 boycotts.
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 conflict.
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 boycotts.
Finally, diplomats need to stop playing defense and start playing offense.
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.
If Israeli diplomats were to follow all of these principles, boycotts would be replaced by celebrations of Zionism, and international pressure would be replaced with international admiration.
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.