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Friday, August 1, 2014

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Stephen Harper gets it

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As Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns to Canada from a tour of the Middle East, he brings with him an improved understanding of Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians, and confirmation that his principled stand with the Jewish state has been, and continues to be, the right thing to do.

In many ways, what Harper saw in Israel would have reminded him of home. Israelis and Canadians may speak in different tongues, but they share a common language of democracy, progress, opportunity and equality. Both peoples hold these values dear, and both countries have proven their willingness to fight to preserve them. (And after the epic snowstorm that hit the Middle East last month, Israelis now have a pretty good sense of what winter is like in this country, too.)

True, there is one significant way in which Canada and Israel are different – only the latter is hemmed in by enemies who threaten its very existence on a day-to-day basis –  but Harper clearly grasps Israel’s security concerns, and when he considers what the Jewish state has accomplished in 66 short years, all the while fighting for its life, he is suitably impressed.

The prime minister also spent some time meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but how could he possibly have related to what he saw and heard in Ramallah, where the forlorn Palestinian people continue to be ensnared by a culture of victimhood and violence despite myriad opportunities to join the modern world? Harper’s visit to the West Bank came off as an inconvenient detour, and that was just as well: there isn’t much good to see there, and no leader to talk about peace with – certainly not the weak-kneed Abbas, who spent the days before Harper arrived reaffirming he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and then applauding as one of his government’s ministers called for renewed jihad against Israel.

Harper’s first official Mideast trip highlighted the region’s great potential, as well as the dark forces conspiring to quash it. A positive future, if there is ever to be one in that area of the world, relies on a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in order for that to occur, Israel needs a willing partner, and one has not emerged yet.

The Canadian prime minister gets it – and that makes you stop and wonder why so many other world leaders don’t. Too many of them continue to insist on calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict straight down the middle, even as Israel does all the giving and the Palestinians all the taking  –  how do they not see that?

Another question: why don’t the Palestinian people see it, either? How long will they allow themselves to be stifled by inept and corrupt leaders  – not to mention Hamas – before they say enough is enough? A better life is within their collective grasp. They need only shove aside their overlords and reach for it.

When that day finally arrives, the Palestinians will truly begin their liberation, and the likes of Mahmoud Abbas will have much to answer for. Then we can really start to talk about peace.

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