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Harper said he supports Obama’s speech on the Mideast, but that “You can’t cherry pick elements of that speech.” Harper has come under some partisan criticism for the move. “We are not talking about being at odds with Sweden, we are being at odds with our fundamental allies, like the British or the French,” Mike Molloy, former Canadian Mideast diplomat, told Canada’s Embassy magazine.
But David Cooper, director of government relations for the Canada-Israel Committee, the country’s organized Jewish community’s liaison to the Canadian government, said the criticism rings hollow. When George W. Bush was in office, Cooper said, the Canadian leadership would field complaints that it was in lock step with the American government. Yet now, an Obama presidency has inspired a concern for the need to be neighborly.
“There’s a lot of hypocrisy,” Cooper said. “And I think a lot of it is because it revolves around the issue of Israel, which is always something that causes people to have very sharp opinions.”
Cooper said that foreign policy issues rarely dominate an election, so the prime minister’s support is not poll-driven. Nonetheless, the Jewish community—though barely 1 percent of the population—did participate in the Conservative party’s decisive general election victory last month, in which the Conservatives increased their seats in parliament to 166, giving the party a majority.
“The Jewish community has gone over significantly,” Cooper aid. “One poll that I saw said that 52 percent of Jews voted conservative, 24 percent voted for the liberal party, 16 percent for the NDP (New Democrat Party).”
And Cooper also noted that Harper’s opinion on the G-8 statement could not have been too controversial among the other nations if it prevailed and informed the language of the joint statement.
“I think at any of these international summits, it doesn’t matter what the country is, or what the issue is, there are always countries that have a particular point of view,” Cooper said. “And they express it, and sometimes it shapes—and sometimes it doesn’t shape—the final communiqué. And I think in this case the prime minister was persuasive in his argument.”
But to Canada’s Jewish community, as well as the pro-Israel movement worldwide, none of this comes as much of a surprise. Two years ago, Canada was the first to announce it would boycott the second Durban conference, the first of which in 2001 quickly devolved into an anti-Israel hate fest, and the second was shaping up to be similar. Canada also led the opposition to the appointment of Richard Falk, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who compares Israeli Jews to Nazis, as the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.
Cooper also noted the Canadian government’s strong opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. “Iran continues to be a big issue and the government has gone quite far in terms of initiating sanctions, and is very conscious of the issue,” he said.
Conscious of that issue and more, Harper is getting noticed as the go-to advocate for Israel on the international stage.
Seth Mandel is a writer specializing in Middle Eastern politics and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center.
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