Shalom, Chaver

Stephen Harper, who on Monday became the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset, is proof that it’s possible to be a politician without compromising on basic values like honesty.

Though his staunchly pro-Israel positions lose him more votes at home than they gain him — Muslims outnumber Jews by roughly three to one — he doesn’t hesitate to say, as he did in his address this week, that “Canada will stand with Israel no matter what, through fire and water.”

And while the world likes to pretend that the only thing holding up implementation of a two-state solution is Israel’s stubborn insistence on defensible borders and on its Biblical claims to Yerushalayim and other parts of Eretz Yisrael, Harper puts the blame squarely on the Arabs.

“A Palestinian state will come … when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realize that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence,” he said.

Harper speaks with moral clarity, refusing to be bullied by the media, the leftist politicians on his home front, and conventional wisdom in Washington and in European capitals.

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in introducing him to the Knesset, “In an age of hypocrisy that we live in, Canada under your leadership is a moral compass and a lighthouse of fairness.”

In this age of hypocrisy it takes courage to state unequivocally that “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and nonnegotiable,” as Harper did in his heartfelt speech.

It took courage to be among the handful of countries that voted against granting the Palestinian Authority recognition as a “non-member observer state” at the United Nations. Harper understood what his counterparts in Britain, France and Germany didn’t: that the status of the Palestinian Authority has to be determined in negotiations with Israel, otherwise, if the Palestinians feel they can turn elsewhere and get what they want without giving anything in return, the talks are pointless.

And it took courage for Canada to defy Washington and Europe in expressing its “deep skepticism” over the nuclear deal reached recently with Iran that allows it to hold on to enriched uranium.

What makes Stephen Harper tick? What gives him the courage to speak the truth, to buck political correctness, even in the face of ridicule in the media and threats from the Arab world that have succeeded in intimidating the rest of the international community?

Canada has paid for its support for Israel — for example, being denied a seat on the U.N. Security Council in 2010 — but it hasn’t changed its views a whit.

Some attribute Harper’s strong support for Israel, which goes back at least 20 years, to his religious beliefs. Others, including Norman Spector, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Israel from 1992 to 1995, have a more obvious answer.

“I think it’s simply that he is an intelligent man who has read widely and thought deeply about the issue,” he said.

It is our hope that leaders in Europe and elsewhere will learn from this intelligent man and understand that standing up for Israel is a vital Western interest.

“Those who often begin by hating the Jews, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not like them[selves],” Harper said. “Either we stand up for our values and our interests here in Israel and stand up for the existence of a free, democratic and distinctively Jewish state, or the retreat of our values and our interests in the world will begin.”

Whether or not the international community gets the message, the Jews in Israel and around the world are indebted to Prime Minister Harper and wish to express our heartfelt gratitude for his moral courage and unstinting friendship.