“Israel’s success, I think, is ultimately our success, and Israel's failures or threats to Israel are threats to us in the long term.”
On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper addressed over 200 guests from across Canada in an exclusive conversation covering topics as diverse as the shared values between Canada and Israel, the macro-effects of the ongoing pandemic, and Canadian-US political and economic dynamics.
Raquel Benzacar Savatti, CEO of Canada Israel Securities, Limited/Israel Bonds, opened the evening by acknowledging Mr. Harper as “one of the greatest political friends Israel has ever had,” before thanking loyal investors and supporters of Israel bonds and Israel because, which, she said, “is one and the same thing.”
“We are so grateful for your support, and I'm just delighted to announce that because of this evening’s event, bonds purchased so far are close to half a million dollars.”
Israel Maimon, Global President & CEO of Israel Bonds, provided a view of Israel Bonds' 70-year arc.
“Almost exactly 70 years ago, on September 3, 1950, David Ben Gurion, our first Prime Minister, convened a very special economic conference in Jerusalem in the King David hotel. This conference led eventually to the establishment of Israel Bonds. Today, 70 years later, this historic conference led to a $45 billion (and still counting) worldwide success that forever changed Israel's destiny.”
“Maimon went on to say, “We are so appreciative that great leaders like Prime Minister Harper have supported and applauded the State of Israel and Israel Bonds. In 2006, when Prime Minister Harper started his tenure as Prime Minister, I was the cabinet secretary of the State of Israel and I know and remember first hand how important it was for Israel to have had the deep support from him and from Canada.”
Len Shapiro, the Israel Bonds Chair for Western Canada, warmly introduced Mr. Harper "as one Calgarian to another."
A spirited Q&A followed Mr. Harper’s opening presentation, with questions from community leaders from across the country, including Robert Issenman, who sits on the Canadian and International Israel Bonds Board of Directors; Michael Kalles, Wendy Myles, Norman Franks, and Gary Polachek.
Brenlee Gurvey Gales, Chair of Women’s Division in Toronto, thanked Mr. Harper, describing him as “a person and a politician of principle leadership who put values before political expediency.”
When asked, “What drives your commitment to Israel and the Jewish Community?”, Mr. Harper spoke in both French and English in reflecting on his family history:
“I was raised in a household that was extremely pro-Jewish. My father was a life-long supporter of the Jewish people and a big opponent of anti-Semitism his whole life, including back when he was a young man when that was not a popular view. And he was a strong supporter of Israel as a consequence. He told me that was that was the view of his father. My grandfather passed away before I was born, but this view in our family apparently runs back many generations.
“My own experience with the Jewish community has been so overwhelmingly positive. I don't know any community that compares in terms of not only success, but willing to give back, in terms of charity, to the country and to its community.
On the issue of a rise in global anti-Semitism, Mr. Harper was equally candid: “Anti-Semitism to me is not only wrong, it's incomprehensible. But the reality is that it is with us.
“To be frank, as Prime Minister there was a reason much closer to the national interest - Israel is the only country in the most dangerous part of the world that shares our values and our interests. Israel is an advanced western Democratic economy in a part of the world that has real serious threats to our long-term interests. And so, Israel’s success, I think, is ultimately our success, and Israel's failures or threats to Israel are threats to us in the long term.
“I think any Western leader who does not understand that sells short the interests of their own country. That's why I would never be part of unfairly criticizing Israel or singling Israel out for convenient diplomatic reasons because that is just not in the national interest of Canada, if one properly understands the relations between the interests of Canada and the interests of Israel.
“Let me just say one more thing which is this, and I think you've heard me say this before - thirty or forty years ago, no one would have asked a Western leader why they support Israel, when it's attacked by its enemies. You would have assumed that any leader of a Western country would be intelligent enough to support Israel and understand what I just told you. Unfortunately, we've now had two or three generations of this malignant campaign against Israel. So now, people feel it necessary to ask a Western politician why they actually support Israel. But the simple answer is that any person who thinks this through, should.”
Aliza Fagen, a Board member for Canada-Israel Securities, Limited and co-Chair of New Leadership in Toronto, closed off the evening with a personal testimonial in which she shared the deep sense of connection her involvement in Israel Bonds, as an investor and active leader, has given her.
Photo: Stephen Harper/WORLDWIDE SPEAKERS GROUP LLC.