Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won the approval of his Israeli hosts for the size and quality of Canada’s delegation to Friday’s funeral of Shimon Peres.
Trudeau was also one of a small group of international figures to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his home in Jerusalem.
Trudeau’s whirlwind trip to the funeral of Israel’s legendary 93-year-old statesman erased any lingering doubts that the new Liberal government might, in any way, be wavering in its support of the Jewish state compared with its Conservative predecessors.
The Conservatives, under Stephen Harper, earned plaudits from Israel and criticism from many others for its unequivocal support of Israel in the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.
The Conservatives were well represented in Jerusalem with Harper, interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose and ex-cabinet minister Stockwell Day in attendance. Ambrose made the trip on Trudeau’s government jetliner, part of the non-partisan delegation assembled by the Liberals.
The Canadian delegation, which also included some prominent Canadian Jewish leaders, was noticed and appreciated by Israel on a day when dignitaries from the around the world paid tribute to Peres, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who also is credited with fortifying his country’s fighting forces.
“The size and composition of the Canadian delegation shows how much Shimon Peres and his ideas of peace and progress were appreciated by the people of Canada, who were represented by the prime minister, foreign minister, former prime ministers and many more dignitaries,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshson told The Canadian Press in an email.
“This demonstrates the great commonalities between Canada and Israel, especially our shared desire for peace and working together towards a better future for all.”
After the funeral, Trudeau joined the presidents of France and Ukraine, Francois Hollande and Petro Poroshenko, for talks at Netanyahu’s residence. The small guest list was rounded out by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra, and two Russian guests — the president of its upper house of parliament and its deputy foreign minister.
“In his talks with the leaders, Prime Minister Netanyahu noted the great contribution of the late former President Shimon Peres in strengthening and deepening relations with the various countries,” Netanyahu’s office said in statement.
They also discussed regional security and “ways to advance peace.”
David Cape, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said that “as a Canadian Jew” he was honoured by the composition of Canada’s delegation, and that was noticed in Israel.
“There are so many large countries here today but Canada stood out,” said Cape, who travelled on Trudeau’s plane.
“The Canadian presence speaks to this understanding that Israel is a country that is in a very challenging, very tough neighbourhood.”