TORONTO (JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Canada in late May, the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit the country since Yitzhak Rabin in 1994.
Netanyahu is visiting at the invitation of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has taken staunchly pro-Israel positions since taking office in 2006.
Since Harper’s election, Israel and Canada have strengthened their political, military and economic ties, and Harper has a record of strong pro-Israel statements.
The trip is seen as a sign of appreciation of Harper’s stand.
David Weinberg, director of the Canada-Israel Committee’s Israel Office, told the Jerusalem Post that the trip "is a reflection of the extraordinarily strong ties between Canada and Israel on a range of political issues and bilateral matters. It is also an acknowledgment of Prime Minister Harper’s principled leadership and friendship for Israel."
Netanyahu will be accompanied by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, and is expected to visit Toronto and Ottawa beginning May 31. The Israelis will fly to Canada from a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, where Israel will officially be accepted as a member.
"It is a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu to Canada," Harper said in a statement this week. "Our countries have a close and enduring friendship which we are working to further strengthen."
Harper spoke to Netanyahu by telephone on April 30 to discuss the visit, which will include meetings with senior Canadian officials.
In 2002, a planned visit by Netanyahu, then Israel’s foreign minister, to Concordia University in Montreal was canceled after students protesting the trip rioted and caused widespread damage.