By David Sweet, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough Westdale MP
In mid-January, I had the honour of helping represent our country as part of the prime minister’s delegation to Israel and Jordan.
I should note that during the trip, the prime minister also travelled to the West Bank to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.
While the national media have reported on some of what took place with the delegation, it’s a whole different experience to be there in person and participate in the meetings, tours and announcements.
Everywhere we went, we as Canadians were warmly welcomed. When Prime Minister Harper spoke to the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset – a first for a Canadian prime minister – the sense of this being a moment in history was palpable. There were also moving visits to significant sites, including Western Wall, where I met constituents from west Hamilton who happened to be visiting Israel that week. However, nothing was more poignant than the visit to Yad Vashem to pay respects to the victims of the Holocaust.
The prime minister and our Canadian delegation also got down to business in meetings with Israeli president Shimon Peres and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu where a strategic partnership understanding was signed, Canada-Israeli cooperation on combating nuclear terrorism was announced and negotiations were launched to expand free trade between our two countries.
As chair of the Canada-Israel interparliamentary group which works to build strong relations between the Canadian Parliament and the Israeli Knesset, I take a strong personal interest in the expansion of free trade with Israel and look forward to working with members of the Knesset (MK) that I met on this trip towards this goal. In fact, I met my counterpart, the MK who chairs the Israel-Canada interparliamentary group and we will maintain dialogue on this and other topics of mutual economic interest to our two countries.
As we moved to Jordan, the refugee crisis there was made very real. There are now 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan. I personally witnessed the situation at the base near the Hadalat Crossing on the Jordanian-Syrian border. No words can adequately describe the human tragedy unfolding there. From an old man who had quite literally walked his shoes off to young children rushing over to get a gulp of fresh water, I will never forget those images as long as I live.
I am confident the $100 million in Canadian aid announced there will be put to good use.