Harper to reporters: Ask some different questions about the Middle East

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper shake hands...

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper shake hands before their meeting in Jerusalem on January 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Oded Balilty/Pool)

David Akin, Parliamentary Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 3:40 PM ET

JERUSALEM — Sometimes reporters just don't get it.

Heck, I'm a reporter and I'm the first to admit that.

But at a joint press conference here Tuesday, Canada's Stephen Harper and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu essentially teamed up to say that, when it comes to politics in the Middle East, reporters just don't get it.

For the last two days, Canadian, Palestinian and Israeli journalists have, in Harper's view, been trying to get him to say something bad about Israel and Netanyahu. After all, it says on a Canadian government website that it is official Canadian policy that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal. Why, the journalists asked, couldn't Harper just say that?

More to the point, after spending a good chunk of his historic 2,400-word speech to the Knesset on Monday explaining that there was no way he was going to single out Israel for criticism in any public forum, Harper must have been wondering why the heck reporters continued to try to get him to do just that.

So he turned the tables.

"Yesterday in the Palestinian Authority, no one asked me there to single out the Palestinian Authority for any criticism in terms of governance or human rights or anything else," Harper said, speaking about the press conference he'd held Monday in Ramallah side-by-side with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. "When I'm in Israel, I'm asked to single out Israel. When I'm in Palestinian Authority I'm asked to single out Israel and in half the other places around the world you ask me to single out Israel."

This observation brought a wry smile to Netanyahu's face and grim laugh from Employment Minister Jason Kenney, seated in the front row of Tuesday's press conference.

Now, let me just make one small but important observation. By Harper's own insistence, the 11 parliamentary journalists who followed Harper here have been limited to precisely four questions in three days. If he'd take a few more questions, well, the problem Harper described might be resolved.

But that said, Harper makes a reasonable point.


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