Critics of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s staunch vocal support of Israel are “out of sync” with a changing world that is viewing the Middle East with a new perspective, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells CTV News.

Netanyahu granted CTV News’ Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme an exclusive interview at his office to discuss the renewed Middle East peace talks, as well as Harper’s upcoming trip to Israel.

Netanyahu said he is “glad to see the constancy and consistency of Canada’s friendship to Israel” as exemplified by Harper.

When asked about the criticism Harper receives for his vocal support for Israel, Netanyahu replied: “Those who criticize him are out of sync.

“They should go to some of the countries in the Middle East who now support Israel, who think about Israel in different terms.”

As an example, Netanyahu said many of Israel’s Arab neighbours share a common goal of peace in the region, as well as concern over a nuclear-armed Iran. Other Arab countries see a bigger threat in hard-line Islamist groups, he said.

“So I say to those who criticize a pro-Israel position in Canada, I ask them, come to the Middle East. Go to the Arab world and you'll discover, you'll discover a lot of people are reconsidering their positions,” he said.

Netanyahu said many Arab countries “see Israel not as an enemy but as a friend.

“So when Canada says, ‘Israel is our friend,’ they're not necessarily alienating the Arabs. Quite the contrary, because the Arabs are changing. The Arabs, many of them, sometimes openly and sometimes in corridors and whispers, they say, ‘Israel is our friend.’ So they don't view others differently as a result of that.”

To a question of whether increased trade will be a topic of discussion during Harper’s visit, Netanyahu said Canada and Israel “can do a lot together” by sharing technology, and natural and human resources.

Mideast peace talks

Harper’s visit comes amidst a renewed peace process spearheaded by U.S Secretary of State John Kerry. Netanyahu said “nobody wants peace more than Israel.”

“Now, when we say we want peace, what we want is really for our Palestinian neighbours to have a demilitarized state next to us that recognizes the Jewish State. We’re willing to recognize their state, the Palestinian state. But we ask them to recognize the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.

“The last thing we want to do is just walk out and have them use that, the Palestinian state to attack what remains of Israel. So I think this is perhaps the pivot to the whole debate… will the Palestinians, as part of peace, recognize the Jewish state as Israel is willing to recognize the Palestinian state. I hope they do. If they do, it’ll afford a better future for us and their children.”

Netanyahu dismissed the idea of Jewish settlements being a barrier to peace, saying the issue “will be resolved” along with questions of territory during the negotiations.

But he questioned whether a Palestinian state would be open to Jewish residents as Israel is open to Arabs.

“Now the Palestinian state, the way it’s being contemplated, they’re saying, well, no Jew can live there. It has to be Jew-free. Ethnic cleansing. Well, what is that? There are Arabs who live here, but they can’t contemplate Jews living there,” he said.

Netanyahu echoed statements made by Israel’s Ambassador to Canada Rafael Barak to CTV’s Question Period last week, that Israel is prepared to make compromises in order to achieve peace.

“We're willing to make difficult and hard decisions and compromises to live in peace with our neighbours, but we're entitled to our own country where Jews from around the world can come here, just as Palestinians from around the world can come to the Palestinian state,” he said.