Canada care­ful on Jerusalem

U.S. al­lies crit­i­cize em­bassy re­lo­ca­tion plan

Windsor Star - - NP - MARIE-DANIELLE SMITH md­smith@post­ Twit­

• Canada is walk­ing a tightrope af­ter U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion Wed­nes­day to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Israel and to move the Amer­i­can em­bassy from Tel Aviv to the con­tested holy city.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has so far avoided overt crit­i­cism of the U.S. de­ci­sion, de­spite strong re­ac­tions from other U.S. al­lies and from around the globe.

For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land is­sued a care­ful state­ment Wed­nes­day that did not specif­i­cally men­tion Trump’s an­nounce­ment.

“Canada is a stead­fast ally and friend of Israel and friend to the Pales­tinian peo­ple. Canada’s long­stand­ing po­si­tion is that the sta­tus of Jerusalem can be re­solved only as part of a general set­tle­ment of the Pales­tinian-Is­raeli dis­pute,” Free­land’s state­ment said.

“We are strongly com­mit­ted to the goal of a com­pre­hen­sive, just and last­ing peace in the Mid­dle East, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of a Pales­tinian state liv­ing sideby-side in peace and se­cu­rity with Israel. We call for calm and con­tinue to sup­port the build­ing of con­di­tions nec­es­sary for the par­ties to find a so­lu­tion.”

In a scrum with re­porters ear­lier Wed­nes­day, in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter Marie-Claude Bibeau was more frank, say­ing in French that Canada has no in­ten­tion of mov­ing its em­bassy from Tel Aviv.

The broader con­text of the Canada-U.S. re­la­tion­ship in­evitably hangs over ev­ery pub­lic state­ment Trudeau and his min­is­ters make on Trump’s poli­cies. Talks to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment con­tinue, but seem to have reached a stale­mate on a few po­ten­tially deal-break­ing is­sues, and spec­u­la­tion is grow­ing that Trump may seek to uni­lat­er­ally exit the con­ti­nen­tal free trade zone.

The del­i­cacy of Canada’s state­ment set it apart from many of its clos­est al­lies, in­clud­ing the United King­dom, Ger­many and France — all were openly crit­i­cal of the Amer­i­can de­ci­sion even be­fore it was of­fi­cially an­nounced. China and Rus­sia wor­ried pub­licly about its po­ten­tial to desta­bi­lize the Mid­dle East. Pales­tinian groups de­cried the de­ci­sion, as re­ports of protests quickly emerged from Mid­dle East cap­i­tals.

United Nations Sec­re­tary General An­to­nio Guter­res said Wed­nes­day the sta­tus of Jerusalem should rather be ne­go­ti­ated within a two-state peace process. “There is no al­ter­na­tive to the two-state so­lu­tion,” he said. Heads of churches in the city of Jerusalem it­self, mean­while, pleaded that Trump “con­tinue rec­og­niz­ing the in­ter­na­tional sta­tus of Jerusalem. Any sud­den changes would cause ir­repara­ble harm.”

Some won­dered why top Cana­dian of­fi­cials weren’t more vis­i­bly ac­tive in try­ing to in­flu­ence Trump’s de­ci­sion.

“This is clearly a de­ci­sion which is counter-pro­duc­tive,” NDP leader Jag­meet Singh said. For­eign af­fairs critic Hélène Laverdière urged Canada to con­demn the an­nounce­ment dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod Wed­nes­day. “This is a dev­as­tat­ing day for those who be­lieve in peace, jus­tice and se­cu­rity in the Mid­dle East,” she said.

Con­ser­va­tives, usu­ally out­spo­ken in their sup­port for Israel, were con­spic­u­ously quiet on the is­sue Wed­nes­day. They used the Com­mons ques­tion pe­riod to pri­or­i­tize do­mes­tic is­sues, lead­ing with ques­tions about Lib­eral small busi­ness re­forms and not im­me­di­ately pro­vid­ing state­ments on Jerusalem.

It was a Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, un­der Joe Clark, that in Oc­to­ber 1979 broke an elec­tion prom­ise to move Canada’s em­bassy to the con­tested city, a change of course based on ar­gu­ments not so dif­fer­ent than those heard in re­ac­tion to Trump’s de­ci­sion. Mov­ing from Tel Aviv “could be seen as pre­judg­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions among par­ties in the Mid­dle East and might in fact work against progress to­wards a just and last­ing peace set­tle­ment,” Clark said at the time.

In state­ments to me­dia Wed­nes­day Jewish-Cana­dian groups praised that logic, ask­ing Trudeau to also re­lo­cate Canada’s em­bassy.

The Friends of Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter said it was hope­ful Canada would “fur­ther deepen its ties with Israel and look at ac­knowl­edg­ing Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal.”

B’nai Brith Canada ar­gued rec­og­niz­ing Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal “will ad­vance the peace process, not ob­struct it,” and the Cen­tre for Israel and Jewish Af­fairs said “we have al­ways main­tained that Canada should for­mally rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Israel.”



The Jerusalem mu­nic­i­pal­ity pro­jected gi­ant U.S. and Is­raeli flags onto the walls of the Old City on Wed­nes­day.


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