The new Trudeau doctrine on Israel/Palestine

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Under Harper, Canada and Israel were “best friends”. Last week Stephane Dion outlined the new Trudeau Doctrine on Israel/Palestine. Israel has been downgraded to “strong ally and friend”. What’s the difference? Read more.

A short press release from the Office of Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion on January 24th, had many observers talking enthusiastically about the change in “tone” of the Trudeau government toward Israel.

“Canada warns Israel about new settlements”, noted The Citizen’s Lee Berthiaume, approvingly.

There is definitely a change in tone.

Mr. Harper used to say Canada was Israel’s “best friend”. Instead, Dion has downgraded Israel to “strong ally and friend”. He has also clearly indicated that Canada feels continued settlement construction by Israel is not “helpful” to a peaceful settlement. That is new. It appears Mr. Trudeau is not going to publicly endorse everything done by the government of Mr. Netanyahu.

But carefully nested in the short press release was an enunciation of what can be called the new “Trudeau doctrine” with respect to Israel. It used words which must have been music to the ears of the Israeli government and to its supporters in Canada

Canada believes (…) that negotiations provide the only viable path to peace,” said the press release. “Unilateral actions, such as Palestinian initiatives toward statehood in international forums (…) are unhelpful and constitute serious obstacles to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

Translation? Canada will continue to block any attempts by Palestinians to advance their cause through the UN or in other international organizations (like the International Criminal Court).

This new Trudeau doctrine is carefully structured to appeal to those who are concerned about Israeli aggression, while at the same time, reassuring the Israel lobby that Israel continues to have Canada’s full support. (After all, the press release said Canada is a friend and ally of Israel, not of Palestine or the Palestinians.)

It also goes a long way to explaining some surprising Canadian votes at the UN last December. Many observers were shocked when Canada voted against several motions relating to such issues as Palestinian sovereignty over its natural resources which Israel now controls. Those motions were approved overwhelmingly by the UN General Assembly over the objections of only Canada, Israel, the USA and a few Pacific micro states. Under Harper this was expected, but many had hoped that Canada would show a new direction at the UN.

By insisting that Palestinian statehood can only come about through negotiations with Israel, and not through international means, Canada effectively gives Israel a veto over when and how the Palestinians will ever get a state… or justice. Which is not likely to be anytime soon…



  1. Excellent analysis of what has changed and what has not on Canadian policy on Israel Palestine. There is at least some progress on Harper’s uncritical support of Israel and denial of all even-handedness and fairness in Canadian policy. Hopefully, over time the new Canadian Liberal government can be encouraged to bring real pressure on Israel, bilaterally and multilaterally at UN, to grant a Palestinian state and thereby at long last realize the international and Canadian policy of a just and equitable “two state solution” on Israel Palestine

  2. I’m not surprised. I had no doubt that when it comes to Israel, all will be like before, only with the disguise of trying to have some balance. Harper set the tone. Trudeau and the Liberals talking about negotiations and two states, means absolutely nothing. Just empty words which lets Israel continue as it wishes.

  3. On a personal note, yes, I too would like to see Canada line itself up much more with the UN policies, rather than with the USA international politics. The Liberal government
    has some tough challenges to face on the international scene, as they inherited a pretty
    messed up situation. Thank goodness there are increasing voices that make themselves heard
    for a more just way of dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issues.

  4. Peter,
    The change that you report will not improve the lives of our Palestinian friends in the slightest. Canada need not say that it is not a friend of Israel; the change that is needed is for them to say that they are friends of the Palestinians too. They must recognize that the status of Arabs in Israel, in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and in Gaza is not acceptable and that these people must gain the rights that Jewish citizens of Israel now enjoy.

    1. Good observation, David. Dion has declared Canada a friend of Israel, but has not said the same for Palestinians. What does that say about our sense of balance?

  5. …”as he (Dion) singled out problems on both sides: Israel’s construction of settlements and the Palestinians’ unilateral pursuit of statehood in international forums”…
    Palestine has no choice but to pursue statehood in international forums. Israel has no! interest in “negotiating” a two state solution. Israel did not negotiate itself into existence, rather had the international institutions of the day pave the way. Canada must support Palestine statehood through international forums and institutions.

  6. I HAD HOPED FOR SOMETHING NEW WITH TRUDEAU.But increasingly his response to the Jewish Lobby looks and smells like the same old smoke and mirrors routine. Negotiations get the Palestinians nothing and the Israelis just what they want.

  7. Dear Palestinians of Palestine, the government of Canada does not speak for all Canadians. There are many of us ordinary folk from all different backgrounds who know about the apartheid being committed against you, and our hearts are breaking. We sign petitions and speak out against the actions of the Israeli government and any others who side with these crimes against you. Many prayers are going out for you. God has not forgotten you. He is greater than the evil, and He will see that justice is done. Xox

  8. Reblogged this on QCpal and commented:
    I agree with Peter, all Canada is doing is continue to BLOCK & DENY Palestinians their inalienable International Human Rights by masquerading as a “pseudo-critical” voice …

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