UN security council resolution on Israel causes major headaches for Trudeau


The recent UN security council resolution condemning the illegal Israel settlements in occupied Palestinian territory continues to have echoes around the world. It has clearly shaken Mr. Netanyahu, who has launched a frenzied counterattack. But it could also cause two big problems for Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Read why...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned his foreign ministers that the Security Council motion 2334 could be just the start of a broader movement to call Israel to account. He has lashed out against ALL of the 15 voting members of the security council, reserving special venom for Barak Obama and John Kerry. He declared that Israel will not abide by the resolution, and has said he will “reassess” his relations with the United Nations itself.

But the resolution is already starting to cause problems for Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau, and is likely to cause more in the year to come.

Key element of Trudeau domestic strategy in jeopardy

The UN Security council resolution has put Israel-Palestine on the front pages of the Toronto Star and many other Canadian papers. This is awkward for Trudeau whose winning domestic electoral strategy included deliberately keeping the Israel/Palestine issue off the Canadian political agenda. Unlike the Harper Tories, who hoped to continue to make Israel a ‘wedge” issue, Trudeau did the opposite. During the election and since, the Liberals gave repeated private assurances to Jewish groups that they “have Israel’s back”. At the same time, they made bland public statements officially supporting a “2 state solution” aimed at pleasing those who are concerned about the human rights of Palestinians.

By avoiding taking a clear position, Trudeau was able to earn back some of the Jewish vote that had gone to Mr. Harper, without alienating traditional Liberal constituencies or the growing Palestinian/Muslim/Arab vote in Canada.

UNSC resolution 2334 however, left little room for ambiguity. Security council members had to make a clear choice, and they did.  Their unanimous verdict was that all of the settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, are illegal. Based on that vote, Israel is committing war crimes. (Trudeau must be relieved we were not already on the Security Council when the resolution was presented.)

Conservatives and Canada’s Israel lobby are already attacking Trudeau, demanding he denounce the unanimous UN vote. But choosing sides is what Trudeau wants to avoid. So far, he has wriggled off the hook, with Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion issuing only a weak statement reiterating that Canada still supports a “2 state solution.” Whether that will be enough to keep pro-Israel Jewish voters onside, or whether they will revert to the Conservatives, is yet to be seen.

And an international objective also now in trouble…

In addition to this domestic headache, the UN resolution also causes an international problem for Trudeau, who has made it clear that he wants to see Canada elected to the UN Security council.

That will not be easy. While Canadians think our country enjoys a high international reputation, others may not have the same view. Canada’s chances are already diminished by Trudeau’s recent record of faithfully defending Israel in various UN bodies. In the first 13 months since Trudeau was elected, Canada has voted against 16 motions critical of Israel in the General Assembly. In most of those resolutions, Canada was one of only 5 or 6 countries (including the USA and Israel) to shield Israel.

But the passage of Security Council motion 2334 causes a new and much bigger problem for Trudeau because, it calls upon all States, (…) to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;”

And unlike motions in the General Assembly, resolutions adopted by the Security Council are binding on all UN members including Canada.

In other words, if Canada refuses to make a distinction between Israel and the occupied territories, then Canada ITSELF will be in violation of a UN Security Council resolution and also of international law. (Not an enviable position for a country hoping to be elected to that body.) But making such a distinction, as many European countries are now discussing, is surely going to be strenuously opposed by Canada’s Israel lobby.

To comply or not comply that is the question

Today, Canada makes no distinction between the State of Israel and the Occupied Territories in either commerce or immigration policy. Goods imported into Canada from the Occupied Territories are treated as if they were coming from Israel. And Canada allows settlers who the UN has now said live “illegally” in occupied territory, to enter Canada without a visa, like any other Israeli citizen. (Ironically, we do impose a visa requirement on the Palestinians who live legally there.)

In order to comply with this binding UN resolution, Canada could take two minimal steps:

  1. Canada could renegotiate the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement to demand that goods originating in the Occupied Territories be labelled as such.
  2. Canada could revise its immigration regulations to make a distinction between Israelis living inside Israel today and those who live in the illegal settlements.

Neither of these steps is unprecedented. Canada has negotiated side-bar agreements with Chile, Mexico and the USA, for example. And modifying immigration regulations to impose visa obligations on illegal settlers would not be a particular challenge either.

So – a dilemma for Mr. Trudeau.

  • Abide by UNSC resolution 2334 and run the risk of angering the powerful Israel lobby in Canada


  • Ignore UNSC 2334 and run the risk of being called out for hypocritically seeking membership in a body whose binding resolutions it patently flouts.

Lets see what he does.


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      1. Also Canada should forget international Law in regards to Israel.in regards to Israel it is better not to follow the UN in regards to the nation of Israel.[most of the time].

  1. Peter, I agree that the resolution creates a dilemma for Trudeau, even though it is not enforceable. The UNSC resolution creates a dilemma for every government on the planet.

    While nobody is imposing differential visa requirements on Russian colonists in Crimea or Moroccan colonists in the former Spanish Sahara or Turkish colonists in Cyprus or Chinese colonists in Tibet or Polish colonists in formerly German territories, the whole world is supposed to single out Israel because Jews have returned to live in their ancestral home land as duly mandated by the League of Nations in 1923.

    Until recently, the US protected Israel from this absurd double standard. But President Obama has elected to stop playing that role. As a result, he has allowed the UN to make itself look ridiculous.

    1. @droy

      Agreed the UN is ridiculous on Israel. Their positions have always been disjointed from reality. Though in all fairness that isn’t specific to Israel. To pick your example of Crimea. The people of Crimea who are ethnically Russian decided they would rather live as part of Russia than as part of Ukraine and the UN strongly objected (GA 68/262) because self determination interferes with their vision of stability. The UN is the foremost opponent to self determination on the planet for almost everyone.

      What is of course specific to Israel is the incessant focus, a hateful obsession.

      There were some points of light in 2234. Previous resolutions like 465 had called for dismantlement of the existing settlements. This was just calls for non recognition and ceasing new development in settlements. That’s a huge step forward. The UN is no longer calling for a brutal and massive ethnic cleansing of 650,000 people mostly children. Since this is a BDS board I wonder how long till BDS adjusts to this reality that international law no longer calls for their 2nd demand.

      Slowly, way too slowly, things are getting better and the world is accommodating itself to the idea that Jews are really people.

    2. “While nobody is imposing differential visa requirements on ”

      The residents of all of those countries are required to obtain visas for a visit to Canada. You don’t have a point and no one is singling out Israel. Perhaps all Israelis should be required to obtain visas if equal treatment is your sole objective.

      On a seperate issue there are no Polish settlers in formerly German territories. Germany signed off all claims by way of treaty and this situation was a fallout of the settling of WW II. If Israel were to actually negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians similarly the settlements could be made legitimate depending on the details of the agreement. Palestinians are under no obligation to legitimate the theft of their land without some form of reciprocity suitable to them.

      Similarly if you study the history neither China/Tibet nor Cyprus/Turkey bear any legal similarity to Israel/Palestine.

    3. By way of apology as I meant to include a link on Canadian visa requirements.


      ” the whole world is supposed to single out Israel because Jews have returned to live in their ancestral home land as duly mandated by the League of Nations in 1923. ”

      It has nothing to do with Jews returning anywhere. It does have to do with the fact that the land is held by Israel under belligerent occupation and that the settlers are Israeli. That the settlements are considered by Israel and Israelis to be either current or future Israeli territory.The same objection would exist in law if the settlers were non-Jewish Israelis,. This is clear in both the Hague Conventions (which of 1899 and 1907 (to which Israel is a signatory) and the Geneva Conventions (Israel is a signatory).

      This is clear. It has been clear since the settlement enterprise was initiated both to the GoI and the world. Attempts to muddy the waters by conflating Jews and Israel does not alter the facts.

    4. Hey David, I think one of the main differences is that, in the present case, the UN has called the settlement project in the West Bank “illegal”. I don’t think that applies in any of the other cases you cited. BTW, I have no problem in principle with Jews living in Israel or for that matter anywhere in the WB.

      I don’t know how familiar you are with the WB. But ISRAELI LAW (not Palestinian authority law) forbids Israeli citizens from entering any “area A” zone and warns them about the dangers of “area B”. There are big red warning signs everywhere explaining that.

      1. Yes, Peter, Israeli law prevents Israelis from entering areas under the jurisdiction of the PA. That is because Israelis are not safe there. Since 2000, when two Israeli soldiers who went into Ramallah were murdered and dismembered inside a Palestinian police station, Israel has treated area A, where the PA has sole jurisdiction as hostile territory.

        Agreed that the UN has declared the settlements to be illegal. I am pointing out that the UN has treated Israel differently on this score that any other country. This reflects badly on the UN, not on Israel, in my opinion.

      2. @droytenberg

        ” I am pointing out that the UN has treated Israel differently on this score that any other country. ”

        Yet you have not managed to either present or make such a case. You have made a claim of such but you haven’t in any way attempted to support it.

    5. To me the UN does not look ridiculous – it’s behaviour is honest with regard to UN Resolutions 242 and 338 which clarify and emphasize the INADMISSABLITY OF THE ACQUISITION OF TERRITORY BY WAR.


      Our Prime Minister will disgrace all Canadians if he fails to live up to his own stated belief in the two-state solution. If he acts to defend votes for himself and his party at the expense of the integrity of Canada he will indeed shame us all.

      1. @Anon —

        On a seperate issue there are no Polish settlers in formerly German territories.

        This is simply false. Under the Potsdam Agreement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potsdam_Agreement) territory east of the Oder-Neisse line (essentially all of Lower Silesia) was declared part of Poland. The population at the time was 93% German. They were all expelled to make room for a new population of Poles. The current population is Polish from ethnic cleansing. This territory was conquered in 1742 by the Prussians and fully annexed by 1815. It had been part of German nation culturally all through the past millennia. So yes there are Poles living in formally German territories.

        The difference between this and the Palestinian case is that the Germans didn’t leave the Lower Silesians in camps for generations along the border but rather resettled them into other parts of Germany. But other than that the situation is analogous to the Palestinians. Dave is correct.

      2. @cd-host

        No there are no Polish settlers in formerly German territory. There were but as I indicated Germany has signed off on the territorial transfer. I can only assume you know the difference between are and were and that your partial quote was an intentional misrepresentation on your part.

        The only hope of making the Israeli settlements legal are for the Palestinians to agree to the territorial transfer. In normal negotiations this would involve some reciprocal exchange of value. The Palestinians are under no obligation to agree to such a transfer particularly given that Israel was the aggressor and is attempting to violate international law by claiming the territory as spoils of war. The best Israel has offered is we will let you keep some of your land if you give us the parts of your land we want. That’s the Israeli land for peace formula.

  2. Excellent analysis, Peter! Brilliant! And it gives us a clear agenda for lobbying MPs.



  3. While the 2 state solution may still be a valid issue, in this case it is a red herring to dodge the major issue of this UN Resolution. The settlements are illegal by any international standard and understanding of human rights, unless of course you believe God gave it all, including the occupied territories to what is now the the State of Israel. The Israeli government has a difficult dilemma; it wants to be seen as a just and democratic state while it’s policies and actions with regard to the Occupied Territories are anything but what it claims to be.
    It seems the need for power and control influences or at least tempts all of us to be hypocritical .Trudeau is no exception. It would make hypocrites of us all should our government continue with this policy and expect to sit on the Security Council

    1. The settlements are illegal by any international standard and understanding of human rights unless of course you believe God gave it all, including the occupied territories to what is now the the State of Israel.

      I don’t assume God gave anything to anybody. I also disagree with the UN. I think the people who live in a territory have the right to a government that represents their interests: classic self determination and see that position as consistent with human rights. I understand the UN disagrees with that position and believes that people should be ruled over by states they despise. I certainly have trouble understanding how that view is even consistent with any concept of “human rights” but certainly object to a claim that every understanding of human rights requires these sorts unnatural terror states exist forever.

      [Israel] wants to be seen as a just and democratic state

      Because it is. The people in Israel who agree to live under Israeli law experience a just democracy. Not a perfect system. The religious courts are obnoxious for Jews. Muslims experience some degree housing and employment discrimination but all live under a pretty good system. Foreign peoples that attack Israel like the Gazans or the Lebanese Palestinians have a pretty bad experience but that’s generally the consequence of warring on more powerful neighbors including just and democratic ones.

      There is nothing hypocritical in Canada having friendly relations with Israel even if it objects to some Israeli policies. Canada has friendly relations with the USA even while objecting to some of their policies. Trudeau isn’t obligated to do anything about Israel.

  4. @Peter

    I don’t agree with you there is any obligation with respect to either goods or people on Canada from this resolution. Assume for a moment you take this resolution at its face.

    1) There exists a country called Palestine
    2) The government of Palestine is a military dictatorship backed by the Israeli government
    3) A huge number of Israelis have decided to emigrate from Israel and immigrate to Palestine to live under this dictatorship
    4) Inside the country of Palestine Israeli companies produce goods and Israel does nothing to hinder this.
    5) The country of Israel in permitting the Palestinian dictatorship to admit Israelis and Israelis companies is violating international law.

    Of course Canada could have a hostile relationship with the Palestinian dictatorship but nothing in the resolution requires that. Canada could choose to have quite friendly relationship or anything in between. All that the resolution requires is that Canada pretend Palestine exists. In terms of your two policy suggestions its unclear that Canada could treat residents of Palestine different than other Israelis. How would Canada know where an Israeli lives? Canada doesn’t maintain an Israeli population registry. An American with an American passport who lives in Thailand can travel freely to Canada, even though Thailand’s current military dictatorship is friendly with America. Canada wouldn’t distinguish between that person and any other American traveling there. And they don’t distinguish because they couldn’t distinguish.

    And similarly its unclear that Canada could restrict goods manufactured in Palestine, again how would they know? Labeling would require Israeli cooperation and Israel has refused to cooperate. Similar to the case above an American company that manufactured parts in dictatorships often don’t separately label. For example rubber for tires that Canadians buy is often produced in south-west Asia by American companies.

    For Canada to be able to make the distinctions you want Israel needs to cooperate. But of course if Israel were willing to cooperate that would imply that Israel isn’t making a permanent claim to Palestine which is root of the behaviors being objected to. Your thinking here is quite typical of other BDS policies (by more humane BDSers) which often assume that Israel will cooperate in its own destruction. You have to start being realistic in your imperialism. If your goal is to seize huge chunks of Israeli territory (at least in their mind), flood the remaining territory with a hostile population and then enslave (at best) the existing population under a government of that new population you aren’t going to get any cooperation. You should assume the same level of cooperation from Israel that North Korea would give you in assisting a Japanese take over of their country.

  5. How much lower can we go when votes are a higher priority than human rights. Shame on all politicians that are so influenced by money that they forget what being a human being even means.

  6. Thank you Peter for this analysis. It for sure the best in bringing the resolution effect to Canadian politics.


  7. Thank you Peter for the excellent clarifying article. I believe nothing in the comments debate takes away in any substantial manner from the points you make.

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