Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced on Dec 6th that Canada would not be following the US lead in moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But she was very careful not to criticize Donald Trump’s decision. Read more….
Barely a week after Canada found itself isolated at the UN General Assembly over the Israel/Palestine issue, Minister Chrystia Freeland appeared to rejoin the international consensus on Israel/Palestine by declining to follow President Trump’s decision recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.
But while she “declined to follow” she did not criticize. In a cautiously worded 4 sentence press release, Minister Freeland stuck to reaffirming “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”.
In a subsequent media briefing, “a government official told media on Tuesday that Canada will keep its embassy in Tel Aviv, ” reported the Globe and Mail.
But the Minister’s comments were careful to avoid the strong criticisms leveled at Trump by foreign ministries around the world. The only voice of support for Trump’s move was, not surprisingly, Israel. Countries as diverse as France, Turkey and China formed a chorus in condemning the US move as reckless and dangerous.
“While western allies criticize Trump’s Jerusalem move, Canada’s response remained muted“, noted Evan Dyer of CBC. “unlike the governments of Britain, France, Germany and other Western countries, Canada did not make any public effort to change Trump’s mind about an action that many in the Mideast see as a needless provocation.”
A similar point was made by the Toronto Star’s National Affairs columnist Tim Harper.
Inside Canada’s Parliament, NDP Foreign Affairs critic Helene Laverdiere also denounced the US decision as “dangerous and ill- advised”. She demanded that Canada join the world in condemning the move. Mr Matt de Courcey, Freeland’s parliamentary assistant found ways to avoid doing so however.
The Minister was treading carefully, as she had previously been lobbied by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) which strongly supports recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Is Jerusalem a part of Israel? Not according to the UN… or Canada
While Trump now says Jerusalem is a part of Israel, Canada does not agree.
Freeland’s position is no doubt based on legal advice given to her by Justice Canada lawyers noting that Canada has never recognized Jerusalem (east or west) as part of Israel.
Canada supported, and still legally supports, UN resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine in 1947 into an Arab and a Jewish State. That resolution made provision for Jerusalem to have special status, (” a corpus separatum”) not under the control of either the Jewish State or the Arab one. It was to be placed under international control in order to ensure that all three religious groups which value Jerusalem (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) would have access.
This plan was never realised, as the Zionist forces intent on having Jerusalem for the Jewish State, ignoring UN resolution 181, took over the western part of Jerusalem, expelling the non-Jews who lived there.
Nonetheless Canada still adheres to that UN resolution 181, and does not accept the legality of Israeli control over any of Jerusalem, (although it acknowledges Israel’s de facto control of West Jerusalem, for example, by agreeing to meet Israeli officials in West Jerusalem, but not in East Jerusalem). This issue has actually been dealt with in the Federal Court of Canada, which rejected an Israeli/Canadian’s claim to have “Jerusalem, Israel” marked in his passport. The federal court decided that the status of Jerusalem was still unclear.
Will the Minister’s involvement in this issue remain there? Or will she look for some other way to support the Trump decision? In a private briefing to supporters on Dec. 7th, CIJA head Shimon Fogel apparently indicated that Canada’s largest pro-Israel lobby group is pressuring the minister to make a statement confirming the “Jewishness” of Jerusalem. To be continued.
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