At the recent NATO summit, US president Trump called Canadian prime minister Trudeau “two-faced” for gossiping about him behind his back. That was certainly mean and rude. But guest columnist Grafton Ross argues that it might be an accurate description of the Trudeau Liberal policy towards Israel/Palestine. Read more…
Grafton Ross is Vice-Chair and head of Research for the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine
At the recent NATO summit, US president Trump called Canadian prime minister Trudeau “two-faced” for gossiping about him behind his back. That was certainly mean and rude. But it might be an accurate description of the Trudeau Liberal policy towards Israel/Palestine.
Last month, in a move which caught many by surprise, Canada voted “for” a UN resolution affirming the Palestinian right to self-determination. But then on December 3, Canada voted “against” the UN committee tasked with promoting that very right.
The resolution that Canada and 163 other nations supported (only Israel, the US, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Nauru opposed) read: “Affirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders, 1. Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine.”
In explaining its vote, Canada’s UN representative said the resolution “addresses the core issue of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict. It is essential that both sides of the conflict have a prosperous future.” A Global Affairs Canada official said the vote “sends a message that Canada does not agree with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion” on the legality of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.
Israel lobby in Canada enraged
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) called the vote a “betrayal.” Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said the resolution “unfairly implies that Israel is responsible for the Palestinians’ self-determination.” Both CIJA and UN Watch launched online petitions.
The titles of articles in the National Post and Montreal community newspaper The Suburban (“Trudeau’s Faustian bargain” and “Trudeau joins the jackals…”) both channeled quotes from UN Watch CEO Hillel Neuer. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called Canada’s vote “appalling,” while Liberal MP Michael Levitt expressed “concern and disappointment.”
But there was also support. NDP MP Charlie Angus congratulated Trudeau “on ensuring that Canada’s vote at the UN recognized the rights of Palestinians.” In a letter to Trudeau, 14 Canadian-Palestinian organizations thanked the government for its “principled vote.” Independent Jewish Voices Canada and CJPME also extended their congratulations. All expressed the hope that the vote signaled the beginning of a more balanced approach to the conflict and stronger support for human rights.
In the face of all this, newly-appointed Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne hastened to issue reassurances to the Jewish community. “Canada has been in touch with members of the Jewish community about its decision to support the UN resolution. I think people in the Jewish community in Canada and across the world see Canada as an ally but there are times when we must express our opinion and our position as we did yesterday at the UN” he declared.
Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-Andre Blanchard, appeared to strengthen that resolve by tweeting: “Le Canada retrouve sa voix à l’ONU” [“Canada finds its voice at the UN”], linking to an editorial in Quebec’s influential media outlet, La Presse, which had praised Canada’s vote.
So that means the Trudeau Liberals really are “returning Canada to an ‘honest broker’ role in Middle East,” as then Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion promised four years ago? Right?
On December 3, Canada voted in quick succession against five resolutions concerning Israel/Palestine, including one enabling the “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” This is the very committee tasked with promoting the Palestinian right to self-determination, the right which Canada claims to support because it “addresses the core issue of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.”
So what’s going on? In the coming weeks, the UN General Assembly will debate and vote on several more resolutions related to Israel/Palestine. Where will Canada stand? Are the Trudeau Liberals signalling the change promised by Dion, or will they continue to ally themselves with the US and a quartet of South Pacific dependencies in wall-to-wall opposition to all resolutions critical of Israel’s actions?
The pressure is on. On December 5, the National Post quoted former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accusing Canada of “striking a deal with the devil” by supporting the resolution. The following day, Conservatives attacked Trudeau in Question Period – Peter Kent characterizing Canada’s vote as “faithlessness of Liberal Canadian foreign policy.”
And remember, the Canadian vote that has so upset Israel and its advocates? That was actually just a committee vote on a draft resolution which must now be voted on again in the UN General Assembly. The committee’s report, including this draft resolution, will be presented to the General Assembly on December 18 – and there is nothing preventing Canada from changing its vote if it chooses.
Will the Trudeau Liberals maintain their support for Palestinian self-determination? Or are they really “two-faced,” as Trump claims?
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