Dozens of former Canadian diplomats urge Trudeau to speak out opposing Israel’s annexation plans

Over 50 retired Canadian diplomats, including many ambassadors and three former Liberal ministers, have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau urging him to defend Canada’s historical commitment to multilateral institutions and international law by clearly indicating Canada’s opposition to Israel’s proposed ‘annexation’ of significant parts of the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. Read more…

When Prime Minister Trudeau spoke to Benjamin Netanyahu on April 12, he offered his congratulations on forming the new government and wished him well. This is normal practice among heads of government. Trudeau also said he “looked forward to working closely with the new Israeli government, and underlined the two countries’ long history as close friends and steadfast allies” and spoke of the “underlying democratic values shared by both countries”. 

But his short, celebratory conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu was remarkable for what he did NOT say. Nowhere did the Prime Minister mention Netanyahu’s highly publicized plans to take over even more Palestinian land through “annexation” of parts of the Occupied West Bank in defiance of UN resolutions and international law.

Trudeau’s reluctance to stand up for human rights and international law by clearly stating Canadian opposition to the project, has annoyed many Canadians (see letter from leading Canadian churches and even drawn criticism from some Jewish Canadian organizations. Now, a number of highly respected retired Canadian diplomats – including many with experience in the Middle East – have written a highly unusual “open letter” to the Prime Minister also urging him to change tack.

The difference between the Trudeau government’s reaction to the proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley and its reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea is a sad reality we have to deplore”, former Canadian Ambassador to Egypt Ferry de Kerkhove told CBC’s Evan Dyer.

The text of the letter follows:

Open Letter to Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister of Canada

Ottawa, June 1, 2020

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

We are writing to you as retired Canadian diplomats, proud of Canada’s historical commitment to multilateral institutions and its reputation for supporting the rule of law.

As you know, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced publicly his intention to “annex” in the coming weeks a significant amount of land that Canada, and the international community, recognize as occupied Palestinian Territory.

The unilateral annexation of territory is strictly prohibited under international law. This is a centrepiece of the Charter of the United Nations, San Francisco, 26 June 1945, and has been consolidated by treaties and resolutions, judicial rulings and scholarly writings ever since.

Indeed, this prohibition has acquired the status of a jus cogens norm in international law, meaning that it is accepted as a fundamental principle of law by the international community.

Territorial conquest and annexation are notorious for contributing to fateful results: war, political instability, economic ruin, systematic discrimination and human suffering. 

Speaking specifically to the five-decade-long Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the UN Security Council has affirmed, on eight occasions since 1967, the principle of “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory” by war or force. This principle was cited by the council to condemn as unlawful Israel’s two prior annexations of East Jerusalem, in 1980, and the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981.

We would like to urge you to publicly acknowledge Canada’s commitment to multilateralism and the rule of law by issuing a statement that Canada reaffirms its position in support of all relevant UN resolutions, including UNSC resolution 2334, which was adopted on 23 December 2016.

As you are no doubt aware, many of our allies have already spoken out opposing the Israeli proposal. Significant Canadian civil society organizations, including some Christian churches and Jewish organizations, have also urged Canada to take a similar stand.

As former Canadian diplomats, we urge you to protect Canada’s good name in the international community by speaking loudly and clearly on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed, in alphabetical order)

Jon Allen, Ambassador (Retired)

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, Minister (Retired)

Danielle Ayotte, Diplomate senior (à la retraite)

Mark Bailey, Ambassador (Retired)

Hon. James Bartleman, Ambassador (Retired) and former Lt. Gov of Ontario

Georges Béchard, Diplomate (à la retraite)

Jean-Pierre, Bolduc Ambassadeur (à la retraite)

Daniel Caron, Ambassador (Retired)

Roger Chan, Diplomat (Retired)

Robert Collette, Ambassador (Retired)

Marilyn Collette, Senior diplomat (Retired)

Abina M. Dann, Ambassador (Retired)

Glenn Davidson, Ambassador (Retired)

Jean-Yves Dionne, Consul général (à la retraite

Ferry de Kerkhove, Ambassador (Retired)

Michel de Salaberry, Ambassador (Retired)

George Debbanne, Diplomat (Retired)

René-François Désamoré, Diplomat (Retired)

James Elliott, Consul General (Retired)

Marc Faguy, Ambassador (Retired)

Ian C. Ferguson, Diplomat (Retired)

Chris Greenshields, Canadian Representative  to the PA (Retired)

Nick Hare, Ambassador (Retired)

Paul Heinbecker, Former Ambassador to the United Nations

Kathryn Hewlett-Jobes, High Commissioner (Retired)

Steve Hibbard, Canadian Representative to the PA (Retired)

Robin Higham, Ambassador (Retired)

David Horley, Diplomat (Retired)

Margaret Huber, Ambassador (Retired)

Jean-Paul Hubert, Ambassadeur (à la retraite)

George Jacoby, Diplomat (Retired)

Ken Johnston, Diplomat (Retired)

John Kneale, Ambassador (Retired)

Rick Kohler, Ambassador (Retired)

Gregory Kostyrsky, Diplomat (Retired)

Cecile Latour, Ambassadeur (à la retraite)

Gabriel-M Lessard, Ambassadeur (à la retraite)

Louise Marchand, Ambassadeur (à la retraite)

Hon. Sergio Marchi, Former Minister, Ambassador (Retired)

Tim Martin, former Representative to the Palestinian Authority

Peggy Mason, Canadian Disarmament Ambassador (Retired)

Mike Molloy, Peace Process Coordinator (Retired)

Brian Northgrave, Ambassador (Retired)

Hon. André Ouellet, Minister (Retired)

André Potvin, Diplomate senior (à la retraite)

David Preston, Ambassador (Retired)

Gilles Rivard, Ambassadeur (à la retraite)

Richard Renaud, Conseiller et Consul général (à la retraite)

Hon. Alan Rock, Professor Emeritus at U of O Law School

Haig Sarafian, Ambassador (Retired)

Sandelle Scrimshaw, Ambassador (Retired)

Alan Smith, Senior diplomat (Retired)

Richard Tetu, Ambassadeur (à la retraite)

David Viveash,  Canadian Representative to the PA (Retired)

Chris Westdal, Ambassador (Retired)

Gardiner Wilson, High Commissioner (Retired)

Don Wismer, Consul General (Retired)

Dwayne Wright, Diplomat (Retired)

Louis Vaillancourt, Diplomate senior (à la retraite)

The letter was sent to the Prime Minister by the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP) on behalf of the signatories. OFIP was assisted in drafting and recruiting signatures by members of its Advisory Council which includes several former ambassadors.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is a weekly newsletter edited by  Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the emotional and complex Israel/Palestine issue. 

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  1. Hello Peter,

    For this item, why don’t you invite Trudeau for an interview to explain why international law is not universal?

    The invitation would generate correspondence. What that correspondence says and doesn’t would be good material for further news and press releases.

    Were you to circulate a petition for PM Trudeau II to show up for an interview, I’d sign it.

    (This comment was edited to take out personal content. Please do not put personal info here as it becomes public. If you want to email me personally, pls do so at

  2. Our boy Is not so likely weighing the ethics of issue so much as the cost to his electoral backing. Unfortunately he seems to instinctively prefer the Faustian solution chosen by Trumps loyal senators. This behavior was betrayed in spades when he wrote the ICC at Netanyahu’s request. We can be thankful that his career is not dependent on many other international thugs or indicted criminals.

  3. There is no reason to respond to Mr. Pflug. However, merely being indicted is not judgment of being a criminal and there is no indication that Prime Minister Netanyahu is a thug.

    I do not know that it matters what some retired and former diplomats and ministers have to say about Israel’s plans. Israel certainly has no reason to care. Referencing a Jewish organization, that you so recently subjected to sarcastic criticism, seems to be in the same vein. No one who has any say in the matter cares about the opinions of those opposed to Israel’s plans.

    1. Whether Israel has any reason to care remains to be seen. But then the letter wasn’t addressed to Israel. It was addressed to the prime minister of Canada, with a view to influencing Canadian government policy and Canadian public opinion.

      Prime Minister Trudeau does have a say in the matter. In response to a reporter’s question quoting the diplomats’ letter, Trudeau was moved to condemn annexation during a live, nationally broadcast press conference. A strong statement of government policy was heard directly by thousands of Canadians. Canada had heretofore avoided commenting on Israel’s plans and, absent the diplomats’ letter, would likely have continued to ignore the issue.

      So yes, it does matter what some retired and former diplomats and ministers have to say.

  4. Fifty years ago Henry Kissinger’s said : “Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic politics.”. This observation is more accurate today than ever before and I believe that the annexation is just a spin by Netanyahu

    Let’s have a wager, if Israel does go ahead with the annexation I’ll donate 180$ dollars to a Palestinian charity of your choice, If the annexation doesn’t happen on the target date of July 1st (or even before the end of 2020) you’ll donate a sum of your choice to the New Israel Fund, agree?

    1. Hey Ahik, thanks for your comment… and your wager.
      I tend to agree with your assessment. My guess is that Bibi will make a lot of noise about “annexation” and “sovereignty”, but will move bit by bit. That way he will keep the right wing Zionists on side, (they have nowhere else to go) while preventing a collapse of the PA and a final unveiling of the bankruptcy of the 2 state solution illusion.

      So, If I were to bet, I would be wagering on your side. We can both make a donation to Zochrot, ( It is an Israeli organization that works to help Israelis remember the Nakba.

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