Hon. Marc Garneau, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke to the UN on September 27th. When discussing the Israel/Palestine issue, he chose his words carefully, moving slightly away from Canada’s repeatedly stated commitment to the two state solution. Why? How significant is it, and what might lie behind it? Read more….
For the past seven decades, Canada has been a staunch supporter of a two state-solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. The official position, to be found on the Global Affairs website, reads as follows: “Canada is committed to (…) the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”
Canada’s support for the theory of the two state solution to the conflict has been consistent. According to McGill professor Rex Brynen, as recently as last June, Garneau told Middle East leaders that the “two state solution is the ONLY solution”.
At least that was what Canada has always said publicly. In practice, Canada has done little to advance this outcome, refusing to apply any penalties to Israel, opposing UN resolutions addressing the conflict, and even refraining from open criticism as Israel keeps on appropriating/taking over more and more land in the West Bank. All this while the very idea of a two state solution becomes more and more remote.
But in his September 27 speech to the UN, Minister Garneau appeared to reflect a change in posture. “We believe that a two state solution is the better way to address the needs and concerns of both Israelis and Palestinians, and we encourage direct negotiations to reach this critical objective.”
No longer the “only way” but the “better way”.
Does this change of wording represent a subtle shift in Canada’s position? Is Minister Garneau starting to recognize that Canada has been promoting a solution which has run out of gas, even as an empty slogan? Or is it simply a minor change of wording by his speechwriter?
We will see when he makes further statements. But two developments may have influenced his choice of words.
First, Naftali Bennet, Israel’s new prime minister, has been telling everyone who will listen that he does not want to negotiate with the Palestinians and that there will be no Palestinian State while he is prime minister. “For Israel, the two state solution is no solution”, Bennet wrote recently an opinion piece in the New York Times. For Canada to continue to claim that the two state solution is the “ONLY” solution, while Canada’s “friend and ally’ says there will be no such thing, is bound to cause tension between the two.
Secondly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also has been making vague threats to Israel. In a recent speech he said he is considering moving away from a two state solution, even going so far as to propose one democratic state!!! “Israel’s rejection of the two-state solution will force us to go for other options”. (…) We will ask for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council’s resolution passed in 1947, or go to the one democratic state on the land of historic Palestine in which the full political and civil rights of the Palestinians are gained,” he said.
Abbas is stuck. Faced with an Israeli government that openly says there will not be a two state solution, he has little room to manoeuver. His entire political career has been based on that single notion. And his political support is plummeting. A recent public opinion polls shows that more than 80 percent of Palestinians want him to resign, and observers feel that if a free election were held Hamas would win handily. Abbas’ tough sounding talk seems almost farcical and is unlikely to bring many Palestinians over to his side. And his ability to actually force the Israelis to DO anything appears very slight.
Significance for Canada
The charade of a two decade long peace process aimed at an unfulfillable promise has allowed Israel to continue to expand settlements in the West Bank, destroy Palestinian houses, force Palestinian farmers off their traditional lands, carry out ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem and devastate Gaza.
Canada, along with other Western countries, has been a party to this charade long enough. Perhaps Minister Garneau senses that game of musical chairs might end up at a different chair.
OF POSSIBLE INTEREST – RECENT MONTHLY STATS FROM THE UN
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA) gathers statistics from the Occupied Territories. Its regular “Protection of Civilians Report” is almost always overwhelmingly a story of Israeli settler and official violence against Palestinians.
Here is the report for the Month of September 2021. Its summary statistics report in the two week period from September August 21 to October 4:
- 9 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces
- 328 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in oPt
- 0 Israelis killed by Palestinians
- 3 Palestinian structures demolished by Israelis
- 20 attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians
- 70 Israeli military incursions into the West Bank
- 2 Israeli military incursions into Gaza
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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