1/17/14, "John Ivison: As historic Middle-East trip nears, Harper may go even further in his staunch support of Israel," National Post
"When Stephen Harper touches down at
Tel Aviv’s David Ben Gurion airport on Sunday, he will receive a hero’s
welcome on the tarmac from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr. Harper’s four-day trip to Israel will see him acclaimed across
the Jewish state. “Stephen Harper has been very important because the
fact is, he takes a clear moral stand and it’s appreciated,” Mr.
Netanyahu told CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme in an interview aired Thursday.
It will be the first visit to Israel by a Canadian prime minister
since Jean Chrétien stumbled into the Middle East quagmire by backing
the late Yasser Arafat’s policy of unilaterally declaring independence
for his Palestinian Authority, in 2000.
Mr. Harper, and the six senior Cabinet members who will join him on
the trip, may be prophets without honour in their own country, given the
recent political climate, but in Israel they will be lauded as staunch
allies who have spoken up for the Jewish state at the United Nations and
at G8 summits.
Stopovers will include an address to the Knesset; a visit to the
Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley bird sanctuary; and, a question and answer
session with students at Tel Aviv University, where the Prime Minister
will receive an honourary doctorate.
The reception is likely to be more muted in the West Bank, where Mr.
Harper will visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, before
meeting Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Ottawa points out that it has provided $650-million humanitarian
assistance to the West Bank and Gaza since the Oslo Accord was signed in
But there can be no doubt where the sympathies of the Harper
government lie — and they are not with the Palestinian Authority. They
are certainly not with the Hamas administration in Gaza, which Canada
considers a terrorist entity.
Mr. Harper’s admirers in Israel point to his staunch support for the
Jewish state — boycotting the Durban conferences against racism in 2009
and 2011; robust defence of Israel’s operations in Lebanon in 2006;
opposition to a statement criticizing Israel at the Francophonie;
support for Israeli retaliation after Hamas aggression from Gaza;
pressure at the G8 summit in 2011 on a draft communiqué that specified
Israel’s pre-1967 borders should be the starting point for peace talks;
and, Canada’s consistent backing for Israel at the United Nations
General Assembly, including opposition to the vote to upgrade
Palestine’s status at the UN from “non-voting member entity” to
“non-voting member state.”
Critics of Mr. Harper’s foreign policy like former diplomat Robert
Fowler have dubbed it an “Israel: right or wrong” strategy, claiming it
has undermined Ottawa’s credibility and contributed to rising Islamic
But there are no signs that the Harper government is re-thinking its aggressive pro-Israel stance.
On the contrary, Mr. Harper may go further still. Official Canadian
foreign policy, as expressed on the Department of Foreign Affairs
website, says that Canada does not recognize Israel’s unilateral
annexation of East Jerusalem or permanent control over territories
occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and
the Gaza Strip). Further, it says Israeli settlements in the “occupied
territories” are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
But when Mr. Harper’s communications director, Jason MacDonald, was
asked Friday whether the West Bank settlements are illegal, he repeated
the government’s mantra that “unilateral action by either party is not
conducive to a [peaceful] outcome.”
The point being made was that Canada’s foreign policy is whatever the
Prime Minister says it is, regardless of the policy being pursued by
the Department of Foreign Affairs (or Canada’s legal commitments under
the Geneva Convention).
A former Israeli ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, and a number of
Toronto area lawyers have called for the Foreign Affairs website to be
changed “to align with statements and policies expressed by the prime
Mr. Baker has said the issue is likely to be raised by senior Israeli government officials during Mr. Harper’s visit.
Another item that is likely to be brought up by the Israelis is the
lack of recognition for Jewish refugees. Canada’s Foreign Affairs
committee tabled a report in November recommending the Harper government
recognize the experience of the estimated 850,000 Jews displaced from
states in the Middle East and North Africa after 1948. Sources suggest
that Canada will soon become one of the first countries to formally
recognize that Jews also were forced to leave their homelands because of
discrimination, intimidation and fear after 1948.
Jewish groups have long pointed out that while there have been 72
resolutions at the United Nations on the issue of an estimated 4.9
million Palestinian refugees, there have been none on the Jewish
refugees — thus presenting “an incomplete version of history.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said this announcement is unlikely to be
made on this trip. But if Mr. Harper indicates to Mr. Netanyahu it is
coming, an already warm welcome could turn delirious." via Free Rep.