Considering the attention Prime Minister Stephan Harper’s trip to Israel is receiving, I felt it was the appropriate time to post this term paper I wrote last year on Canada-Israel relations. It is a fairly long piece, and while it has not been updated to include recent developments, it is still worth reading, especially if you are unfamiliar with the history of Canada’s relationship with Israel.
By posting this paper, I hope to dispel the myths being perpetuated by the media. For example, despite what many have been saying, until Prime Minister Harper took office, relations between Canada and Israel had been, for the most part, tense. That’s not to say there wasn’t justification for certain steps Canada took against Israel at times, but many obvious mistakes were made due to a misguided policy of neutrality between the Israelis and Palestinians. At the very least, Prime Minister Harper has cleared up the confusion surrounding Canada’s foreign policy towards Israel.
With that out of the way, I want to say one more thing. As I have said previously, while I do not mind someone using my term paper as a starting point, DO NOT STEAL MY WORK! I worked far too hard for someone to come in and pass this off as their own work, and, if you don’t already know (how could you not know?), at the university level, plagiarism could get you expelled.
In November, 2010, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech to the Ottawa Conference on Anti-Semitism. Speaking of what he saw as a “new wave of anti-Semitism,” he cited speeches given by certain foreign leaders who threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and pointed to the treatment of Jewish students at Canadian universities. In this speech, Prime Minister Harper stated,
We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism — healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.
And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations, or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’ There are, after all, a lot more votes, a lot more, in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But, as long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. And friends, I say this not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well if we listen to it, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.
His remark about having the “the bruises to show for it” was likely a reference to the loss of Canada’s seat on the Security Council, which critics have blamed on his unwavering support of Israel in the face of increasing support for the demands of the Palestinians. Prime Minister Harper made it clear that Canada will stand against what he characterized as this “new wave of anti-Semitism” at the United Nations or elsewhere, “whatever the cost.” What makes this quote significant is that it essentially sums up the Harper government’s political motivations and Canada’s foreign policy toward Israel since the Conservative Party of Canada came to power in 2006.
Recently, the geo-political dynamic of the Middle East has seen dramatic changes. The popular uprisings or ‘Arab Spring’, which many had hoped would bring new found peace and stability to the region through democratic elections, has instead had the opposite effect. What has replaced this hope and optimism is now often referred to as the ‘Arab Winter’. The rise of Islamism throughout the Middle East has brought civil strife, throwing one country after another into chaos with opposing heavily armed militant gangs wreaking havoc. Western intervention into the region, notably NATO’s intervention into Libya in 2011, rather than stabilizing the situation, has seemingly made matters worse, leading to instability within the former dictatorship and surrounding countries like Niger and Mali. Egypt, once a trusted ally has elected an Islamist government and is now seen as a potential threat. President Morsi recently forced through a new constitution in the face of widespread opposition which has led to a renewal of violent demonstrations in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country. He also threatened that France would face consequences for its intervention in Mali to stop Islamist extremists from murdering innocents in their bid to take over the country. As the Middle East is further destabilized by this wave of Islamic fundamentalism, all eyes are focused squarely on Israel and how it may be able to deal with what appears to be an ever growing threat to its security. The situation in Syria has developed into an all out civil war and, in response to the movement of arms into Lebanon, Israel’s northern neighbour, Israel launched an air strike in Lebanese territory. Israel’s relationship with historically its staunchest ally, the United States of America, is seen as being strained at the moment. A number of media sources have reported on the testy relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, especially in relation to the threat Iran developing nuclear weapons. In this time of trouble for the Jewish state, it is important for it to have other close allies. Canada is not only an ally but a country that has been increasingly vocal in its support for Israel. This paper will examine how Canada’s relationship with Israel has changed since the election of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the challenges that face both countries moving forward.
2. History of Canadian-Israeli Relations
The history of Canada’s relationship with Israel is far different than what is usually reported. According to a recent CBC article,
Canada has supported Israel from the beginning and was one of the 33 countries that voted in favour of the 1947 United Nations resolution that led to the founding of the nation of Israel a year later.
Yet, contrary to this article by the CBC, Canada did not immediately support Israel’s right to statehood. In fact, Canada withheld de facto recognition of the Jewish state until December of 1948, after having abstained from voting when the issue first came to a vote in the Security Council. Lester B. Pearson, who was the Secretary of State for External Affairs at the time, had been upset by U.S. President Harry Truman’s quick granting of de facto recognition of Israel’s statehood. Though Pearson did personally support recognition, pressure from those within Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s cabinet over fears of a “clash with Britain” kept him from doing so. When the vote did come up in the Security Council in December of 1947, Canada abstained because of it did not want to be seen to be the deciding vote. Michael Saul Comay, the head of the British Commonwealth Division of the Israel Foreign Ministry, was very upset with the outcome of the vote, claiming that Canada was responsible for the rejection of Israel’s application.
Although Canada and Israel over many years have generally enjoyed friendly relations, there have nonetheless been times in the past when relations between the two countries have been strained. Though Canada would later support Israel’s right to statehood, relations between the two countries had begun on less than-friendly-terms. In 1967, following the Six Day War, Canada voted in favour of UN Resolution 242, calling for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank. Despite promising to move Canada’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during the 1979 election, Prime Minister Joe Clark, after pressure from Arab diplomats, derailed the plans. In 1982, in reaction to the Lebanese War, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said that he was “dismayed with the escalation of the conflict represented by the massive movement of Israeli forces into Lebanon,” undermining the Israeli war effort. According to the CBC,
The Israel-Lebanon war in the early 1980s, however, saw relations weaken, with Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau telling prime minister Menachem Begin that he could not accept “that the present military activities are justified.”
There was also the attempted assassination of Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, by Mossad agents carrying doctored Canadian passports in 1997. According to the CBC article cited earlier,
Canada has nonetheless remained a staunch backer of Israel’s interests, though a rift emerged in 1997 after it was discovered that Israeli agents had used Canadian passports to sneak into Jordan and assassinate a senior Hamas operative (a mission that ultimately failed).
Canada recalled its ambassador to Israel over the affair.
On October 7, 2000, Canada voted in favour of UN Security Council Resolution 1322, condemning Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, also known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, an important holy site for Muslims and Jews. Prior to the visit, Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami received permission for Sharon to visit the Temple Mount from Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub, who in turn received assurances from Ben-Ami that Sharon would not enter any of the mosques. Despite this, a day after the visit, on September 29, the Palestinian Authority closed down schools and bused students to the Temple Mount to participate in organized riots. The situation soon escalated and riots spread throughout Gaza and the West Bank. The violence continued throughout October, with Palestinians stoning worshipers at the Western Wall and attacking Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem with firebombs and automatic weapons. It was later revealed by Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communication Minister that the violence had been planned in July after Yasser Arafat returned from Camp David, having rejected American conditions for a peace process. An investigatory committee led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell released its report on the incident on April 30th, 2001. The Mitchell Report confirmed that “the Sharon visit did not cause the “Al-Aksa intifada.” The vote demonstrated Canada’s determination to maintaining an appearance of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite good intentions of the resolution, it helped justify the violence that followed.
3. A Strengthening of Relations
Prior to Stephen Harper becoming Prime Minister, Canada’s support for Israel could be described as passive. As with previous Prime Ministers, Paul Martin supported the “two-state solution” for the Israelis and the Palestinians. Because of this position, past Prime Ministers have been wary of voicing support for Israel during disputes at the United Nations and instead, have chosen to maintain its neutrality with Israel and the Palestinians. For example, in 2004, under the direction of Prime Minister Paul Martin, Canada abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution demanding Israel abide by a World Court of Justice ruling to remove the West Bank wall. On this issue, 150 countries voted in favour of the resolution. Canada was one of the ten countries to abstain from voting, and the United States was one of the six that voted against the resolution. Canada’s decision to not support the resolution to remove the West Bank wall can be viewed as supporting the Israeli position. However, the fact that it did not join the U.S. in voting against the resolution, suggests that it wished to maintain an appearance of neutrality on the Palestinian issue. Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, expressed his profound disappointment regarding the outcome of the vote, saying ”Thank God that the fate of Israel and of the Jewish people is not decided in this hall.”
According to the Professor Paul C. Merkley of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, this attitude, which he referred to as “a lack of enthusiasm for Israel’s cause,” made Jewish Canadians unhappy as they would have hoped Canada would be more supportive of the Jewish state. When, in 2004, Prime Minister Martin sent Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew to Ramallah to attend Yasir Arafat’s funeral, Jewish Canadians were outraged. The Executive Vice-President of B’nai Brith, Drank Dimant, denounced the actions, saying “It’s scandalous. Is this going to be a new Canadian foreign policy, that we send our foreign minister to attend funerals of terrorists?” The situation only got worse when, on February 11, 2005, Foreign Minister Pettigrew returned to Ramallah to lay a wreath on behalf of Canadians at Arafat’s grave. This would become a real sticking point for Jewish voters during the 2006 federal election.
The basis for Stephen Harper’s support of Israel has been frequently questioned. Seeing that the Liberal Party was vulnerable with Jewish voters in 2006, Harper promised that if the Conservative Party of Canada was elected as the government, it would improve the way Canada treated Israel. This wasn’t the first time conservative politicians voiced support for the Jewish state. Prior to the merger that created the Conservative Party of Canada, the Alliance Party of Canada, led by Stockwell Day, had built up a large coalition of Jewish supporters because of its strong support for Israel. Harper’s support for the Jewish state, though perceived by his political opponents as a cynical strategy, was seen by Jewish voters as an expression of a deeply held conviction. As Gerry Nicholls, a communication consultant who worked with Harper at the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative think-tank stated, “I think this is one of those happy incidences in politics where personal principle collides with or intersects with political self-interest.”
Prime Minister Harper’s motivations for strengthening Canadian-Israeli relations have been scrutinized by many political and foreign policy analysts. To some, Canada’s support for Israel in the face of massive opposition at the United Nation is “tone deaf” and it undermines efforts to solve the region’s problems. The Prime Minister’s Office has yet to respond directly to these criticisms, however, Dimitri Soudas, who has worked for Harper for nearly a decade, voiced his own beliefs on the issue. According to Soudas, “In that region, Israel is an island of democracy and he [Harper] thinks that must always be protected.” This view has been echoed by other staffers who believe that Harper recognizes the threat Hamas poses to Israel and the threat anti-Semitism poses to the Jewish people and liberal democracies. In this, Harper believes he’s on the “right” side of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and regardless of international pressure, he is secure in his position and will not budge. That isn’t, however, to say the Prime Minister does not have support for his position. An Environics Research Group poll taken in January 2012 found that 48 percent of Canadians polled felt that the government’s policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict struck “the right balance” with only 23 percent saying it was “too pro-Israel.” Aside from his personal beliefs, it could very well be that Harper’s position is influenced by the views of Canadians regarding the issue.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has strengthened relations with the Jewish state. Following the 2006 Palestinian elections that saw Hamas come into power, even before Israel, Canada was the first to come out and boycott the newly elected government. Harper also supported Israel ‘s decision to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon and its offensive against Hamas in the same year. At the 2011 G8 summit in Deauville, France, Canada was the only country that did not endorse Obama’s plan to use the pre 1967 borders as a prerequisite to negotiations. As Daniel LeBlanc of the Globe and Mail wrote,
Alone among G8 leaders, the Canadian Prime Minister refuses to embrace the U.S. President’s plan to begin peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of a return to Israel’s de facto borders as they existed before its 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries – a precondition, accepted by Arabs and by many previous Israeli leaders and Canadian governments, that would be necessary to get Palestinians back to the table.
In 2009, Harper was also the first to boycott the Durban II conference, arguing that it was a simply a forum to attack Israel. In the same year, his government also condemned the controversial Goldstone Report, saying that it unfairly blamed Israel for the 2009 conflict with Hamas. More recently, in 2011, Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter McKay, said to visiting Israeli Major General Gabi Ashkenazi, that “a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada.”
Recognition of the strengthening of ties between Canada and Israel have been discussed at length in the media. According to CBC News,
The election of Stephen Harper as prime minister in 2006 heralded a period of particularly strong Canadian support of Israel — stronger, in some respects, than that of Israel’s biggest patron, the United States.
Al Jazeera’s Jon Elmer expressed concern about these stronger relations between the two countries, stating in 2010 that, “While key Canadian diplomatic support for Israel dates back to the creation of the state, relations have never been stronger. Internationally, Canada’s support of Israel has arguably diminished its influence in the Middle East. Following the expulsion of its diplomats from Canada, a spokesman from Iran, a leading terrorist-supporting state, stated that Canada is now “under the influence of the Zionist regime” of Israel. As a result, there are concerns that Canada will now be targeted by terrorists supported by Iran, or other Islamic terror groups with the destruction of Israel as one of their main objectives.
This strengthening of ties, however, does not mean that Canada will support Israel on every issue. Days after standing with Israel against the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations, Prime Minister Harper told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that he disapproves of a plan to build more settlements east of Jerusalem. According to CTV News,
The Prime Minister’s office told CTV that the settlement expansion will ultimately hinder efforts to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Harper also condemned Israel for taking unilateral action.
The article also discusses Canada’s decision on December 4 to continue with its humanitarian aid commitment to the Palestinians. This is in keeping with Canada’s commitment to fostering a “just and lasting peace,” as outlined on the government’s official website outlining its policies concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This demonstrates that, despite Canada closer relationship to Israel, it still remains committed to the goal set forth by previous governments.
4. American-Israeli Tensions
Stronger relations between Canada and Israel has caused some to raise questions concerning Israel’s relationship with the United States, traditionally the Jewish state’s strongest supporter. As noted by the CBC, Canada’s support for Israel since 2006 has been “stronger, in some respects, than that… [of] the United States.” This observation isn’t simply a comparison between relationships. Since President Barack Obama came to office in January, 2009, relations between the United States and Israel have become strained. Obama’s critics have long pointed to his past relationships with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his former spiritual advisor, who is well-known for making anti-Semitic statements, and Rashid Khalidi, the former director of the PLO’s press agency WAFA from 1972 to 1982 and advocate of the “one state solution” for “Palestine” (the Jewish state is destroyed and replaced by an Arab state). This perception of Obama has been intensified by his actions in office, notably his treatment of the Israeli Prime Minister during a visit to the United States in 2010. According to the Telegraph’s Adrian Blomfield,
He immediately presented Mr Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.
When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr Obama rose from his seat declaring: “I’m going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls.”
As he left, Mr Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. “I’m still around,” Mr Obama is quoted by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. “Let me know if there is anything new.”
Though early missteps like these may be overlooked as a result of being new in the job, they have instead become part of a growing trend from this administration. Whereas Prime Minister Harper has made an effort to define himself and his government as a staunch ally of Israel and the Jewish people, no similar effort has been made by President Obama.
On May 24, 2011, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that, “Israel has no better friend than the United States and America has no better friend than Israel.” The speech not only outlined what steps Israel was and was not willing to take to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but it helped to reaffirm the Jewish state’s desire for good relations with the United States. Netanyahu’s words came as a surprise to those following recent events, most notably, because of Obama’s attempt at a Middle East peace proposal which would force Israel to return to the pre-1967 Armistice Demarcation Lines (incorrectly referred to by Obama and others as “borders”) in order for the Palestinians to have their own separate state. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected Obama’s proposal, saying that returning to the Armistice Demarcation Lines would not only leave segments of Israel’s population outside its borders, but in addition, these borders were “indefensible.” President Obama and his administration, who have long tried to broker a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, have grown frustrated with what they believe is Israel’s inability to take necessary steps towards peace. According to officials within the Obama administration, the President believes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was a “political coward” that “doesn’t know what his own best interests are.” Adding to this, prior to President Obama’s March 2013 visit to Israel, Al Arabiya reported that he would not be bringing with him a peace plan because Israel is not interested in peace at this time. According to the report,
When President Obama was asked by a group of Arab-American leaders during a meeting last week on why he did not intend to launch a new peace process, the leader said that Israel was not ready to make concessions, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, cited an official, who was present at the high-level meeting, as saying.
The official, who kept his identity anonymous, said the U.S. leader was frustrated with fruitlessness of the peace process, claiming it would be pointless to pressure the Israeli government at this time.
This occurred shortly after the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize a Palestinian state, a resolution on which America joined Canada, Israel and a handful of other countries to vote against it. While it is not possible to verify the veracity of the claim by Al Arabiya, the fact that the U.S. President did not put a proposal on the table for discussion suggests that Obama did indeed feel that it would be “pointless” to do so. Also, the fact that there was no denial or statement of clarification from the U.S. administration after the fact, reinforced the notion that the article was accurate. The undeniable impression created by this article was that the President of the United States, was placing the blame for the lack of progress on the peace talks squarely on the shoulders of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Rather than having a positive effect on the peace process, as CNN’s Frida Ghitis suggested, the Obama visit would appear to have had the effect of undermining Israel’s position. In a recent interview, Caroline Glick, a senior contributing editor for the Jerusalem Post stated that the Israeli people “can’t figure out what he’s doing here” because they view him as “a hostile president overall.” In this same interview, she added, “Essentially his [Obama’s] goal is to empower the un-electable, incredibly radical left in Israel to put pressure on the Israeli government for whatever concessions he wants it to make to the PLO.”
In contrast to American criticism of Israel, Canada has taken every opportunity to show its support for Jewish state. In a recent speech to the Jewish National Fund of Ottawa, during the group’s annual Negev Dinner, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expressed his own admiration for the Jewish state and its people, while speaking out against its critics, most notably the United Nations, and what he sees as a “new wave of anti-Semitism.”
Just as conventional anti-Semitism denied Jews the right to live as equal members of humanity, the new anti-Semitism denies the State of Israel the right to live as an equal member of the international community.
It’s because of this distorted thinking that over one quarter of all UN resolutions condemning a state’s human rights violations have been directed at Israel.
Despite its unwavering support, the problem with Canada’s position is that depends in large part on American and European support, neither of which is forthcoming of late. In John Baird’s latest speech to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he stated that the Palestinians will face consequences from Canada if they pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court, demonstrating that Canada will take action, even if it does so alone. Even if funding from Canada to the Palestinians is cut ($300 million over the next five years), it would not have nearly as significant an impact as it would if America promised to cut funding (approximately $600 million annually since 2008). If the United States administration’s perceived hostility toward Israel continues, it may find itself without American support, and Canada and Israel will have to look elsewhere for assistance to put meaningful pressure on the Palestinians.
5. From ‘Arab Spring’ to ‘Arab Winter’
The changing dynamic in the Middle East is nowhere more visible than in Egypt. As stated previously, many had hoped that the uprising which ousted Mubarak would lead to the establishment of a stable democracy. Despite concerns of Muslim Brotherhood involvement in the election process, many political pundits and foreign policy experts believed that the ‘Arab Spring’ would transform, not just Egypt, but the entire Middle East, bringing Western-style democracies and freedom to a region that has only known dictators and Islamic tyrants. In fact, many, including Dr. Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis, and Counterintelligence April 13, 2011, that it would be best for the United States if the Muslim Brotherhood was “integrated as a normal political actor in the various countries in which it operates.”
The optimism can be said to be dangerous naivety of the nature of many of the revolutionary groups that were being celebrated by Western intelligentsia and media. As Eric Trager, a contributor for ForeignPolicy.com wrote,
As the Brotherhood’s first year in power has demonstrated, elections do not, by themselves, yield a democracy. Democratic values of inclusion are also vital. And the Muslim Brotherhood — which has deployed violence against protesters, prosecuted its critics, and leveraged state resources for its own political gain — clearly lacks these values.
Far too many Western analysts were willing to believe what they had heard about the Muslim Brotherhood. At its core, despite assurances to the contrary, the Muslim Brotherhood is a radical political organization that uses religion to mobilize supporters. As of now, after a year of President Mohammed Morsi’s rule, Egypt is once again on the brink of collapse with protesters in the streets refusing to accept the last November’s election results and the threat of a military coup if the Islamist government can’t maintain order. A military coup would at least help preserve the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. If last November’s conflict in Gaza is any indicator, the Muslim Brotherhood, which not only denounced Israeli airstrikes but stood in solidarity with Hamas militants at the time, is intending to scrap the peace treaty with Israel once they have finally consolidated power in Egypt, which as Eric Trager noted, could take years.
As the situation continues to worsen in Egypt, the Canadian government advised Canadians visiting the region to “exercise a high degree of caution.” While it has yet to issue a travel advisory warning for Egypt as a whole, the Canadian government has advised against “all travel to the Sinai Peninsula, Port Said, Suez and Ismailia, with the exception of coastal resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh.” Despite Israeli concerns over the Muslim Brotherhood, Canada has yet to cut off ties with Egypt, like it did with Iran recently. This could be because of Canada’s long standing relationship with Egypt, as outlined on the Canadian government’s website.
The Canada-Egypt bilateral relationship is a mutually respectful and beneficial partnership, founded on a common interest in peace, stability and security in the Middle East, development cooperation, cross-cultural understanding and growing trade relations. Canada and Egypt established embassies in their respective capitals in 1954. Since that time Canada has enjoyed positive relations with this key Arab partner, which is an important actor in efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. The shared commitment for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East lies at the core of Canada’s relations with Egypt.
It is more than likely that until Egypt takes direct action against Israel, Canada will do what it can to maintain good relations. This long standing relationship, however, may not last as it is much longer.
Despite assurances from Middle East experts that the Muslim Brotherhood’s threats against Israel as mere rhetoric, those who have studied the Islamist organization, like Eric Trager has, believe otherwise.
From the Muslim Brotherhood’s perspective, however, Morsy preserved the movement’s anti-Israel agenda. He stood by his refusal to meet with Israelis by outsourcing those negotiations to Egyptian intelligence officials; the ceasefire strengthened Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; and the Egyptian government accepted no new responsibilities to stem the flow of weapons into Gaza. Far from yielding to the reality of Egyptian-Israeli relations, Morsy simply deferred their reassessment so that he could focus on his more immediate goal — consolidating the Muslim Brotherhood’s control at home. Indeed, one day after the Gaza ceasefire, Morsy issued his power-grabbing constitutional declaration, and rammed through a new Islamist constitution shortly thereafter.
So far, there has been little to no evidence to refute this point. On January 1st this year, Roi Kais of Ynet reported that Essam al-Aryan, advisor to Egyptian President Morsi, had told London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat that Israel would be wiped out within a decade. Shortly after this scandal broke, a 2010 interview with Mohammed Morsi surfaced.
The clips, hosted and translated by MEMRI, show Mohammed Morsi in 2010 giving a speech to camera on negotiations with Israel. Morsi claims any negotiations are, “futile and a waste of time and opportunities”
He states, “No reasonable person can expect any progress on this track. Either [you accept] the Zionists and everything they want, or else it is war. This is what these occupiers of the land of Palestine know – these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”
Morsi, lauded for his role in brokering a peace between Hamas and Israel last year also states that there is categorically no place for Israel in the region and that the country should not exist. He said, “There is no place for them on the land of Palestine. What they took before 1947-8 constitutes plundering, and what they are doing now is a continuation of this plundering. By no means do we recognize their Green Line. The land of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, not to the Zionists.”
Despite the comments being condemned by the White House, no steps have been taken by the United States to address Israeli concerns. In fact, according to Elliott Abrams, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, the American aid program to Egypt has failed to keep up with changes within the country, instead acting on “auto-pilot.” If the aid is to be effective in persuading the Egyptian government into taking certain actions, whether it be to address the human rights issues within its own country, or to maintain the peace treaty with Israel, proper attention was be made to “the timing, conditions and composition of our [American] aid.”
Despite Canada’s long standing relationship with Egypt, it is in no position to persuade the Egyptian government to maintain a peace treaty with Israel. Without American assurances that it will take steps to better handle this situation, Israel must consider Egypt a serious potential threat.
6. Canada’s Position Moving Forward
Without any official announcements concerning the Canadian government’s foreign policy in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, it is difficult to ascertain what Canada’s Middle Eastern foreign policy is at this point. This matter is further complicated by the ever-changing situation within the Middle East at present. As discussed earlier, Canada suspended diplomatic ties with Iran. After doing so, Canada then expanded sanctions against the country in the hope of targeting “98 additional individuals and entities” associated with the Iranian regime who are “surrounding and supporting Iran’s nuclear program.” Canada also drafted a resolution, co-sponsored by forty-two other countries, condemning Iran at the United Nations for its human rights abuses. In response, Iran’s UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee tried to deflect this criticism of his country’s human rights record by calling Canada “racist” and “self-centred.” Canada’s position towards Iran, however, is simply a continuation of long standing policies. For example, this was the tenth year that Canada has led the now-annual resolution against Iran. Before suspending diplomatic ties with the Islamic regime, relations between the two countries have always been tense since Canada re-established diplomatic relations with Iran in 1996.
Because of the ever-changing situation within the Middle East at present, Canada’s policies appear case specific, not wide reaching general policies directed at many different countries. As the Canadian government reviews its aid to the Palestinians, Canada is likely being forced to reassess its relationship with other countries in the Middle East as the ‘Arab Spring’ sweeps across the region. For example, prior to the conflict in Libya which led to the ousting of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the Canadian government had launched a campaign to secure business opportunities for Canadian firms. As a reward for helping those who would take over leadership of the North African country Canada hoped to secure new business for Canadian firms. Aside from protecting civilians and promoting human rights, according to a newly released documents, the Canadian government got involved to protect Canada’s investments while hoping to secure new ones. With Libya now in turmoil, and the Canadian government issuing travel advisories warning against visiting the country, it is unlikely that it will be possible to secure new business opportunities.
Despite Canada’s active role in the region in promoting democracy and protecting human rights, critics of Prime Minister Harper have weighed in on Canada’s relationship with Israel. Jeffery Simpson of the Globe and Mail believes that Canada has abandoned it foreign policy for an “Israel policy,” stating,
In pursuit of regional stability, Canada, with Israel’s support, stationed peacekeeping troops in Gaza and the Golan Heights. In pursuit of humanitarian objectives, and with Israel’s support, Canada chaired the UN refugee-assistance group. In pursuit of economic interests, Canada signed free-trade agreements with Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Canada also urged restraint on both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, knowing that its influence was very limited, indeed…
…Now, however, Canada has only an Israel policy. The Harper government has plucked one element from previous policy – the well-founded defence of Israel’s security and legitimacy against those who question or threaten both – to trump all the other elements. As a result, Canada has traded a policy of outreach and balance (which previous Israeli governments appreciated) for one of being an echo chamber for the Netanyahu government.
In another article, Simpson also stated,
Whether Liberal or Conservative, Canadian governments strongly supported both Israel and peaceful Palestinian aspirations…
…No longer. Mr. Harper has taken a radically different approach. His government has become Israel’s pulling guard in the world. Inside meetings of la Francophonie and the G8, Mr. Harper has personally inserted himself – or instructed Canadian diplomats to insert themselves – to block resolutions even mildly critical of Israel, including references to the settlements. Mr. Harper has thus isolated Canada from its traditional allies such as the United States, Britain and France.
After last fall’s UN General Assembly meeting, Israel announced new settlements. Barack Obama’s administration criticized the move. So did the European Union. The German Chancellor personally phoned Mr. Netanyahu and asked him to desist. Canada said nothing.
Critics like Jeffery Simpson appear far more concerned with which side Canada is taking in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian struggle than addressing more urgent issues. A number of analysts have noted that the ‘Arab Spring’ is far from over. Jordan, one of Israel’s and America’s last reliable allies in the region, could be facing a revolution of its own over demands for economic and political reforms. Given the violent demonstrations which have occurred in a number of countries in the region, what has transpired in Egypt and Libya to date, the state of anarchy that appears to be settling in, and the ongoing civil war in Syria which threatens to spread to neighbouring countries, Canada’s foreign policy vis-à-vis individual countries will necessarily have to evolve as events dictate. The one exception in the region is Israel, a country with a stable society and a democratically elected government. Accordingly, with the future of many countries within the Middle East increasingly uncertain, Canada’s Israel-centered policy appears to make more sense.
In the past Canadian governments have tried to strike a balance between support for both the Palestinian cause and support for Israel. As a result, Canada’s position appeared to vacillate and at times appeared to contradict earlier positions taken by the government. Since Prime Minister Harper took office in 2006, however, the government has pursued a policy which is strongly supportive of Israel. This comes at a time where the United States, historically Israel’s closest ally and strongest supporter has elected a President who has at best strained relations with the Prime Minister of Israel. The Canadian government has been strongly criticized for having such a pro-Israel mid-east foreign policy. While some criticism of Canada’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel may be justified, given recent developments associated with the Arab Spring , it is difficult to see how a different, more balanced foreign policy would contribute to greater stability and a lasting peace with the Palestinians or others in the region.
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