Thursday, December 6, 2012

Harper reverses policy and condemns Israeli settlement expansion

In a sudden reversal of Canada's unqualified support for Israel, Stephen Harper warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Canada does not support the expansion of settlements planned by Israel.
Perhaps the negative reactions to Harper's quite one-sided position of supporting everything Israel does changed Harper's mind. European nations and the United States were very critical of the Israeli plans, claiming that they could prevent any peace talks in the near future. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told the Globe and Mail that Harper told Netanyahu that he believes the settlement construction would impair peace efforts between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. A Globe and Mail editorial earlier criticized the government for not condemning outright the Israeli settlement plans:
Canada’s strident defence of Israel’s interests in the UN vote was legitimate but its zealous threats to punish the Palestinians damaged its ability in Arab eyes to contribute to a much-desired two-state solution. Ottawa could re-establish its independence by strongly condemning Israel’s settlement gambit.
Actually, Canada will hardly establish its independence by taking this new position, rather it now allies itself with the U.S. position on the issue rather than that of the Israelis. The editorial seems to support the Canadian vote against Palestine getting observer status. Another important factor in Harper's decision is no doubt the article by me in the Digital Journal the other day! Foreign Affairs Minister Baird had condemned the overwhelmingly positive vote in the UN Security Council to grant Palestine observer status but now he also condemns the settlement expansion specifically as well:
“The Palestinians’ actions last week were very unhelpful to the cause of peace, and the Israeli response of settlement expansion is very unhelpful to the cause of peace.".
Baird also toned down somewhat his threats against the Palestinians for seeking observer status:
“When we said ‘consequences’ I think the media implied that we would break off relations and cut aid, but we never said either option was on the table."
Baird condemned the Palestinian move vigorously in the UN and recalled envoys for consultation but this seems to be the extent of the government's punishment of Palestine. Canada has provided $300 million in aid projects to Palestine over the last five years. Baird said any future projects will be assessed on their merits and will not be influenced by the UN vote on Palestinian observer status. Baird warned that Canada would be watching Palestine's next moves, particularly any attempt to take Israel to the International Criminal Court with charges that Israel has been violating international law. Any such action would cause Canada great concern he said. He said that this move would be a provocation that merited a strong response. Imagine, any Palestinian attempt to show that Israel is violating international law, is a provocation!

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