Canada’s Opposition Leader Andrew Sheer joined the position of U.S.
President Donald Trump this week with an announcement he recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
That begs the question: Who cares?
After all, this is Canada folks. We have illegal immigrants breaching our borders. We had a convicted terrorist invited to dine with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the other day.
We have loads of more pressing issues than worrying about what city is the capital of Israel.
The Canadian government abstained from a vote in December that saw more than 100 states condemn the United States for its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the historic and disputed city, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as the capital of their nations.
“Canada’s Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when we form government in 2019,” the party says on its website.
“Canada’s Conservatives have been, and always will be, a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community. Israel is one of Canada’s strongest allies and a beacon of pluralism and democratic principles in a turbulent part of the world. Canada’s Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
Oh, so that’s why. But hold a minute here. Why, pray tell, are the Conservatives interested in even opening this can of worms?
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Trudeau may have actually got this one right.
Shortly before the United Nations vote just last December, a spokesman for Freeland confirmed that Canada would abstain and said the Canadian government was of the view the resolution never should have landed on the floor of the General Assembly.
“We are disappointed that this resolution is one sided and does not advance prospects for peace to which we aspire, which is why we have abstained on today’s vote,” Marc-Andre Blanchard, Canada’s UN ambassador told the General Assembly at the time.
So, why pray tell, does Sheer want to enter the discussion?
Gil Troy, a professor at McGill University focusing on American presidential politics and Israeli affairs, told Global News, the pledge by Scheer to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel likely boils down to two things.
“First, Stephen Harper,” he said in an email to Global News. “This is a way of embracing Harper’s foreign policy legacy, which goes far beyond Trump or Israel or Jerusalem.”
As well, Troy noted part of the thinking behind the pledge might be an effort to give voters a clear example of a distinct policy different from Trudeau and the Liberals.
A spokesperson for Scheer said the announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital did not factor into the timing of the PC leader’s announcement, which will form part of his 2019 campaign platform.
“The policy reflects a recognition that Israel is one of Canada’s strongest allies and that (it has) the right to determine where (its) capital is located,” said Jake Enwright, director of communications for Scheer.
He did not say exactly when the party first began discussing the policy with caucus.
But why are they discussing it?
The Oslo Accords of the mid 1990s stipulate that the city’s status has to be decided as part of negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
So for Palestinians, the gesture would be symbolic of something else entirely.
“This is a declaration of the death of the so-called peace process,” says Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian MP and head of the Palestine National Initiative (the name of the party he set up).
“The United States is not only completely biased to Israel, but is ready to participate in committing a war crime and violation of international law, which does not permit annexation of occupied territories,” he continues.
“It’s very unwise, it’s reckless, but it means that after 25 years of negotiations, we are now clear: there is no peace process and we have to find an alternative way.”
So Sheer’s journey down this same road as the U.S. is a dangerous one and more importantly, an unnecessary one. It will do nothing but inflame the debate around the world. Sheer would have been better staying on the sidelines for this discussion. Nothing good can come out of inflaming tensions in that part of the world.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.