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article imageOp-Ed: Canada refuses explicit criticism of Israeli settlement expansion

By Ken Hanly     Dec 3, 2012 in Politics
Ottawa - While other strong allies of Israel, even the United States, have strongly condemned the Israeli plan to build 3,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, Canada refused to directly criticize the plan.
The Jerusalem Post says that Canada is the "gold standard" of support for Israel: "There is not a government on the planet today more supportive of Israel than Harper's Canada."
Canada, together with the U.S. with only a few other countries voted against granting Palestine observer status at the U.N. While this marks Canada as one of the few supporters of Israel globally on this issue, Canada has now gone even further to show that it is globally number one as a supporter of Israel.
The White House and State Department both complained that the Israeli announcement would be an obstacle to resuming peace talks. Five European countries have removed their ambassadors from Israel in protest of the new plan. Germany had a "very negative view" of the settlement announcement. The UN has warned that the settlement expansion could be almost fatal to restarting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Foreign Minister John Baird repeats the official Conservative position continuously as if repeating some prayer ritual: "Unilateral actions on either side do not advance the peace process." Baird's office refuses to even say whether the government still adheres to the established policy which is that the settlements are a "serious obstacle" to peace.
A spokesperson for Stephen Harper. Andrew MacDougall, also refused to say whether Harper raised the issue of new settlement construction with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister when he spoke to him on the weekend by telephone. In an emailed response to the question MacDougall said:"No further comment on the call — the PM's tweet will stand. I can state that Canada's position is that unilateral actions on either side do not advance the peace process." The prime minister's Tweet was: "Spoke today to Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Canada for its friendship and principled position this week at the UN."
The Canadian response is in contrast to the U.S. which showed particular concern that the building was in part on a patch of land known as E1 just outside Jerusalem. The settlement will make travel from Bethlehem to Ramallah for Palestinians much longer. A settlement in the area will virtually prevent any Palestinian state from having a contiguous border.Jay Carney, the spokesperson for the White House said:"We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution."
Mark Toner of the U.S. State Department said that construction in the E1 area:" particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution."
Carney went on to repeat the U.S. "long standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and east Jerusalem construction." However the Conservative Harper government that holds a similar position now seems unwilling to repeat it in public. The Canadian Foreign Affairs website says:"As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive just and lasting peace." When Baird's spokesperson was asked whether the government still accepted this position, the response was: "Unilateral actions on either side do not advance the peace process." The spokesperson refused to elaborate further. The government simply refuses to repeat what is on its own Foreign Affairs website!
Alex Neve, head of Amnesty International in Canada, urged the government to speak out more forcefully against the expanded settlement plan just as other countries did."It's unfortunate to simply characterize this as being a unilateral action. These are human rights violations. These are breaches of international humanitarian law. This isn't simply deciding to do something unilaterally. I think the response from Canada should be equally clear and not left to implicit interpretation as to what Canada is or is not saying, or is or is not concerned about."
Canada's pro-Israeli policy has brought it considerable international attention. There is even an entire article on the subject in Al Jazeera. Even the Israelis make joking remarks about Canada's support for Israel At a reception for John Baird, the Foreign Minister, Likud Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said: "I think Canada's an even better friend of Israel than we are." The appended video gives some of the history of Israel Canada relations. Canadian governments have always been pro-Israel but the present government has taken support for Israel to extreme lengths. This support provides Israel with joy and apparently some amusement as well.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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