Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Canada and Israel Issues: Conservative Support and the National Post

Canada's National Post printed two interesting articles about Israel on Saturday.  I had the chance to review them on Sunday on my flight back.  Both have certainly generated some online controversy.  At the same time, both illustrate a certain pro-Israel viewpoint that is increasingly rare in much of the rest of the world.

One article by Kathryn Blaze Carlson, "No Better Friend" describes the close nature of the relationship between Canada's current Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  The article looks at Prime Minister Harper's motivation for standing by Israel in difficult situations, even in the face of withering criticism from many other countries.  It is certainly true, especially here in Israel, that all of the policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu are not synonomous with Israel and Israel's interests.  In other words, there is plenty of room for Israel to have good friends who do not necessarily agree with all of the policies of any particular Israeli administration.

However, the article discusses the ideas, suggested by some critics of the Conservatives, that Canada used to be viewed as an "honest broker" by much of the Arab world.  But these days, as the world is watching many Arab countries shift towards Islamicization, peace loving western democracies cannot be "honest brokers."  The  article suggests that Prime Minister Harper is one of the few western leaders to truly recognize the importance of the struggle that Israel faces, as a democratic country situated in sea of repressive, anti-democratic regimes.  The conclusion is that Prime Minister Harper and the current Conservative government support Israel as a matter of principle not as part of quest to win a handful of Canadian electoral ridings that happen to have large Jewish populations.  Given the tireless efforts of Conservative Minister Jason Kenney in supporting Israel but also in fighting anti-Semitism worldwide, it is clear that the current Conservative government has been a tremendous ally for Canadian Jews and for Jews everywhere around the world.  This has been the case even in the face of an overwhelmingly hostile world.  Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has also demonstrated recently that Canada will continue to support Israel even when it is unpopular to do so.

The National Post also printed an article by Conrad Black, "A Better Two State Solution" proposing what would effectively be an unilateral Israeli withdrawal from certain territories, a unilateral demarcation of acceptable borders and an extremely aggressive military response to the types of rocket attacks that Israel recently faced and which it would likely face from other areas if it were to cede certain territories.  Yet the policy is probably close to one which was favoured by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and may not be that far removed from current Prime Minesterial candidate Avigdor Lieberman.   There is little doubt that many Israelis would prefer a negotiated long term settlement with a neighbour that would be interested in a truly peaceful resolution. But the indications over the recent weeks from a range of Palestinian leaders, whether Khaled Meshal of Hamas or Mahmood Abbas of the Palestinian Authority are that the only real long term policy on the part of the Palestinians is a long term commitment to the destruction of Israel.  This concern is buttressed by the unsettling events over that past few years that have been occurring in Syria, Egypt, Iran and Turkey, among others, all of which suggest that Israel is facing an increasingly hostile existential threat.  Conrad Black's proposal may not lead to short or even long term peace.  But Israel may be pushed towards unilateral disengagement as a means of countering unilateral Palestinian initiatives.  Israel could recognize a Palestinian State within borders that Israel deems acceptable, and under conditions that Israel deems acceptable if these matters cannot be properly addressed through negotiation.

It is unclear which Israeli Prime Ministerial candidate, if any, would be best suited to address these matters though it seems clear to a majority of the Israeli electorate, according to recent Israeli news reports, that Prime Minister Netanyahu will win the coming election quite handily.  We can only hope that the winds will change and there will be movement from all sides toward a much peaceful future.  Unfortunately, recent events do not suggest that there is currently a basis for optimism.

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