Canada–Israel relations

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Canada-Israel relations
Map indicating locations of Canada and Israel

Canada

Israel

Canada–Israel relations refers to diplomatic, commercial and cultural ties between Canada and the State of Israel. Canada maintains an embassy in Tel Aviv and Israel maintains an embassy in Ottawa.

History[edit]

Margaret Meagher, Canadian ambassador to Israel, 1959

Canada's relationship with Israel began in 1947, when Canada was represented on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Canada was one of the 33 countries that voted in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel despite heavy pressure from the United Kingdom on the Commonwealth of Nations to abstain.

Canada granted de facto recognition to Israel in December 1948, and full de jure recognition on May 11, 1949, after it was admitted into the United Nations (UN). A week later, Avraham Harman was appointed Israel's first Consul General to Canada. In September 1953, the Canadian Embassy opened in Tel Aviv and Michael Comay became Israeli Ambassador to Canada. A Canadian ambassador to Israel was not appointed until 1958.

The Embassy of Israel in Canada is located at 50 O'Connor Street, in Ottawa, the Canadian capital. Israel also operates Canadian regional consulates in Montreal and Toronto.[1]

Diplomatic relations[edit]

Israeli Chief of General Staff Binyamin Gantz with former Canadian Chief of Defense Staff Walter Natynczyk, 2012

In May 1961, David Ben-Gurion was the first Israeli Prime Minister to make an official visit to Canada, and since then officials from both countries have visited frequently. Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada have visited Israel demonstrating the ever strengthening relationship. In addition, the premiers of Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Alberta and cabinet ministers from other provinces, have led successful commercial and cultural missions to Israel. A number of Canadian municipalities are twinning with Israeli cities.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, 2012

In 1957, after the Sinai Campaign, Lester Pearson, the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his proposal that UN troops be stationed in the disputed territory. Canadian troops were part of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) that kept the peace in Sinai and the Gaza Strip. The Canadian government has supported all UN efforts to find a solution to the Arab-Israel conflict.

Relations between the Jewish community and the Canadian government became strained after the First Intifada began in 1987. The conflict undermined public support for Israel and certain Israeli policies divided the Jewish community, making it difficult for Jewish organizations to present a unified front in discussions with the government.

When Iraqi missiles attacked Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, public opinion shifted overwhelmingly in favour of Israel. But, in 1992, when Ottawa hosted a series of multilateral peace negotiations on the topic of refugees, Israel took issue with the Palestinian representation and refused to participate. With the election of Stephen Harper's government in 2006 the relationship between the two countries strengthened considerably.[2]

In October 2010, Canada lost to Portugal in a vote for a seat at the Security Council, possibly due to Canada's pro-Israel policy at the UN.[3][4][5] At a conference on combating anti-Semitism in Ottawa, November 8, 2010, Canadian PM Harper said “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 easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric (...) 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. [6]

Conservative MP Tim Uppal introduced a motion in the House of Commons condemning IAW "for seeking to delegitimize the State of Israel by equating it with the racist South African apartheid regime." NDP and Bloc Québécois members refused to agree to its unanimous passage. The Bloc submitted its own motion, which also criticized use of the word "apartheid" but added a clause, stating not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. The result was that all parties, with the exception of some NDP members, denounced Israeli Apartheid Week.[7]

On April 29, 2009, to mark the 61st anniversary of the State of Israel, PM Stephen Harper said "We count ourselves among Israel’s closest partners. Since its founding in 1948, Canada has supported Israel and its right to live in peace and security with its neighbours. We value this relationship and look forward to continued friendship and collaboration."[8]

In a magazine interview published February 12, 2010, Environment Minister Peter Kent said: “Prime Minister Harper has made it quite clear for some time now and has regularly stated that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada.” [9][10]

Trade relations[edit]

Canada exports agricultural products and raw materials to Israel, which, in turn, exports diamonds, textiles, clothing, and food products to Canada. On July 31, 1996, Canada and Israel signed a free trade agreement, called the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA). It came into effect on January 1, 1997. Bilateral trade subsequently increased to $1.24 billion by 2005.

In 2012, Joe Oliver, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, and Uzi Landau, the former Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources, announced the creation of the Canada-Israel Energy Science and Technology Fund to spur the development of energy technologies and processes for the development of unconventional oil and gas resources. The Fund is expected to generate $20 to $40 million in collaborative research and development over a period of three years. Two Canadian R & D workshops took place in March 2013, bringing together leading Canadian and Israeli stakeholders.[11]

Public opinion polls[edit]

A 2005 Gallup Poll of Canadian views on the Arab-Israeli conflict found that 34% sympathized most with Israel, 30% sympathized most with Palestinian Arabs, and 36% said they did not have sympathy for either party or had no opinion.[12]

According to a COMPAS poll during the 2006 Lebanon War, the majority of Canadians believed Israel has a right to self-defense and Iran and Syria should not be sheltering Hezbollah, which is classified as a terrorist organization in Canada. 45% of Canadians opposed Harper's pro-Israeli stance. According to the COMPAS poll, 38 per cent of those polled believed Hezbollah started the war, and 35 per cent believe Israel started the war.[13]

According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 25% of Canadians view Israel as having a positive influence.[14] An online poll, by Canada’s Sun News in 2014, indicated that 72% would support Israel in a war with Iran.[15]

In another poll conducted in 2012, 48% of Canadians supported their government favouring neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians.[16]

Controversies[edit]

  • In November 1995, a Canadian Federal Court decision stated that Jews from any country could not claim refugee status in Canada because they have automatic citizenship in Israel due to the country's Law of Return.
  • In September 1997, Mossad agents were apprehended by Jordanian authorities after attempting to assassinate Khaled Mashal, a senior Hamas member. They were found to have used Canadian passports as part of the assassination attempt. Canada recalled its Ambassador to Israel in protest over the misuse of Canadian passports.[17]
  • In 2008, Israeli Ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, said he feared Canadian Muslims might impact Canada's foreign policy. He said that the Canadian Muslims might push their values onto Canadians, which "wouldn't gel with Canadian values of mutual respect." He also criticized a Muslim member of Parliament[18] and said that "Muslim activists" had prevented him from speaking.[19] Bob Rae of the Liberal party called the comments inappropriate and inaccurate and Alghabra described them as "generalizing" and "divisive." The Canadian Arab Federation accused Baker of sowing division amongst Canadians.[19] An editorial in the Toronto Star asserted that Israeli diplomats should not "interfere in Canadian affairs".[18]
  • Currently in 2015, the Harper Government in one of several controversial moves is attempting to make boycotting Israel illegal under Canada's hate crime laws.[20][21]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kay, Zachariah (2010). The diplomacy of impartiality: Canada and Israel, 1958–1968. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Israeli Embassy targeted by vandals", Lee Berthiaume. Embassy Mag. May 25, 2011. Accessed June 14, 2011
  2. ^ "Canadian support for Israel under scrutiny". Canada Standard. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Canada stands tall, David Warren, The Ottawa Citizen October 17, 2010
  4. ^ PM ignores Ignatieff, defends Canadian principles in wake of UN defeat, Martin Ouellet, The Canadian Press, Published in The Globe and Mail, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010
  5. ^ Snubbed, The Economist, Oct 14th 2010
  6. ^ Harper says Canada will stand by Israel, by Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News. Published in the National Post Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010
  7. ^ Layton hopes Israel issue disappears, John Ivison, National Post, Tuesday, March 16, 2010
  8. ^ Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada
  9. ^ Kent: An Attack on Israel is an Attack on Canada, By: ELAD BENARI, Shalom Life, Published: February 12th 2010
  10. ^ Attack on Israel is an attack on Canada, Kent says, Steven Chase, Globe and Mail, Feb. 16, 2010
  11. ^ Canada Reaffirms Special Friendship with Israel
  12. ^ http://www.gallup.com/poll/16534/Americans-Stand-Apart-Support-Israel.aspx
  13. ^ http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=a2b79e1b-fa14-47d8-8f5b-b4769ba2c086
  14. ^ 2013 World Service Poll BBC
  15. ^ http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/01/20/poll-72-say-canada-should-support-israel-in-war-between-jewish-state-and-iran/
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ Fickling, David (July 16, 2004). "'Mossad spies' jailed over New Zealand passport fraud". The Guardian (London). Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  18. ^ a b Haroon Siddiqui. "Harper's extreme posture no way to support Israel". Toronto Star. 
  19. ^ a b "Israel ambassador's comments 'unjustified': critics". 
  20. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/11/ottawa-considering-hate-charges-against-those-who-boycott-israel/
  21. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ottawa-cites-hate-crime-laws-when-asked-about-its-zero-tolerance-for-israel-boycotters-1.3067497

External links[edit]