Canada, traditionally an ally of Israel, has shocked Israel and its supporters by voting for a United Nations resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state, an “end to the Israeli occupation.”
The unexpected departure from its usually reliable support for Israel on such measures called into question Canada’s Mideast policy.
There was no official reaction from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but an Israeli diplomatic official was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying, “We are very disappointed by Canada’s vote. Israel and Canada are friends and our relations are close and strong. We hope it will continue this way,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Canadian officials sought to downplay the matter. “Canada is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” Krystyna Dodds, a spokesperson for the Canadian foreign ministry, told The Times.
“In keeping with Canada’s longstanding position, it is important at this time to reiterate our commitment to a two-state solution and the equal rights and self-determination of all peoples,” she added. “At a time when it is increasingly under threat, it is important for Canada to underscore our firm commitment to a two-state solution.”
She added, “Canada maintains our strong opposition to the singling out of Israel for opprobrium at the U.N., and has voted against the vast majority of these yearly Israel-related votes.”
However, an official at Global Affairs Canada said the vote sends a message that Canada does not agree with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion on Monday that Israeli settlements are “not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” according to the CBC public broadcaster.
Canada voted with 165 other nations to endorse the resolution entitled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.
Over the last decade, both Liberal and Conservative Canadian governments have annually voted against the resolution, which, among other things, urges an “end to the Israeli occupation” and calls for the preservation of the “territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
Sponsored by North Korea, Egypt, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and Palestine, the resolution recognized the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state and urges the international community to “support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.”
The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs condemned the vote:
“This afternoon, Canada joined with the anti-Israel chorus at the U.N. and voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution co-sponsored by North Korea, Zimbabwe and the PLO that condemns Israel’s presence in Jerusalem and characterizes it as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory.’
“Canadian support for the resolution represents a dramatic departure from a 10-year record of principled opposition to U.N. resolutions that single out Israel for condemnation and ignore Palestinian intransigence and provocations aimed at sabotaging efforts to advance peace and reconciliation.”
A pragmatic explanation for the Canadian vote was offered by Hillel Neuer, a Canadian citizen who heads the Geneva-based watchdog U.N. Watch:
“The foreign office establishment in Ottawa always fought the vote changes in favor of Israel that began under [former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin] between 2003 and 2006, and then significantly accelerated under [Conservative] prime minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2015.”
Ottawa’s vote shift this week is likely motivated by the local “foreign policy establishment’s ideology and realpolitik,” he said.
“The foreign ministry bureaucrats are more pro-Palestinian,” he told The Times of Israel. Canadian diplomats want to join their European colleagues who routinely support General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel, he added.
“In addition — and this is important — the same establishment is vying for a U.N. Security Council seat, and it’s understood that you win this prize by bribing Arab and Muslim nations with votes against Israel,” Neuer said.
Canada is in the running for a two-year term on the UNSC starting in 2021.