Trudeau Meek on Trump’s Jerusalem Gambit

Trudeau Meek on Trump’s Jerusalem Gambit

As published in the Victoria Standard: January 17, 2018

Canada’s decision to abstain on the UN vote against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and build a new U.S. embassy there was predictable. Liberal “neutrality” on Jerusalem was preceded by Trudeau’s abstention on the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons vote. While the Jerusalem abstention has been categorized as a balanced response to protect Canada - U.S. trade; it is also consistent with Canada’s official obedience to U.S. policy on Israel and the Palestinians. Trudeau’s statements are moderate compared to Harper’s; but the Liberals have done nothing to advance the possibility of a future Palestinian state.

Canada’s UN ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard stated that the Jerusalem resolution was one-sided and did little to advance the cause of peace since Jerusalem’s status ought to be part of a “broader settlement” of the Israeli Palestinian divide. Such diplomatic doubletalk is an easy way to say nothing while sounding thoughtful and fair-minded. While Blanchard emphasized Jerusalem’s importance to Judaism, Islam and Christianity he avoided mention of Israel’s gradual annexation of Jerusalem’s Arab sections and the steady expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. In this failure, Mr. Blanchard has joined the ranks of Western leaders who seem incapable of stating the obvious: there is no peace process and what previously masqueraded as one was a stalling tactic to permit Israeli territorial expansion.

Trump has recently threatened to reduce America’s UN funding and punish those states who supported the Jerusalem resolution. Such threats have been a common feature of U.S. foreign policy; particularly concerning Israel. While smaller UN members are often vulnerable to bullying; the U.S. could actually lose its voting rights in the General Assembly upon failure to pay its obligatory dues. However, the Trump administration would still maintain veto power and its permanent seat on the Security Council.

Of course, Ambassador Blanchard is correct in stating that the status of Jerusalem is a key element in the broader issue of Israeli statehood and future Palestinian sovereignty. Of course, only the former is assumed to be literally valid since Palestinian sovereignty is suffered to exist as merely a vague hope. It is worth noting that the 1947 UN partition plan stipulated that Jerusalem would exist under international jurisdiction and would not subject to either Israel or Palestinian sovereignty. Israel’s capture of the city in1967 changed local reality but not the international consensus as represented by the UN. Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967 after which Israel captured and continues to hold these areas under martial rule in defiance of international law. While West Jerusalem had been Israeli territory since 1948, East Jerusalem’s Arabs came under increasing Israeli pressure after 1967.

Not satisfied with their possession alone, Israel renamed the annexed and newly-Jewish sections of East Jerusalem as “neighbourhoods” rather than settlements like those in the West Bank. This terminology may serve to divert international attention from the fact that Jerusalem’s current Palestinian residents are being squeezed out by Israeli legislative manoeuvres backed by security forces and exacerbated by drastic municipal funding disparities and lack of basic services like water, sewer and electricity.

Recently, the Israeli parliament passed a law that would require a supermajority vote on Jerusalem issues. While the law itself can be overturned, it symbolizes the Netanyahu government’s stubborn intention to expand the Jewish population of the city and place Palestinian areas outside the city limits. In fact, Israel intends to add 150,000 West Bank settlers to Jerusalem’s population and further marginalize over 100,000 Palestinians whose homes will be outside the illegal Separation Wall that surrounds the city; thus revoking their residency and denying them civic rights in Jerusalem.

Trump’s proposed embassy and Netanyahu’s plans for a shiny new capital are merely the latest developments in Israel’s intentional process of stripping Palestinians of their land and even their identity as a people. Unfortunately, Israeli society is suffering the consequences of this protracted ugliness. Canadians, like Israelis; are a settler culture who currently dominate a land once possessed by indigenous people who refuse to be ignored. Thankfully, Canada is attempting to address the darker chapters in our national story and promote reconciliation. A slow acknowledgement of this necessity is also occurring among Israelis who support genuine Palestinian sovereignty and oppose their government’s divisive conduct.