Canada's UN vote on Palestine hurts its role in peace process: NDP
Published Friday, November 30, 2012 8:49AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 1, 2012 10:52PM EST
The Canadian government’s staunch opposition to a vote that raised the status of Palestine in the United Nations has destroyed its credibility in the region and disqualified it from participating in future peace talks, the New Democrats charged Friday as Ottawa temporarily recalled diplomats from Israel and the West Bank.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Conservative government’s campaign against the UN's recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state at the world body is baffling, marring all the work Canada has done over the past several decades to improve relations between Palestine and Israel.
“We can’t play that kind of role anymore with the behaviour we’ve seen from our government,” Dewar told CTV’s Power Play Friday.
Canada was one of nine countries that voted against elevating Palestine’s status at the UN on Thursday, joined by Israel, the United States, the Czech Republic, Panama and the Pacific island nations of Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.
One hundred and thirty-eight nations supported the motion and 41 abstained.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird went a step further on Friday, temporarily recalling Canada’s senior diplomats from Israel, the West Bank and the UN missions in New York and Geneva.
He said he’s bringing diplomats back to get a better sense of how the UN vote will affect the situation in the Middle East and what the implications may be for Canada.
“We took a principled stand. We believe that statehood is a product of peace with Israel and the Palestinian authority is trying to go around Israel to the UN to get what they couldn’t get at the negotiating table,” Baird told Power Play.
“We deeply regret the confrontational, aggressive posture that (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas brought to the UN yesterday,” Baird added. “He could have said: ‘I support the existence of a Jewish state, I strongly support a two-state solution and let’s get back to the negotiation table,’ but he didn’t do that.”
Dewar said Baird has gone “too far” in his opposition to UN’s vote and accused him and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of making “veiled threats” against the Palestinian Authority.
Dewar also said Baird unfairly criticized the UN in his speech to the group Thursday.
“What does that do for Canada? How is that going to help parties get to the table?” he said.
Baird said that Canada supports only a negotiated settlement between the two sides.
He has suggested that Ottawa would take retaliatory measures against the Palestinians for forcing the UN vote. Though some observers say that might mean that Canada would consider suspending aid to Palestinians, Baird insisted his government won’t be taking any strong action on the matter anytime soon.
However, if the U.S. cuts off aid to Palestine, the international community should not “expect Canadians to make up the funding that Americans had provided,” Baird said Friday.
A five-year, $300-million program providing assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank is coming to an end in March, and International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino will have to decide what kind of support role Canada will play after that, Baird said.
He added that his government’s biggest concern is that the Palestinian Authority will now seek membership in a variety of UN organizations, including the International Criminal Court.
The Harper government has repeatedly said while it supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Palestinian statehood should be a “by-product” of peace negotiations -- not imposed by the United Nations.
Liberal human rights critic, Irwin Cotler, said Friday that he shares Baird’s concerns that Thursday’s vote will be detrimental to peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
With files from The Canadian Press