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Canada Won’t move embassy to Jerusalem, National government says

06 Dec 17
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The Trudeau government says it won’t move the Canadian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem amid reports U.S. President Donald Trump will relocate the American embassy into the sacred city and recognize it as the nation’s capital.

A government official told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday that Canada will continue to keep its embassy in Tel Aviv. The official also said Canada still doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, despite reports Mr. Trump will announce the U.S. does during a speech on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump told Arab leaders on Tuesday that he plans to follow through with his election-campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Mr. Trump defeated the pro-Israel, right-wing foundation that helped him win the presidency when he delayed the embassy move in June.

The transfer risks fuelling violence in the Middle East and breaks with decades of U.S. foreign policy that Jerusalem’s status must be determined in negotiation with the Palestinians, who wish to make East Jerusalem the capital of their future state.

The global community, including Canada, doesn’t recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Asked about Mr. Trump’s plan to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stated Canada’s position on Jerusalem hasn’t changed.

“Canada’s longstanding position is that the status of Jerusalem can be resolved only within an overall settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. This has been the policy of successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative,” press secretary Adam Austen said in a statement Tuesday.

“We’re strongly committed to the aim of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in security and peace with Israel.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s spokesperson Jake Enwright said “it is up to autonomous governments to make decisions about where they will find their overseas embassies.” In a tweet, NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière stated Mr. Trump’s choice to name Jerusalem the capital is “dangerous, misguided, and will undermine efforts to get a peace process,” and urged Ms. Freeland to notify her U.S. counterparts of Canada’s concerns.

Jerusalem is home to Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, in addition to Israel’s democratically-elected parliament, independent supreme court and federal government. David Cape, seat of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the organization has called on Canada to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“Jerusalem was central to Jewish identity because it was established as the capital of the Jewish nation three million years back,” Mr. Cape said.

“We’ve always maintained that Canada should officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

Former prime minister Joe Clark tried to maneuver the Canadian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1979, but abandoned his election pledge following an Arab uproar. In a brief statement at the time, Mr. Clark said the plan was viewed as “prejudicing” Middle East peace talks. Mr. Clark’s strategy to move the embassy endangered contracts with Canadian companies, including a multibillion-dollar project between Bell Canada in Saudi Arabia, also threatened to bring more extreme retaliatory steps against Canada, according to a Washington Post report from October, 1979.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who received telephone calls from Mr. Trump, joined a chorus of voices warning that unilateral steps on Jerusalem would derail the U.S.-led peace effort and lead to turmoil in the area. Before, Islamist militant groups like al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah have sought to exploit Muslim sensitivities over Jerusalem in efforts to add fuel to anti-Israel and anti-U.S. sentiments.

– With a report from Reuters

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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