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May 26, 2016 4:15 pm

Report: New Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to Cut Short Pro-Israel Ambassador’s Tenure

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici. Photo: Canadian Friends of Hebrew University.

Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici. Photo: Canadian Friends of Hebrew University.

Canada’s pro-Israel ambassador to the Jewish state is reportedly having her tenure cut short by new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is shuffling appointments of his predecessor, PM Stephen Harper.

In a veiled confirmation, Vivian Bercovici told The Algemeiner on Thursday that she “serves at the pleasure” of her country’s prime minister, and will “continue to fulfill [her] official duties,” as long as they are requested.

Bercovici was responding to reports in the Canadian press that Trudeau is on the verge of replacing her with Deborah Lyons, currently Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan.

Though, according to the Canadian Jewish News (CJN), the administration in Ottawa has not officially confirmed or denied the report, Shimon Fogel, the CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs — the advocacy arm of the Jewish federations of Canada — told the outlet that the announcement of Bercovici’s departure would likely be made sometime before the summer.

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Assumptions were that there would be a shuffle in diplomatic and other posts when Liberal Party leader Trudeau beat Conservative leader Harper.

“It’s pretty much the convention that political appointments don’t often survive a change in government,” Fogel told The CJN. “It’s standard operating procedure. So nobody should be surprised.”

Rumors about Bercovici specifically began circulating, however, not merely because she had been a Harper appointee. She “was very outspoken in her views,” Fogel told the CJN. “Some people may have taken note of that.”

Indeed, Bercovici, a corporate lawyer by profession, was a regular columnist in the Toronto Star, where her hard-hitting, politically conservative pieces – which were both supportive of the Netanyahu-led Israeli government and critical of the Palestinian Authority – may have been part of the reason for her capturing the attention of Harper and then-Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

When Baird announced her appointment in January 2014, both he and Bercovici came under fire. One reason given for the controversy was that she had been selected from outside of foreign-service ranks. Another had to do with her being a Jew who had spent two years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the early 1980s.

But it was her politics that aroused ire in the media, at home and abroad. She had warned against the Iran deal, criticizing US President Barack Obama and European leaders for appeasing the Islamic Republic. She had attacked the United Nations for what she called its hypocritical treatment of Israel. She had highlighted the lack of human rights in Arab societies. And – in the summer before her appointment — she had written:

Peace, even a fragile one, will take root only when the Palestinian leadership recognizes, unequivocally, the “right” of the Jewish state of Israel to exist within secure borders. Even [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas acknowledged recently the tragedy of the Palestinian and broader Arab rejection of the two-state solution proposed by the United Nations in 1947. What he does not acknowledge, though, is that for a two-state solution to work, one must be Jewish and the other Arab. For, in doing so, he would counter a core theme of the Palestinian narrative: that there can be no peace until all Palestinian refugees and their descendants are granted the “right” to return to their pre-’48 homes, even if they fall within present-day Israel.

When challenged by reporters suggesting that Bercovici was “too partisan,” Baird replied: “I think it won’t be a huge shock to anyone that Canada is a strong supporter of the state of Israel … the only liberal democracy in the region.”

When Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, broke out six months into her tenure, Bercovici took to Twitter to spar with anti-Israel social-media users accusing the IDF of targeting Palestinian civilians.

When asked by the Times of Israel whether she didn’t consider her posts to constitute Israel-advocacy, Bercovici answered, “My tweets are strongly worded. I would like to think that they reflect the message and tone of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in terms of Canada’s unequivocal support for Israel.”

That was in July 2014. A few months later, in February 2015, Baird resigned from Harper’s cabinet. Trudeau assumed office on November 4, 2015.

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