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October 22, 2015 6:58 am

Harper’s Replacement by Trudeau Puts Israel at Canadian Crossroads

avatar by Sean Savage / JNS.org

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Justin Trudeau was elected Canada's new prime minister. Photo: Twitter.

Justin Trudeau was elected Canada’s new prime minister. Photo: Twitter.

JNS.org – Under the administration of President Barack Obama, much has been publicized regarding the above-average strain in the historically stalwart U.S.-Israel relationship. To the north, a different trend has unfolded with Canada, which has quickly become one of Israel’s most outspoken allies amid growing antisemitism and Islamic extremism worldwide.

But after nine years of Conservative party rule, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has elected Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau, who has promised Canadians a return to “sunny ways.” Will Canadian-Israeli relations fall under the umbrella of Trudeau’s promised bright future, or are darker days ahead?

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, was Canada’s prime minister from 1968-84. The elder Trudeau is rated by many Canadian scholars as one of the country’s greatest prime ministers, with his accomplishments including preventing the Quebec province from separating.

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Justin Trudeau, 43, is a relative newcomer to the political scene. Prior to his election to Canada’s parliament in 2008, he held a wide variety of occupations, such as ski instructor and school teacher. As such, he remains a mystery to many political observers.

“The only really troublesome matter as far as Trudeau goes is his flakiness. In his defense, over the three years of his long march to the prime minister’s job, he has grown up quite a bit, or at least he’s given every impression of becoming incrementally more of a serious person,” Canadian author and journalist Terry Glavin, a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, told JNS.org.

Trudeau’s father, according to Glavin, “was a bit dodgy on Israel, but not in any dangerous way.” Pierre Trudeau opposed the Arab boycotts of Israel during much of the 1970s, abstained from a number of United Nations resolutions that were critical of Israel and increased Canadian relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, named his brother Alexandre as his campaign’s senior adviser. In 2012, Alexandre produced a documentary film, “The New Great Game,” which was criticized by some for downplaying the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and heavily criticizing Israel.

The direction of the younger Trudeau’s official Israel policy remains to be seen. While a “deference to the old Liberal diplomatic establishment,” which is fairly anti-Israel, should be expected of the new government “at least to some extent,” the prime minister-designate himself “is such a new phenomenon that it is really difficult to say,” Glavin said.

In a recent interview with the Canadian Jewish News, Trudeau came out strongly against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, calling it “an example of the new form of antisemitism in the world.”

“When Canadian university students are feeling unsafe on their way to classes because of BDS or Israel Apartheid Week, that just goes against Canadian values,” said Trudeau.

Trudeau also said that the only way to achieve peace “is a two-state solution of a secure, democratic, stable Israel alongside a secure, democratic, stable Palestinian state.”

Yet Trudeau went against Israeli government policy, by calling the recently reached Iran nuclear deal a “good step in the right direction,” though he cautioned that the agreement “needs to be carefully monitored.”

Further, Trudeau has gone after Harper policies that target Islamic terrorism and has promised to end Canada’s airstrikes against the Islamic State terror group as part of a U.S.-led coalition.

At the same time, regardless of Trudeau’s policies, what is the cost for Israel of losing Harper? During Harper’s tenure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israelis believe the Jewish state has “no better friend than Canada.”

In a widely anticipated January 2014 speech at the Israeli Knesset, Harper said Canada would stand by Israel ‘‘through fire and water.”

“Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so. This is a very Canadian trait, to do something for no reason other than it is right even when no immediate reward for, or threat to, ourselves is evident,” he said.

During his term, Harper pushed to pull financial support for anti-Israel NGOs such as Kairos and Rights and Democracy, while also withdrawing Canadian funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In 2009 and again in 2011, Canada declared that it would boycott the anti-Israel U.N. Conference on Racism, which was often used to single out Israel. Harper suspended relations with Iran over its nuclear program, opposed the lifting of sanctions following the Iran nuclear deal, and worked to expand and modernize Canada’s free trade agreement with Israel.

Indeed, Glavin said Harper’s greatest legacy might be establishing a strongly pro-Israel approach as a mainstream policy in Canada — and that may bode well for Israel under Trudeau’s leadership.

“The one big thing Harper managed to accomplish on the Israel front is a shift he engineered in the federal political center to a very pro-Israel posture,” Glavin told JNS.org. “It is no longer just an eccentric Canadian Conservative thing.”

“For all the buzz around Harper’s ‘strident’ support for Israel and his insistence that Canada must be ‘Israel’s best friend in the world,’ all three [major Canadian political] parties have come to want that mantle, more or less,” he added.

This support was evident during a Canadian foreign policy debate in late September.

“The issue of Israel where we most disagree as Liberals with Mr. Harper is that he has made support for Israel a domestic political football, when all three of us support Israel and any Canadian government will,” Trudeau said in that debate.

Since World War II, Canada’s foreign policy has centered on multilateralism and participation in international organizations. But Harper has moved beyond those traditional corridors and has focused on a stronger and more independent Canadian foreign policy.

“I think we will see something of a return to that [multilateralism], although it’s quite possible that Justin Trudeau will rise to the occasion and assert something of the liberal idealism in foreign affairs that Canadian voters have found so attractive in him,” Glavin said.

Christians United For Israel (CUFI), the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S. with 2.2 million members, recently appointed a new CEO for its Canadian branch. CUFI said in a statement provided to JNS.org, “Canada has long been a stalwart ally of the Jewish state, and Prime Minister Harper’s friendship with Israel was exceptional. We look forward to the new government continuing Canada’s strong and longstanding support for Israel.”

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai B’rith Canada, told JNS.org that Trudeau “has clearly stated that he will continue Canada’s support for Israel because it is the right thing to do on the world stage,” and that Israelis “can rest assured that B’nai B’rith will continue to be a strong advocate for the safety of the global Jewish community in Canada, Israel, and abroad.”

Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said, “We are grateful for the positions Mr. Trudeau and his party have taken on a number of issues, including: support for hate crimes legislation; sanctions against Iran; a range of social justice challenges; and a close Canada-Israel relationship — to name only a few.”

In Glavin’s estimation, Trudeau “is very much an untested quality,” but “is surrounded by enough smart people that he is unlikely to do anything too stupid.”

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  • GSR

    I found Harper’s stand on the Palestine/Israel issue embarassing but he was a fanatic Christian nutter- so subservience to Israel was a religious obligation. However, Trudea should stop wasting time on supporting Israel and take on the Palestinian cause- as they’re the ones getting robbed, beaten and lack the arsenal. Standing with Israel is like backing a 250 lbs bully beating up an unarmed pedestrian after robbing him. It’s immoral!

  • Terrorism, with enough will and determination can be quashed

    Demonstration of a million people against terrorism is nice, but it is only the initial action. In the past generation terrorism has escalated and is now accelerating beyond control.
    The real demand by the masses of the free world is to call for, that immediate action with force and unrestricted international cooperation to fight, crush and eliminate terrorism. The terrorist infrastructure and financing must be eliminated. Let the terrorists know under no circumstances that terror and violence will not be tolerated.

    Let the leaders and politicians know that if they do not go after terrorism in earnest without personal political reasons, that they will not be elected again. This is no time for politicking, but actions and results, the future of the world as we know it, depends on it.

    Put all politics aside – fighting and quashing terrorism is a matter of world survival.

    The world needs to put together immediately an International task forces to fight terrorism and Muslim extremists. It needs to be a well trained force with substantial resources and manpower as well as
    an International intelligence cooperation with no restriction. It has to be a unified and cohesive battle to abolish terrorism at all costs. Let the terrorists know that there is no hole they can hide in; that the world terrorist task force and other law enforcement agencies will get them wherever they are. We must shut off all their resources, financing, financial institutions and any source that supply them with any kind of support; weaponry, economic, information, etc. whatsoever.

    I urge the world powers at large to take these terrorist events seriously with utmost urgency. The situation is at a critical stage and if immediate all out action is not taken in all parts of the world,
    terror and mayhem will take over the world and we will not be able to stop it.

    Just imagine if one of those terrorist got a hold of a nuclear suitcase bomb. Do I need to describe it any further.

    Is there a leader today (please stand up) in the free world who can take the bull by the horn and initiate this global war on terrorism.

    YJ Draiman

    P.S. Fighting terrorism is not unlike fighting a deadly cancer. It can
    not be treated just where it is visible – every diseased cell in the body must be destroyed.

  • brenrod

    lets face it, we all know that a move leftward is bad for Israel

  • Tzvi ben-Ya’akov

    With Mr. Trudeau’s mixed messages re: Israel & the Jewish people, as well as his “untried-ness” in the area of foreign affairs, it will take some watching as he grows into his new job to see how he evolves as a leader & whether he will stand by Israel as her best friend or not. Remember the Abraham Lincoln lesson: it’s not what you say publily, but the actions you take that show who & what your eally are (evenif your public image is otherwise).

    • Reform School

      From his first campaign, Narcissist-in-Chief Barack Hussein Obama repeatedly stated his support for Israel. From “the closest thing to a Jew ever to occupy the Presidency” to “always having Israel’s back,” Obama’s rhetoric goes without challenge. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been OCCUPY Headquarters since 2010. Similarly, from his attempts to dictate its apartment construction industry to sending paid members of his administration to Israel to force elections to overturn the Netanyahu administration, Obama has clearly had Israel’s back: in the crosshairs of his telescopic gunsights!

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