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November 7, 2019 11:12 am

Will Trudeau’s New Government Maintain Its Steady Support for Israel?

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meet in Ottawa on April 1, 2019. Photo: Mark Neiman / GPO. – Despite Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau overcoming corruption allegations and winning re-election last month, he is set to govern with a minority government that will likely include support from parties to the left of his Liberal Party, such as the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party.

Whether this possible scenario could change the Canada-Israel relationship remains to be seen.

“Most of the issues that will appear on the parliamentary docket are domestic in nature, and a more progressive orientation in terms of social policy will align closely with the community’s own agenda,” Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told JNS. “It is not likely that Middle East issues in general will feature on the agenda, and notwithstanding some misperceptions about the NDP, there is a consensus amongst the federal parties on the core issues related to Israel. So BDS, for example, is rejected by all parties; the IHRA definition of antisemitism is supported by all parties; etc.”

During his first term, Trudeau—whose party won 157 seats, a decrease of 20, in the recent election—spoke out against BDS.

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“It’s not right to discriminate or to make someone feel unsafe on campus because of their religion, and unfortunately, the BDS movement is often linked to those kinds of frames,” he said earlier this year.

Also during Trudeau’s tenure, Canada’s parliament froze relations with Iran and designated its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as a terrorist organization.

Canada is home to approximately 392,000 Jews, comprising 1 percent of its population. The community is highly urbanized, with 87 percent living in just six metropolitan areas: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Calgary. Like their American Jewish brethren, Canadian Jews are supportive of Israel, though opinions are divided on the level of support for Canada’s relations with Israel.

Some 59 percent of Canadian Jews who support the Liberals think Canada is “about right” in its level of support for Israel. In contrast, 60 percent of Canadian Jews who identify with the Conservatives believe Canada is insufficiently supportive of Israel, according to a study by the Environics Institute.

Even if the topic of Israel comes up in the next government, said Fogel, “we do not anticipate any shift in formal government policy or the positions that have been staked out by the Liberal government over the last four years. We expect the same voting pattern at the [United Nations] and its agencies, a careful review of commitments to UNRWA (given the recent scandals and formal investigations of the agency) and an expansion of the bilateral relationship on many fronts, including trade, innovation, cyber security and intelligence.”

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper eliminated aid to UNRWA in 2010, though Trudeau restored it in 2016.

‘We are not a party that condones BDS’

CBC columnist Neil Macdonald told JNS that the issue of Israel was not discussed much during the recent campaign.

“Israel was entirely absent as an issue in the recent election campaign, ignored by all parties, with the possible exception of Andrew Scheer’s promise to follow [US President Donald] Trump’s initiative and move the Canadian embassy from [Tel Aviv] to Jerusalem,” said Macdonald, adding, “Trudeau has no such plan, and never has.”

Trump relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018.

Scheer’s Conservative Party, which won 121 seats, an increase of 26, in last month’s election, overwhelmingly approved a resolution at its policy convention in Halifax in August 2018. It stated that were the party to win the next majority government, it would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the country’s embassy there.

Scheer indicated his enthusiasm to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital shortly after he was elected party leader in May 2017.

Macdonald added, “The NDP has not only avoided the topic, it actually dismissed a candidate in the Maritimes who was critical of Israel,” referring to Rana Zaman, a social activist and Muslim who won in May the NDP nomination in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and was ousted earlier this year after several Twitter posts from last year denouncing Israel’s response to violent protests along its border with Hamas-controlled Gaza came to light.

However, NDP refused to drop Miranda Gallo from the race in the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent, despite her support for BDS. Gallo came in third in the election, which was won by incumbent Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos.

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