“Canada’s Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when we form the government in 2019,” the opposition party announced on its website.
By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News
Canada’s opposition Conservative party announced that when they return to power, they plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move their embassy to the city. Currently, the Liberals, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are heading the government, and the next election is scheduled to take place in 2019. Trudeau has made it clear that as long as he is prime minister, the Canadian embassy will remain in Tel Aviv.
The Conservatives announced their Jerusalem policy with a post on the party website that reads: “Canada’s Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located.”
The statement went on to say: “Canada’s Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when we form the government in 2019. Israel is one of Canada’s strongest allies and a beacon of pluralism and democratic principles in a turbulent part of the world.”
This was not the first time the party had promised to move the embassy. Ahead of the national election in 1979, former Prime Minister Joe Clark vowed to move the embassy but reneged on his promise after coming to power.
Scheer and Harper ‘have identical views on Israel’
During his time in office, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative, traveled to Israel in January 2014 and gave a historic speech at the Knesset, telling MKs, “through fire and water, Canada stands with you.”
Speaking from Ottawa, Conservative Party activist Georganne Burke told World Israel News (WIN), “Reaction to our post about Jerusalem has gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback from Canadians. Stephen Harper and now Andrew Scheer have identical views on Israel and world politics.”
Burke was with Harper when he visited Israel as prime minister and says the greatest moment of her career was when he addressed the Knesset. “Scheer was speaker of the parliament so he missed the Harper trip. He plans to visit Israel for the first time during 2018 and would love to repeat Harper’s visit to the Knesset once he is Prime Minister,” she said.
‘Talks about a trip’ to Israel
Toronto Conservative Party activist Larry Zeifman told WIN, “I know Andrew Scheer, and I can tell you that I am not surprised by the Jerusalem policy. It’s consistent with his foreign policy that follows that of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He has a great affinity for Israel and there have been talks about a trip. I know that people were disappointed when Joe Clark failed to move the embassy as promised, but this is different because it’s an ideological position and not just a political ploy to get support from the Jewish community.
“The Jewish community in Canada is not as significant as US Jewry in US elections,” he added. “A high percentage of Jews supported Harper and the Conservatives in 2011 but there was slippage in 2015, and we intend to rebound in 2019. Foreign policy is not a big agenda issue in Canada but it is important to the Jewish community.”
“Harper was a true friend of Israel and his legacy continues in the Conservative party,” Canadian historian Gil Troy told WIN. “He moved Canadian policy from ‘even-handed’ and amoral to more unilateral and ideological, and that includes outspoken and practical support for Israel and against the terrorists. It’s a passionate issue for the Conservative party base.”
‘Policy based on principle rather than interests’
Former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici told WIN, “Party leader Andrew Scheer is excellent on Israel. He has not yet visited Israel but plans to do so in the coming months. I am confident that when the Conservatives are back in power, there will be a more principled approach to foreign policy beyond the embassy move that could include a halt of funding to UNWRA, as Harper did when he was prime minister.”
“Since the rise to power of Stephen Harper, the Conservative party has based its foreign policy on principle rather than only interests,” former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker told WIN. “They are not willing to be dragged along in support of anti-Israel proposals in international forums. They are clearly committed to an embassy move and consider their policies to be more friendly toward Israel than those of the current government.”
“Our party has long considered Jerusalem to be the Israeli capital, and I hope that it will someday be recognized universally as such,” Conservative Member of Parliament and former Cabinet Minister Peter Kent told WIN.
‘Jerusalem is the de facto capital of the Jewish people’
“I view Jerusalem as a single city, not divided, and I recognize that there is still a need for a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians on the issue. Jerusalem is the de facto capital of the Jewish people. My party leader, Andrew Scheer, has said that when we return to office, we will recognize Jerusalem as the capital while supporting a negotiated settlement with two states living in peace,” Kent said.
Kent was an award-winning journalist before turning to politics, and he recounts dozens of trips to Israel to cover the Arab-Israel conflict. His first visit included crossing the Suez Canal with General Ariel Sharon during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, where he was reporting from the front lines.
“Over the many visits I came to be a strong supporter of the only full democracy in the Levant. I have witnessed what Israel has done to protect its freedom and strongly support the principal position that Israel has the right to defend itself,” he stated.
Kent represents the heavily Jewish Thornhill district of Ontario, which, in his words, “has the largest Old Testament representation” in Canada. He counts among his prized possessions his blue “kippot” (skullcaps) embroidered with the names “Kent” and “Harper.”
“I have ordered ‘Scheer’ kippot that will be ready before Passover,” he said.