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Ottawa urged not to cut Palestinian aid

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Jean-François Lisée

MONTREAL — The Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion urging the Canadian government not to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority following the United Nations’ upgrading of the Palestnians standing within the organization.

On Dec. 4, International Relations Minister Jean-François Lisée of the Parti Québécois and Amir Khadir, one of two MNAs for Québec solidaire, sponsored the motion that “invites the government of Canada to take note [prendre acte] of the decision of the United Nations recognizing the status of observer state for Palestine and to maintain the invaluable Canadian aid offered for the construction of a state of law on Palestinian territory.”

The motion affirms Quebec’s “unshakeable support” for a negotiated settlement that encompasses “the necessity for Israel to live in peace within secure and recognized borders, as well as the right of Palestinians to self-determination and the creation of a state.”

On his blog, Lisée wrote that this motion should not be regarded as “banal,” commenting that it’s a rare occurrence when the National Assembly “ventures into thorny international subjects.

“Even more rare is that it came to a unanimous decision on a subject as difficult as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Lisée explains: “It aims to be useful. That’s why it does not dispute nor reprimand Canada for its vote at the UN. It asks that it ‘prendre acte,’ therefore to accept then, what is essential, to not reduce or interrupt the aid given by Canada to the Palestinian Authority.”

Lisée, a former journalist, writes that he has visited Ramallah in the West Bank and seen how important Canadian funds are for the establishment of a judicial system and “for the construction of a modern Palestinian state.”

He adds that Quebec, through taxation, contributes 20 per cent of Canada’s $300-million in aid.

“This action… contributes to peace in a concrete way, by making the future Palestinian state stable and efficient, and giving it the means to be a credible interlocutor in the negotiations to come.”

He invites non-governmental organizations to “add their voices to that of the National Assembly.”

Québec solidaire, a left-wing sovereigntist party that officially supports the boycott of Israel, claimed that this was the first time in at least 25 years that the National Assembly recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and to form a state.

“We are proud of this initiative, which sets an honorable and just precedent, the fruit of a collaboration between all parties which has made possible the adoption of this motion,” said the other Québec solidaire MNA, Françoise David, on the party’s website.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said it was “quite happy” with the motion, and believes it should not be interpreted as dissent from or criticism of Canadian foreign policy.

David Ouellette, CIJA’s associate director of Quebec public affairs, said Québec solidaire is being “disingenuous” in touting it as a victory for the Palestinian cause.

He points out that a motion in 2008, on Israel’s 60th anniversary, endorsed a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict, one that recognizes Israel’s security needs and that a Palestinian state should be democratic.

“Québec solidaire probably wanted to push through a completely one-sided resolution and now is trying to spin it,” Ouellette said.

The motion is not endorsing the UN decision, he added, and the choice of the term “prendre acte” indicates that the National Assembly is only calling on the federal government to acknowledge what has taken place.

“As Lisée has said, Quebec wants to make a useful contribution. We are very pleased that the National Assembly believes any solution has to be negotiated by the two parties. That’s a key point,” said Ouellette.

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a group strongly critical of Israel, also hailed the motion, deeming it “a clear message to Ottawa” and evidence of “the ever-growing support for the Palestinians’ fundamental right to live as full citizens in their own state, as do Israelis,” stated president Thomas Woodley.

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