Home News Canada Canada unlikely to follow a U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, observers say

Canada unlikely to follow a U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, observers say

The Knesset building

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump might well make good on his pledge to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but that won’t put pressure on Canada to do the same, feels a former Canadian ambassador to Israel.

While former prime minister Stephen Harper “would have followed” an American move of the embassy to Jerusalem, Norman Spector said he doesn’t think Justin Trudeau would.

Besides, Trudeau will give Trump much more to worry about than the location of embassies, said Spector, Canada’s ambassador to Israel from 1992 to 1995.

Asked about the president-elect’s promise, made during his campaign for the White House, to re-locate the embassy to Jerusalem “fairly quickly,” Spector told The CJN: “I think Trump might do it. [But] I don’t think it means a lot for Canada. We’re going to be under enough pressure with the gap between Trump and Trudeau on much more substantive issues. I don’t see Canada changing its [Mideast] policy.”

Spector sees an opportunity for Trump, because the Muslim world is so divided, with Saudi Arabia needing American support. “Trump may actually get away with it. I think it might be real this time.”

The United States, he pointed out, has had a large consulate in east Jerusalem for years. “So there really is no argument for them not to have their embassy in west Jerusalem.”

Trump’s promise gained traction earlier this month when he nominated attorney David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman said he looked forward to working from “the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu
Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York last September. JINIPIX PHOTO

The issue brought a sharp rebuke from the imam of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and head of the Supreme Muslim Council, Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, who said the move of the U.S. embassy would be “a declaration of war against Arabs and Muslims.”

CBC News reported that Trudeau declined to speculate on the potential fallout from Trump’s pledge, noting that the prime minister would not comment on “hypotheticals.”

Canada maintains a “representative office” to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and its embassy in Israel, like those of other countries, is in Tel Aviv. The last two countries to have embassies in Jerusalem – Costa Rica and El Salvador – both shifted them to Tel Aviv in 2006.

While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, the official position of most countries is that the contested city’s status must be determined through negotiations as part of a broader agreement between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.

Moving an embassy to Jerusalem, critics say, sends a clear message of one-sided support for Israel.

Asked whether a shift of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would pressure Canada to act, Chantal Gagnon, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, told The CJN: “We do not comment on such hypothetical questions. Canada and Israel share a steadfast friendship and strong economic and diplomatic relations. The bonds of friendship have united us for nearly 70 years and we look forward to the many ways we can strengthen an already strong relationship.”

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, expressed similar sentiments.

“We prefer not to speculate on hypothetical events,” he told The CJN. “Our position has always been that the international community should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. We look forward to one day seeing the Canadian embassy moved, which is why we regularly emphasize to our elected officials the fact that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for millennia.”

Trump’s promise raises memories in this country of the same pledge by a former prime minister.

Joe Clark
Joe Clark in 1979

In April 1979, then-Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark, in an election campaign speech to the Canada-Israel Committee, promised to move Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem. “‘Next year in Jerusalem,’” he stated, “is a Jewish prayer which we intend to make a Canadian reality.”

After he became prime minister, the promise soon unravelled, as criticism from the business community and outrage from opposition Liberals were loud and clear. More ominous were predictions, and fears, of an Arab backlash, at a time when the Arab world was much more united than today.

A few weeks later, Clark announced the move would be deferred by a year.

By October 1979, he told the House of Commons that Canada would take no action on its Israeli embassy “until the status of Jerusalem is clarified within a comprehensive agreement between Israel and her Arab neighbours.”

In an interview with The CJN in the late 1990s, Clark conceded his promise had been rash, the result of a young leader’s inexperience.

Canada’s official position on Jerusalem hasn’t changed in decades. The city’s status “can be resolved only as part of a general settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute,” according to Global Affairs Canada.

Its website says that Ottawa recognizes neither Israel’s “unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem” nor “permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967,” – meaning the Golan Heights, the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Israel conquered east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the city in 1980, an act that was internationally condemned.

Once Trump decides to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Trudeau “would be subjected to crossfire,” said Prof. Emanuel Adler, the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair of Israeli Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Trudeau would face three possibilities, Adler said: move the embassy, not move it, or procrastinate. “If I need to venture a guess, I will say No. 3.” But whatever he decides, it will be driven “much more by domestic issues, and to a lesser extent by his foreign policy beliefs, than by considerations to follow a common policy with the U.S.,” Adler said.

Trump was not the first presidential candidate to pledge that the U.S. embassy in Israel would be relocated. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made the same vows, only to backtrack later over concerns about prejudging the final outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

  • DeltaRes

    Good! We shouldn’t be following Trump on anything! His pronouncements are made on a whim without any careful consideration, I expect Canada’s and most other countries’ embassies will remain in Tel Aviv. Trump will be alone in doing this — if he actually follows through.,,

    • TerrorIsEvil

      What do you have against Jerusalem being recognized as part of Israel? It has been Jewish since time immemorial and if you do not recognize 3500 years of habitation in one of the most indigenous claim to land anywhere in the world, then where are we going to put the Parliament buildings in Ottawa which have only been in English and French hands since 1859?

      • Joe Q.

        Jerusalem is indeed Jewish at its core but it also has to be recognized that there were very long stretches of time (centuries), after the churban bayit sheini, during which almost no Jews lived there.

        • TerrorIsEvil

          Big deal. Go look at the demographic history of any state on the map and you will find dynamic changes and a movement of people over time – due to conquest, war and disease and many other factors.

          If you are saying that population fluctuations are yet another reason to annihilate Jews from their biblical, historical, legal, archeological home, Israel, then I suggest you go back to where you can trace your roots back 3500 years.

          Maybe you belong in a cave in France where the Neanderthals spent their days, who knows…just get off the back of Jews which many are always obsessively telling where they may live, how to live, how long to live and when they must be incinerated. i say to these people…take care of your own and get lost!

  • TerrorIsEvil

    If Harper were in power he would be leading this fine initiative with Trump to recognize the eternal home of the Jewish people. There is a lesson here for all the leftist Jews who voted for (and in many cases worked for) Trudeau because they like his name, like legalized pot, like superficial stuff his sex appeal and hairdos, like to think that they are “progressive” and “multicultural.”

    When you vote for leftists (the Democrats in America and the Liberals, NDP, and Greens in Canada are becoming more irrationally Israel hating as time goes on) you are voting for the end of Israel and the installation of an antisemitic Islamist entity in its place. You are voting to have your children and grandchildren be victimized and demonized by Islamists and leftists in Canada too. “Progress” for leftists means regression back to mistreatment and prejudice for Jews and against Israel.

    • Harper lead the way on this? Sorry but Harper had his chance but did not see it come up at all, despite being the most pro-Israel PM in history.

      • TerrorIsEvil

        That is why I said, “If Harper were in power.” Harper just needed a Trump partner in the White House and not the current destroyer of Israel (Obama) to make it happen.

        • very strange…destroyer of Israel? Let’s see, Obama has been in power for 8 years and Israel is going strong, continues to receive financial help and military weapons. stop looking at the world through……..

          • TerrorIsEvil

            Israel is strong despite Obama, not because of Obama’s hatred and attempts to weaken Israel, allowing Iran to have nukes and promoting/manipulating a vote in the UN to give away most of Israel to the point where it would no longer be defensible. Could Obama, Hitler, Abbas, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or anyone else do anything antisemitic enough to deserve scorn from a totalitarian-loving Jeff?

          • Guess you flunked civics class in school….the Iran deal was not a US-Iran thing, but involved numerous countries, the UN vote thing was not a US-Israel thing but something approved by Security Council. Finally to mention Obama and Hitler in same sentence just confirms how out to lunch you are.

          • TerrorIsEvil

            You are speaking nonsense again, Jeff. Without the US and Obama having taken the lead, serious sanctions would never have been lifted and Iran would be undergoing at least some inspections rather than enjoying 140 billion in released cash delivered to its doorstep. They would not be openly developing their nuclear program and the
            delivery systems to wipe out countries in a 5000km radius – although I am sure that they would be trying to find ways to cheat as they have always done.

            And they would not be helping Russia and their Hezbollah terror arm kill hundreds of thousands. Recall, Iran’s terror arm has 120 thousand missiles pointed at Israel.

            Jeffy, why do you always look to defend the enemies of Israel in your childish way? Do you derive enjoyment from getting behind politicians and people in the community who seek to harm Israel? Do you think that Israel benefits from Iran having nukes, for instance? Do you not think that it would be better to have a de-clawed Iran rather than one that Obama supports and then looks the other way when they terrorize others just because he (Obama) is in the habit of befriending the worst Islamists, regardless of their deadly goals, and he uses that country to target Israel? Are you incapable of joining dots – a common disorder of leftists.

            I read your posts and you seem to naively imply that Israel’s survival is evidence that those haters whom you back up do… or can do… no harm. Or do you just want your favorite haters of Israel to try harder in their goal to eliminate Israel?

          • I realize you view the world as black and white, but there are so many shades of gray in it. The deal with Iran may not be perfect but was best all the participants could get. Still better than nothing. You don’t think Israel has eyes on Iran all the time….dont you think Iran knows that if they launched, their country would be rubble shortly after…you are going to miss Obama, who will you blame?

          • TerrorIsEvil

            What shades of grey are you talking about that make this agreement anything more than a green light for Iran to build nukes with international approval and a legitimization of their efforts?

            Sometime no agreement is better that a very bad agreement. An agreement that endangers Israel is not a good agreement, Jeff, even though it is made by your leftist darlings.

            Why would you NOT have your eyes on Iran if it is the most serious threat to the existence of Israel in the world today?

            Do you want to take that chance with an unfounded belief in the goodness of the Mullahs at the expense of Israeli lives?

            You have a crazy unjustified trust in Iran and in the Obama regime (and in all leftist politicians it seems) and you are anxious to bet the lives of Jews on the non-existent morality of lying Islamists in Iran – a terror state and nowhere close to the high moral standards of Israel and Western nations.

          • why would you say no agreement is better than a flawed one and what makes you think you know better than all the world leaders

          • TerrorIsEvil

            You see, Jeff, with a bad agreement the signatories have to abide by it but scoundrel pariah nations like Iran do not. That gives an enormous advantage to Iran and puts the Jewish State, a target of Iran, in jeopardy.

            Western nations, unlike Islamic nations and entities/terrorists like the PA and Hamas, most often abide by the agreements they sign.

            The Western countries now gathering in Paris to demonize Israel and give terrorists the State of Israel are exceptions as they are not abiding by Balfour, the British Mandate, San Remo and other agreements that support in concrete terms the case for Israel’s legal, political and biblical right to its own land.

          • the US has the right to slap sanctions back on if the treaty is violated

          • TerrorIsEvil

            Good idea. We will both have to remind Trump that reimposing sanctions is a good and viable course of action.