The Canada-Israel relationship appears to have gotten off to a good start under the new Liberal government following a meeting last week between the prime ministers of the two countries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Paris while attending the UN conference on climate change, and by all accounts, things went well. The public statements were positive, the meeting was described as warm, and in somewhat of a throwback to the days when Kremlinologists used any clue to determine the state of affairs in Moscow, Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak noticed that Benjamin Netanyahu wore a red tie to the meeting, while Justin Trudeau wore a blue one.
Of course, that little factoid – suggesting very subtle diplomatic signals – was a small part of a broader analysis of the meeting that Barak provided The CJN, which was upbeat and positive.
“A good signal for us to develop our relationship”
The meeting, which lasted only about half an hour, was friendly, and it appeared there was good chemistry between the leaders. Barak pronounced himself pleased with its outcome. “This was a good meeting. People are happy,” he said. “For us diplomats, it was a good signal for us to develop our relationship.”
The two leaders discussed regional issues and continued commercial co-operation on a variety of fronts, and Netanyahu invited Trudeau to visit Israel, Barak said.
Trudeau later said it would be his “pleasure” to visit. “We have many issues to talk about, to discuss, but also many issues to collaborate on. And I look forward to continuing the strong friendship that Canada has shown towards Israel for decades and will continue in ongoing times,” Trudeau added.
Even before Paris, it appeared the Trudeau government was intent on retaining close relations with Israel. “We are getting a lot of positive signals,” Barak said.
The ambassador noted Trudeau’s vocal opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as the intention to maintain “cyber co-operation” and various commercial endeavours. Canada’s recent UN votes on issues concerning Israel were also seen in a positive light, Barak said.
Observers of the relationship could also point to other signals that ties will remain warm and supportive. They include the description of Israel by Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion as an “ally,” not just a friend, as well as Trudeau’s comments criticizing an EU decision to label products originating from the West Bank.
University of Toronto professor Nelson Wiseman isn’t surprised that relations continue to remain good between the two countries. Canadian policy under the Harper government was consistent with that of the previous Liberal government, other than at a rhetorical level. Under the Tories, Canadian policies changed only at the edges, in terms of funding certain Palestinian groups, he said.
Looking ahead, “I don’t think things will change much, except the Liberals will give more space to the Palestinians,” which could translate into more contact with Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, he said.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is pleased with the way the Canada-Israel relationship has unfolded under Trudeau. “The [Paris] meeting was warm. Mr. Trudeau responded affirmatively to the invitation to come on an official visit to Israel,” said CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel.
Trudeau acknowledged that the relationship between the two countries was deep and warm, which Fogel called, “an implicit reference to the previous government.
“We were very pleased with the tone and the substance of the meeting, and gratified with the signals the government is sending regarding the stability of the relationship and the desire to see it grow,” Fogel added.
“I am delighted that Trudeau and Netanyahu met personally. It is always better to reinforce in person what has been said in the press about policy and platform. It’s important for our Jewish community here in Canada to see, as well as all citizens of Israel,” said Karen Mock, a spokesperson for JSpaceCanada.
“They can rely on Canada to support Israel, its right to exist and its right to safety and security. With that commitment, I look forward to Canada’s more active and more effective role in a peace process, in promoting Canada-Israel relations through honest discussions of human and civil rights, and in more effective negotiations at UN than we have seen in the last several years,” she added.