More than a decade ago, I asked a number of senior Conservatives why they were prepared to take such a strong stand on Israel. Would that not weaken the party and make it less likely to win an election? The answer I received was simple: we will do it because it is the right thing to do, and Canadians will “get it.”
The Conservative party did just that, and Canadians did get it.
Many of us were truly saddened on election night. We were saddened because Stephen Harper led a government that, more than any other, was prepared to take strong stands in support of western values, and of Israel. Harper and the Conservative party raised the bar in Canada in many ways, including the importance of supporting the only democracy in the Middle East in unequivocal terms. Losing Harper’s leadership in this area will not be an easy pill to swallow.
Now, Justin Trudeau is set to become Canada’s next prime minister. He was not my choice, but he is Canada’s choice, and he has won the respect that the position deserves, including from those who did not support him. I believe it is our job not to undermine him and his party, but to carry on in good faith and assume that the assurances and commitments made during the election will be kept.
Trudeau talks about a Canada for all Canadians. How he interprets that, given the diversity of our country’s population, will be the challenge.
When Palestinians knife Jews in Israel, how will he handle the controversy? Will he rise to the level of Harper in declaring clearly that Canada stands with Israel in its attempts to repel the terrorists? Will he suggest there is moral equivalency between the positions of the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews, between the attackers and the attacked? Or will he just stay quiet on the subject?
Israel could, until today, count on Canada’s prime minister, or one of his senior staff, for support – not military support, but the support of words of truth. It’s the kind of support that matters to Israelis who feel alone in the world, and that allows other world leaders to take more supportive stands on Israel. Perhaps Israel still can turn to Canada’s next prime minister.
Throughout the campaign, people like myself raised serious concerns about the willingness of Trudeau to be as supportive of Israel as Harper had been. Yet, privately and publicly, the Jewish community was treated to assurances that there was no daylight between the Liberals and Conservatives on the question of support for Israel. Many in our community believed these words, and many traditional Liberals who had moved into the Conservative fold returned to vote Liberal, believing that Trudeau would be for Israel what Harper had been. That was their choice to make, and they made it.
The core message of the Liberals was that it’s time for change. The question now is what form that change will take, and whether we as Canadians, and as members of the Jewish community of Canada, will benefit from those changes.
Being an optimist by nature, I am prepared to wait and see, and trust in what I have been told by prominent and not-so-prominent Liberals alike – that Trudeau would be a friend of Israel and of the Jewish community.
Democracy may not be perfect, but it’s the best political system available, and in our willingness to accept the outcome, and not prejudge, we strengthen that system and our country. Make no mistake: I, like many, will be watching carefully and am willing to be critical if and when appropriate. But I will be positive, too, where positives are due. That’s the democratic way.
Michael Diamond is a business consultant, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He is involved extensively in Jewish and non-Jewish community life and sits on or chairs several boards and committees of a number of non-profit organizations.