'Canada will not let the Jews or Israel stand alone'

Canadian foreign minister says Abbas should have used the support he received to reach out to Israel for peace talks.

By
November 30, 2012 15:30
2 minute read.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird_390. (photo credit: Courtesy of Herzliya Conference)

 
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Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who stood up and delivered a strong speech against the Palestinian bid at the UN on Thursday, told The Jerusalem Post that “the bottom line is we will not let the Jewish people and the State of Israel stand alone when the going gets tough.”

Baird, in a phone interview from New York, said he had “absolutely no hesitation” about taking the podium and opposing the Palestinian bid, something he knew was not a popular position in the hall.

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Baird spoke to the packed UN hall Thursday night after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor, and in between the pro-Palestinian speeches of the Indonesian and Turkish foreign ministers.

“This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations.

Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No. On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people,” Baird said in his speech.

“Any unilateral action, from either side, outside of the bilateral framework outlined above is ultimately unhelpful.”

Baird told the Post he had absolutely “no hesitation” delivering the speech, even though he was well aware that he was facing “a tough crowd.”

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He said that Canada proactively made the decision to speak at the session, and that when Abbas tabled this resolution a year ago, “I felt that we wanted Canada’s voice to be heard, and heard loudly.”

The Canadian foreign minister criticized Abbas for the hostile tenor of his address.

“Knowing that he had such overwhelming support, this would have been an occasion for him to reach out to the government and people of Israel, to embrace the Jewish state, to talk about his hopes for peace and be magnanimous,” he said. “Unfortunately it was a rather aggressive speech that will really do nothing to advance the cause of peace or the peace process.”

Baird said this would have been the time for Abbas to “embrace a two-state solution, to embrace mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation – but I think on all those counts he failed.”

Baird added that he was “disappointed with some countries in Europe for failing to stand up. I thought the Czech Republic was courageous to take the position it did and stand alone in the European Union. I certainly admire their leadership.”

The Czech Republic was the only EU country to vote against the Palestinian resolution, and – along with Israel and Canada – made up a group of nine countries that opposed the bid.

Asked if Canada does, or is expecting, to pay a price in the world for its unabashed support of Israel, Baird said, “It is the price of leadership. It is the price of courage.”

He said his government’s policy was about “doing what is right, standing up for Canadian values even when it is not popular to do so.”

He also did not sound overly concerned about paying a domestic price for this position.

“There is no doubt that Israel has its detractors in Canada, particularly among a good number of elites, but I think few are going to be surprised by our position,” he said. “People know where we stand, and there is certainly a lot of support of Israel as well.”

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