Friday, March 19, 2010

Canada Doesn't Follow American Lead in Latest Diplomatic Mistep.

This week should have cast any doubts that at the moment Canada is Israel's #1 ally.

From the Toronto Star Editorial Staff

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to rebuke the Israeli government for expanding Jewish settlements in disputed East Jerusalem, as Washington and others have done, why doesn't he just come out and say so in plain language?

Instead, Harper has opted to send politically mixed messages in what appears to be a bid to curry favour with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration without alienating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Amid the fog, it's hard to know just where the Conservatives stand.

Netanyahu's government infuriated the Obama administration on March 9 by provocatively announcing it plans to build 1,600 more housing units for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, despite Obama's express request not to. Worse, the news came as U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden was in Israel, professing America's unshakeable support. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it "insulting." The White House cancelled a planned visit by Mideast envoy George Mitchell.

So what was Ottawa's reaction? Last Thursday, March 11, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon merely voiced tepid "regret" and "concern." No surprise there, given Harper's reflexively pro-Israel stance. However by Tuesday Cannon told a Commons committee, "We feel that this is contrary to international law and therefore condemn it." That sounded more like Washington's angry reaction.

Yet when Harper was questioned in Parliament that same afternoon about a call he put in to Netanyahu, he pointedly declined to reinforce Cannon's tough stance. All he would say was that Canada's "position is well known," and that he hoped peace talks would resume.

To cap it all off, Cannon's office issued a backtracking statement later in the day insisting his condemnation wasn't "an escalation in our diplomatic language," just business as usual.

So there it stands. The United Nations, the European Union, the U.S. and Russia have all condemned the new housing, unequivocally. Even Israeli Labour leader Ehud Barak, who is Netanyahu's coalition partner and defence minister, called the move "unnecessary and damaging." Meanwhile Canada's political leaders bob and weave, lost in a fog of their own making.

I wrote a response that doesn't have a chance of being published. I decided to share it here.

While in Israel Joe Biden was insulted by the announcement of a construction project to build much needed housing. On the very same trip PA President Abbas attended the inauguration of a square named after a terrorist who killed 37 Israelis. While an insult to Israel this move didn't warrant any attention from the US Administration.

I am rather baffled by the Toronto Star editorial staff for condemning Stephen Harper and Lawerence Cannon for not following the American lead in over reacting to this minor announcement.

It is likely that Palestinian negotiators have already agreed it would remain on the Israeli side of any border with a Palestinian State. If it doesn't Israel has proven over and over again they are willing to throw their own citizens out of their homes to make peace. Palestinians would get 1600 brand new housing units.

Obama's Administration created an international incident that caused violence without any diplomatic gain. The little more level headedness by world leaders, exhibited by Harper and Cannon would much more practical for creating a practical peace arangement.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rebuilding Hurva Shul Scares the Arab World

The history of the Hurva shul in Jerusalem's Old City provides a deep insight into the history of the Jewish people. It was originally built in the 1700s and destroyed a few decades later by the local Arab population. In the 19th century the shul was once again rebuilt. It was a major centre in the Jewish Quarter.

In 1948 during the War of Independence a couple of tactical mistakes lead to the Old City's capture by the Jordanian Army. At the beginning of the battle the Jews captured the most important strategic building as it was the high ground in the area. The building was a church so they withdrew in order to keep the UN happy. The Jordanian's had no problem with using the building. Badly needed Jewish reinforcements did not remain to hold the positions they captured because they were tired from battle and did not have orders to stay. When the local Jews surendered they were given a short window of time to evacuate. As soon as the Jews were gone, the Jordanian blew up the Hurva Shul.

The 8 year project to rebuild the shul is complete and the dedication ceremony was today. Palestinian and Arab world have been outraged by the move. Security has been stepped up throughout the country out of fear of Arab rioting. There were a wide range of excuses for the harsh objection. 1. It is trying to destroy the "Muslim/Christian" nature of the city 2. (Due it's location on a hill) The building is higher then the Dome of the Rock and Al Asqa Mosque. 3. The Jews are going to destroy Al Asqa Mosque. 4. It is built on Occupied Territory, that is to be the capital of the Palestinian State.

The story line fits in perfectly for most people who's knowledge of Israeli history spans no more than 3 days. Israel captured the West Bank through war and all else is irrelevant. The fact that Israel request Jordan to remain out of the 6 day war in 1967 or how and where people lived when there was no artificial borders in the area.

It makes it easy to condemn construction in areas like Hevron or Gush where it's habitant were expelled in 1929 and 1948 respectively. It allows for the telling of the story where Kever Rachel in Bethlehem, for centuries the undisputed sight holy only to Jews has in the past decade become the sight of an ancient mosque. An Arab MK was even willing to overturn his own belief system as decendants of Abraham by declaring that Palestinians are decendants of the original owners of Marat HaMachpela which sold the land to Abraham. The fact that a valid sale would negate the Palestinian claim to the end doesn't even come into play.

Israel continues to deal with the consequences of a political science experiment gone wrong. Every step results in another political crisis. Early this year PA President Abbas tried to gain leverage by threatening to not run in upcoming elections. While milking a crisis for the West he was cancelling elections and strengthening his position in different levels of the Palestinian political structure. The rebuilding of the Hurva shul symbolizes that the Jews will continue to bounce back and lay claim what is rightfully theirs. The only hope for peace is to accept reality that the Jewish people are not going to go away and are not out to destroy the Arab population.

Monday, March 15, 2010

We're Back

Thanks to my wife for bringing back this blog from Prorogation with a great brand new look and feel. I plan to start blogging a little bit more regularly again.