Canada Reviewing Relations with Palestinians after UN Vote

Israel and Canadian flags in Jerusalem. Photo by Joshua Spurlock.The Palestinians may have gained political points in their symbolic upgrade in status at the United Nations, but the controversial move could ultimately cost them millions of dollars. Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird announced last Friday, following the UN vote to upgrade the Palestinian group to a non-member state, that his country would “now review the full range of its bilateral relationship with the Palestinian Authority [PA].”

The Toronto Star noted in their report of the decision that a Canadian program that gave the Palestinians projects worth $300 million is set to expire in the months ahead. While The Star reported that Baird said they would not cancel their relations with the PA, the newspaper questioned if the aid program would be renewed.

Canada was one of nine nations who voted against the Palestinian UN move, joined by the United States and the Czech Republic, among others. Baird’s statement, posted on the Canadian Foreign Ministry’s website, said they were “deeply disappointed” by the UN vote, juxtaposing their newfound angst with their previous help for the Palestinians.

“Canada is proud of the support it has provided to improve the stability and security of the Palestinian society,” said Baird. “Yesterday’s unilateral action does nothing to further the Middle East peace process. It will not change the reality on the streets of the West Bank or Gaza. This unilateral step is an impediment to peace.

“We again call on the Palestinian Authority and Israel to return to negotiations without preconditions, for the good of their people.”

Baird said the heads of missions in Israel and Ramallah in the West Bank, as well as its representatives to the UN in New York and Geneva, were being brought back to Canada temporarily to “assess the implications” of the UN vote and “inform Canada’s response to it.”

Baird left no doubt Canada’s views on the Palestinian decision to advance its statehood efforts outside of peace talks with Israel. “Our government’s position is clear: the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace is through negotiations, not unilateral actions.”

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic’s vote earned it a personal thanks from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The history of Israel and the Czech Republic has taught us that one must cling to the truth even if the majority is not with you. Your vote must serve as an example for all those who support peace, which can be achieved only via direct negotiations without preconditions,” Netanyahu was quoted by his office as telling Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Necas.

“The Palestinian Authority’s decision to go to the UN constitutes a fundamental violation of the agreements with Israel and only pushes peace further away,” Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, December 3, 2012)