December 2, 2000
Canada supports resolution calling Israel's control of Jerusalem illegal
by Steven Edwards
UNITED NATIONS - Canada voted for a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly yesterday declaring Israel's control of Jerusalem, the Jewish state's capital, to be illegal.
The vote, the most controversial of six cast on Israeli-Palestinian issues yesterday, comes on the heels of anger in Canada's Jewish community over Ottawa's voting record at the UN.
Some community members say they have lost their patience with the "anti-Israeli" stance of the Liberal government.
"We're fed up with the perversions going on at the UN," said Robert Ritter, executive-director of the Canada-Israel Committee, which speaks for Canada's Jewish community on matters concerning Canada-Israel relations.
"It is our intention to now monitor everything at the UN with great precision. We are not going to sit back idly and watch Canada participate in these kinds of [votes]."
For some in the Jewish community there is a feeling that Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, has let them down despite offering "regret" last month after Canada backed what many consider an anti-Israel resolution brought before the UN Security Council, whose 15 members include Canada.
"A statement was made that the government would be more sensitive to the feelings of the Jewish community, but that has to be translated into action with a change in voting patterns," said Moshe Ronen, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "It doesn't seem to be happening yet, so that is disconcerting and disappointing."
Jewish anger was first roused after Canada cast its ballot for Resolution 1322, which complained of Israel's "excessive use of force" during recent clashes with Palestinians, but made little mention of violence by Palestinians. The United States, Israel's main ally, abstained.
Mr. Chrétien later wrote to Jewish community leaders to express his regret that Canada's vote had "added to [their] distress and frustration" over the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
But within weeks, Canada had cast more ballots deemed to be anti-Israeli -- this time on a UN committee.
When this was reported by the National Post just ahead of Monday's election, the Liberal party issued a statement accusing the newspaper of trying to "destabilize the Liberals."
It also insisted that "Canada is a friend of Israel."
Yesterday's resolution on Jerusalem said that Israel's decision to "impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration" on the city was "illegal, and therefore null and void and has no validity whatsoever."
The resolution also "deplores the transfer by some states" of diplomatic missions such as embassies to Jerusalem, part of which is claimed by Palestinians as a capital for a Palestinian state.
Carl Schwenger, spokesman for the department of foreign affairs, defended yesterday's vote.
"We look at each resolution on its individual merits and when the broad thrust of the resolution in consistent with our policy, we support it, when not, we abstain or vote against it," he said.
"In many of these resolutions, both parties are called on to implement prior agreements to continue to work towards a negotiated settlement and to respect international human rights and norms."
Canada's embassy in Israel is in Tel Aviv, though Joe Clark, while heading a minority Progressive Conservative government in 1979, announced it would be moved to Jerusalem. He reversed the policy after Arab states and several Canadian companies doing business in the Middle East opposed the idea.
In yesterday's vote, Canada was among 145 countries that voted yes, while the U.S. abstained along with four other countries, arguing that "the future of Jerusalem should be decided through permanent status negotiations."
Of the other resolutions, Canada voted for two, and abstained from three. All six texts were updated versions of what have become annual declarations.
Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians form a majority, and the Golan Heights, which was formerly Syrian, in 1967 -- one of a series of conflicts between Israel and its neighbours.
One of the other resolutions that received Canada's approval yesterday calls for the "withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967."
It also "stresses the necessity for commitment to the principle of land for peace" and speaks of the "right of all states in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders."
It expresses "full support for the ongoing peace process."
However, the resolution refers to the "illegality" of Jewish settlements built within the territories, a contentious issue in recent efforts to reach a peace settlement.