Monday, January 20, 2014

Harper in the Holy Land....to what end?

The $66 million "bone" thrown today to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, by Prime Minister Harper during his highly trumpeted trip to the Holy Land, but more particularly to Israel, will do nothing to dissuade world opinion that Harper has thrown the full weight of the Canadian government on the side of Israel, and against the Palestinians, in any attempt to reconcile the enmity that divides the two recalcitrants.
Calling any criticism of Israel for the existing conflict between Israel and Palestine "anti-Semitic" while clearly distinguishing the comment from criticism of Israeli government policies, Harper begs the question as to whether any criticism of the Palestinians for that same conflict would be considered "anti-Islamic" in a Harper world view.
Canada should not be sending a "boy" in terms of international relations into the world where men and women much more seasoned and mature, and not incidentally far more intellectually nuanced, on both sides of the impasse have spent their whole lives struggling with the creation of a Jewish state, and then with the terms that could conceivably bring about a cessation, or perhaps more realistically of reduced incidents of the imprisonment of each other's soldiers, of missile strikes going both ways, of proxy conflicts of the kind, (for example initiated by Hezbollah under Iran's tutelage and funding against Israel), and on talks focused on the question of the termination of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, or at least the honest acknowledgement of its existence, as part of both the problem (thanks to the U.S.) and also its disclosure as a potential part of the solution. These men and women have also searched in vain so far to find mutually agreeable terms on the future status of Jerusalem and the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Harper's far from subtle and blatantly self-serving words and actions could conceivably come back to bite him and the Conservatives in 2015.
Determining a level of trust in the Iranian regime, for example, has become one of the litmus tests for many countries, both those opposed to her development of nuclear weapon capability, and those who support her pursuit of such status. Canada, playing the Israel card, (largely considered to be  for the purpose of garnering the Jewish vote in 2015 by many back in Canada) while closing our embassy in Teheran and sending Iranian diplomats home from Ottawa, will be one of the first to call for increased sanctions should Iran falter in her commitment to live by the terms of the agreement being hammered out in Switzerland.
(UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's invitation  to Iran to attend at least the first day of talks to attempt to resolve the civil war in Syria may derail those talks, given the Syrian rebels' talk of refusing to attend if Iran appears. The U.S. has indicated that it believes Iran does not qualify to attend, unless and until it expresses full agreement with the original document that began the process, and Iran has stated unequivocally that she will only attend if there are no pre-existing, contingent conditions. That invitation may already have sent a "fox-among-the-chickens" on the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear capacity, which seemed to be headed in the right direction with Iran's having stopped all enrichment to the 20% level, as part of her commitment to the initial, if partial agreement of a few weeks ago.)
(UPDATE: 1/21/14 The UN invitation to Iran has been withdrawn, and the Syrian rebels have indicated their intention to attend the Geneva conference later this week.)
Clearly, Harper has thrown the weight of the Canadian government on the side of Israel, and in the process has declared 9/11 as the signal "that we are all on the Israeli side, in the conflict with radical Islam. While many people around the world worry, as do we, about the threat posed by the Islamic terrorists to all countries including Canada, surely that radical Islamic scourge can and will be opposed and perhaps even eliminated by countries whose foreign policy does not tip wholly into the Israeli camp, given that there will be considerable need for countries and their leaders to balance the interests of legitimate Palestinian aspirations with those of Israel and the Jewish people in any process that concludes with a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
Nuance, ambiguity, negotiation, and a process which is premised on the promise and hope and belief in the establishment of trust, through various stages of trial and error, seem a much more realistic and probable process than one which tips the balance in favour of one of the principals prior to the real commencement of deep and complex negotiations in good faith.
Many even in Israel do not hold to Netanyhu's positions on many of the important and negotiable items in a check-list of outstanding issues between Israel and Palestine. Does Harper factor that quotient in his calculus? Does he also factor in the historic role played by Canada in helping support any negotiations that were focused on a resolution of the dispute? Have the Islamic terrorists now in effect set the course of Canadian foreign policy on Israel, merely because they are a violent threat to the world's Judao-Christian heritage and culture and tradition? That gives them a lot of power that even they probably would not have anticipated. One has to wonder what they will do with that realization.

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