The Conservative Party of Canada, led by Andrew Scheer, says it will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital if they form a government in 2019.
“Canada’s Conservatives have been, and always will be, a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community”, the Conservatives wrote. “Israel is one of Canada’s strongest allies and a beacon of pluralism and democratic principles in a turbulent part of the world.”
“Canada’s Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located.”
The Conservative announcement stands in stark contrast to the Liberals who in December abstained from voting against a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution which debated “illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
The non-binding resolution condemned US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his announcement that the US Embassy will be relocating from Tel Aviv to the capital of the Jewish State. Both the recognition and the embassy move are enshrined in the “Jerusalem Embassy Act” passed by the Congress in 1995 under President Clinton.
Canada’s abstention marked a turning point in Trudeau’s relationship with Israel and contradicted the message he sent to Canadian Jews just days before the federal elections, in which he promoted himself as an ardent supporter of Israel and the Jewish people.
An ad taken out by the Liberal Party in the Canadian Jewish News on October 8, 2015, just days before the election, promised that the “Liberal Party will have Israel’s back – but not because it’s in our political interests to do so at home – but because it is the right thing to do on the world stage”.
Conservatives have previously toyed with the idea of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. In 2015, former candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada Kellie Leitch vowed to move the Canadian Embassy from Tel Aviv if elected as Prime Minister. “In the wake of the recent UN vote and the comments of John Kerry, Canada must demonstrate its support for Israel. As Prime Minister, I will move the Canadian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem”, Leitch wrote on her official Facebook page at that time. In an earlier post, Leitch said: “The Conservative Party of Canada stands for democracy and with Israel. As leader I will protect and strengthen the special bond between our people.”
In 1979, former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party Joe Clark told the Canada-Israel Committed that, if elected, he will move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Next year in Jerusalem is a Jewish prayer which we intend to make a Canadian reality”, Clark said on April 25, 1979, and backtracked on his promise three weeks after he won the elections, until such time that “the status of Jerusalem is clarified within a comprehensive agreement between Israel and her Arab neighbours.”
Despite the fact that Jerusalem has been an official capital of Israel since the modern Jewish State was founded in 1948, almost all nations have established their embassies in Tel Aviv as part of a refusal to recognize Israel’s annexation of eastern sections of Jerusalem and the reunification of the city following its victory in the 1967 War. From 1948 until 1967 Jordan illegally occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem, which includes the Jewish Quarter, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall – the holiest sites in Judaism. It was the only time in history that Jerusalem was divided.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as its capital in spite of having no legal or historical claims to the City. Jews have been living in Jerusalem continuously for three millennia, and at no point in time, other the 19 years of Jordanian occupation during which Jews were driven out from the Old City and denied access to the Western Wall, was Jerusalem a capital of any Arab entity. While all of Jerusalem is holy to Jews, Muslims only revere one site – the Al Aqsa Mosque – located atop the Temple Mount where the First and Second Jewish Temples once stood. Additionally, at no point during the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem did the Palestinians demand it as their capital.