The Canadian Press
OTTAWA–Conservative leader Andrew Scheer says if his party forms government in 2019, it will follow Donald Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Scheer’s declaration comes in the form of a pledge posted to the Conservative party website designed to gather signatures from members of the public.
“Canada’s Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when we form government in 2019,” the pledge says, describing the party as “a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community.”
It marks Scheer’s first definitive statement on the issue since it became a renewed matter of public debate late last year.
That debate was prompted by the U.S. president’s decision in December to not just recognize Jerusalem as the capital but to promise to move the American embassy there, as well.
It’s a contentious move. While Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, so do the Palestinians; the status of the city is part of ongoing peace negotiations.
The U.S. decision was seen as taking sides in the debate and upending years of American diplomacy.
In the aftermath of Trump’s announcement, the federal Liberal government said the issue must be resolved through negotiation.
The pledge from Scheer sides squarely with Israel.
“Canada’s Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located,” it says.
It makes no mention, however, of whether or not a government led by the Conservatives would move the Canadian embassy from Tel Aviv.
Jake Enwright, a spokesman for Scheer, said that would be discussed when the party forms government.
“We’re focused on this policy and this recognition, and we’ll consider that at a later date,” Enwright noted.
In the aftermath of Trump’s announcement, the Tories had found themselves scrambling to define their policy on Jerusalem, as neither Scheer nor the party had taken a public position on the issue.
At the time, the party said it would discuss the issue as a caucus and make a decision.
That debate was settled weeks ago. Earlier this month, foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole referred to the party’s support for Jerusalem as the capital during a conservative conference in Ottawa.
Yesterday, O’Toole said recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital doesn’t mean the Palestinians must be entirely shut out.
“East Jerusalem could also one day be the centre or capital of some eventual Palestinian state within a two-state solution, but to suggest at present that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel kind of conflicts with common sense,” he remarked.
Canada should have some kind of consular presence in Jerusalem, but a decision on an embassy is a separate discussion, he added.
The New Democrats oppose recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and passed a motion condemning Trump’s decision at their recent convention.
Yesterday, they accused the Tories of being close to Trump.
“It’s a dangerous thing to say,” foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere said of Scheer’s pledge.
“It does look like wedge politics again and also a complete disregard for the international community,” she noted.