Friday August 1, 2014
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Canada's new ambassador to Israel a strong critic of PA
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Ruthie Blum

Go Canada!

A new round of kudos goes to the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for its steadfast support for Israel. In what has come to be characteristic of its stubbornness in remaining on the right side of history, Ottowa has done it again.

On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced the appointment of Vivian Bercovici as ambassador to Israel, effective immediately. As a result, Bercovici -- a lawyer with a monthly column in The Toronto Star -- is likely to accompany Harper to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority towards the end of the month.

It is genuinely great news. But Bercovici's appointment is causing controversy at home and abroad. This is not merely because she was selected from outside foreign service ranks. Nor is it solely due to her being a Jew who spent two years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during the early 1980s. Several ambassadors to Israel who fit this description have been praised by the very people who are suspicious of Bercovici.

No, the source of the aspersions being cast on Baird's choice of ambassador is Bercovici's worldview. Not jibing with liberal dogma or diplomatic double-speak renders it -- and her -- non-kosher for the position.

Telling the truth will do that.

Indeed, in her columns, Bercovici has warned against buying into Iran's charm offensive; accused U.S. President Barack Obama and European leaders for weakly appeasing the Islamic Republic; attacked the United Nations for its hypocritical treatment of Israel; exposed the lack of human rights in Arab societies; and staunchly defended the Jewish state as a democracy that abides by the rule of law.

As if this weren't bad enough, she has also been critical of Palestinian intentions.

Last January, for example, she wrote: "Many western governments … hold onto a misguided fantasy of the Middle East: that the persistent obstacle to peace is Israel, not the intransigence of Palestinian leaders. … Hamas, the PA and just about every government in the Middle East make no secret of their collective ideological commitment to the total destruction of the state of Israel, which they regard as a blasphemous blight on the Arab and Muslim worlds. The political charters of Hamas and the PA, the two main negotiating parties, unequivocally call for the repatriation of all of the historic land of Palestine. Despite commitments made by former Chairman Yasser Arafat to amend its founding charter to explicitly recognize the right of Israel to exist within secure borders, the PA has yet to do so. … There is no willing negotiator on the Palestinian side."

In August, she had this to say: "Peace, even a fragile one, will take root only when the Palestinian leadership recognizes, unequivocally, the 'right' of the Jewish state of Israel to exist within secure borders. Even [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas acknowledged recently the tragedy of the Palestinian and broader Arab rejection of the two-state solution proposed by the United Nations in 1947. What he does not acknowledge, though, is that for a two-state solution to work, one must be Jewish and the other Arab. For, in doing so, he would counter a core theme of the Palestinian narrative: that there can be no peace until all Palestinian refugees and their descendants are granted the 'right' to return to their pre-'48 homes, even if they fall within present-day Israel."

When challenged by reporters suggesting that Bercovici was "too partisan," Baird was utterly and customarily unapologetic. "I think it won't be a huge shock to anyone that Canada is a strong supporter of the State of Israel ... the only liberal democracy in the region."

He's got that right, on both counts.

In 2010, Canada lost a bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council due to Harper's pro-Israel positions. Harper later said that he would stick by Israel, regardless of the political cost to his country. Wow.

Two years later, Canada severed diplomatic ties with Iran, calling its regime "the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."

In her column that week, Bercovici likened Baird to Winston Churchill for choosing "the path of principle, one that too many leaders forego."

It is a case of deserved mutual admiration, like that which Israel and Canada share. On his upcoming visit to Jerusalem, Harper -- and Bercovici -- should be given a standing ovation.

Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"

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