As one Palestinian official noted Monday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird can be a frank, straight talking man. “There’s no mistaking where he stands,” he told the Globe and Mail.
No kidding. Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are currently touring Israel and the West Bank. On Monday, the duo met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other senior Palestinian officials, where they expressed Canada’s opposition to their bid for recognition as a sovereign state by the UN. Baird reportedly called it “profoundly wrong.”
The foreign minister also lined up in support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling the Palestinian leadership he believes they should return to peace negotiations with Israel without any preconditions. For months, Palestinian leaders have refused to hold direct talks, pointing to the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. According to the organization Peace Now Israel, the rate of settlement construction in the West Bank jumped 20 per cent in 2011.
Baird added Monday that, “whether it is rockets raining down on Israeli schools, or the constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization, Israel is under attack.” He went on to frame Canada’s unequivocal support for Israel as a brave move that flies in the face of dominant anti-Israeli sentiment amongst the international community. Clearly, Baird is working to entrench Canada as one of the world’s most unbending supporters of the Israeli government.