Baird not his usual blunt self on Israel’s settlement plan

What is Canada’s policy on settlement expansions? John Geddes put the question to the foreign minister’s aides

Nailing down the government of Canada’s stance on Israel’s controversial move to expand settlements in a contested zone east of Jerusalem is being made difficult by the foreign affair’s minister’s cagey communications strategy.

John Baird was his usual bluntly outspoken self last week when it came to denouncing Palestinian efforts to secure enhanced status at the United Nations. But Baird’s aides ask us to read between the lines and decode diplomatic language to discern his actual position on the related settlement issue.

Last Friday, White House officials decried Israel’s move to build 3,000 new housing units in the disputed area, which is claimed by the Palestinians as part of the West Bank, as “counterproductive.” Soon after, I asked Baird’s office if the Canadian government shares the U.S. concern and, if so, has that point been conveyed to the Israeli government.

An emailed response from Rick Roth, Baird’s press secretary, said the foreign minister addressed the settlements issue twice in his speech last Thursday to the UN general assembly, first when he said, “Canada has long opposed unilateral actions by either side,” and then when he repeated, “Any unilateral action, from either side… is ultimately unhelpful.”

Of course, these references rely on the listener to surmise that Canada might count the settlement expansions as among those unspecified unilateral actions. By contrast, Baird didn’t mince words in slamming the Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status as a non-member observer state.

Why is the Canadian government’s opposition to the Palestinian gambit at the UN so overt, but its objections to the settlement expansion only implied?

In an attempt to clarify the policy, I asked Roth today in an email, among other questions, if I would be correct in reporting that the Canadian government’s position is that Israel’s move to expand the settlements is, to echo the language from Baird’s speech, an “unhelpful, unilateral action.”

“To be clear,” Roth emailed back, “you can attribute the following to me: we believe that unilateral actions on either side do not advance the peace process.” I don’t see how that statement is clear at all, as long as Baird declines to say that Israel’s settlement expansion plan is among the unilateral actions Canada opposes.

Baird not his usual blunt self on Israel’s settlement plan

  1. ‘John Baird was his usual bluntly outspoken self last week’

    ‘read between the lines and decode diplomatic language to discern his actual position on the related settlement issue.’

    Look at that…..a flip-flop within a paragraph…Baird’s probably trying to get his foot out.

  2. This Harper government is one of the most tolerant governments we’ve ever had – tolerant of all the fiascos of their MPs, as well as the atrocities of the government of Israel.

  3. Baird, takes a firm stand, then goes wobbley. I love the fact that he gathers the diplomats for consultation after his UN appearance.

  4. If the word “any” had appeared before the word “unilateral” in Roth’s reply, would would you consider that to be sufficiently clear?

  5. You know….this ridiculous response from Baird’s office would be really funny if this wasn’t very serious. They’re not even trying to appear balanced. They simply don’t give a . That’s how far gone we now are on this issue.

  6. Thank you western politicians and media? Because of your misinformation campaign, factual omissions, outright lies; we now have a rogue nation armed to the teeth. Worse still, western taxpayer have paid the entire bill.

    What will you say if the radical Zionists commit another terrorist attack on the west, this time with nuclear weapons.

  7. Readers here might enjoy this YouTube clip of the one handed applause Baird receives from of our eight allies in the UN General assembly…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZhfWv6Sds4

    Hey – Israel, Nauru, Palau, Panama, Marshall Islands… let’s all with-hold our contributions to the United Nations. That’ll show ‘em.

  8. So embarrassing that our foreign policy has been bought

  9. Who is John Baird representing?? I don’t think his position on Palestine at all reflects that of the majority of Canadians. He is disgracing us and our name.

  10. Why are we so gutless when it comes to criticizing Israel? They are gradually eating away at Palestine and wonder why there’s no peace!!! I am so embarrassed and ashamed of Canada’s response.

  11. Minister Baird and the Harper Gov’t are backing Israel at a critical time. Peace and freedom in the Mideast will ONLY come when the PA agrees to recognized the State of Israel. That’s the first step. If Israel builds settlements all the way to Jordan before that happens, so be it.

    • So unless they kow tow to threats, you’ll continue to rape them and steal their land. Got it.
      Gee, I just can’t imagine why they don’t respond well to that.

  12. And again Israel demonstrates that it believes it has a god given right to take whatever they wish… because they can.
    There can be no peace. Neither side really wants it.

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