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Foreign Minister John Baird
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, July 15, 2013

Foreign Minister John Baird told the audience at the Shimon Peres's Israel Conference in Jerusalem on June 19th  in answer to a question on whether he believed Netanyahu was committed to a two state solution that "I do believe profoundly and sincerely" that Prime Minister Netanyahu 'wants to see a two state solution."'

Baird said that in various meetings with Israeli officials and also with President Peres he has heard that they have "no desire to rule over the Palestinian people.”

Baird added that he thought Netanyahu's appointing of the moderate Tzippi Livni as Israel's chief peace negotiator is amounting to "extending an olive branch to the Palestinians."

When asked about the criticism he received from Palestinians when he met with Livni at her office at the Israel Ministry of Justice in East Jerusalem on Salah A Din street, Baird countered that he would meet with any person seriously trying to pursue peace "anywhere, anytime."

Baird received loud applause at the conference in Jerusalem when he said that "Canada didn't want to jump on the bandwagon of piling up on Israel at the United Nations ... We think unilateral actions on either side are unhelpful", noting that Israeli building of settlements was unhelpful as were Palestinian unilateral steps.

Baird noted that Canada had spoken out clearly against the Palestinian unilateral bid at the UN for statehood.  "We stand up for what we believe in."

Baird noted that the Canadian government's support for Israel was based on values and principles and doing "the right thing". Baird is Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean. He noted that in his own riding there are "2800 Jews and 11000 Arabs/Muslims such that his support for Israel isn't done for vote getting. Electorally, "it's not a winning issue."

Baird cautioned the Palestinians from going to the International Criminal Court at the Hague in an attempt to pursue claims against Israel.” Palestinians will pay a heavy price if they try to go the International Criminal Court...It won't help them."

While he did not say this at the Peres conference, there is a report that Baird has said Canada will cut aid to the Palestinians if they pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court

"We won't go along anymore just to get along," he added, emphasizing that the "only single way" a Palestinian state will be born will be as a result of negotiations "between Jerusalem and Ramallah."

Baird said that Canada supports U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's attempts to revive peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

In the session Baird was asked about remarks he once made regarding going to live on a kibbutz in Israel. Baird responded that when he resigned his position in the provincial legislature in Ontario to run as a candidate federally he had said that if he lost the election, "maybe I could have gone to Israel to work on a Kibbutz." He added, "If there are any kibbutzniks in the room, leave me your card."

In an interview after the session at the Shimon Peres Presidential Conference, the Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Baird if Canada may consider cutting aid to the Palestinians along the lines of what Sweden is considering if there is no progress in reviving peace talks. [The Swedish government announced it may cut back on financial assistance to the Palestinians following their failure to move forward with peace negotiations with Israel, as a Swedish news site The Local reported. The report quoted Development Aid minister Gunilla Carlsson as asking: “Is it worth continuing developing the prerequisites for a two-state solution if Israel and the Palestinians themselves do not want to sit down at the negotiating table?”

At the moment, Sweden donates $107 million on a yearly basis to Gaza and the West Bank to aid the Palestinians. However, if there are no negotiations, than the Swedish demonstration of support would become meaningless, Carlsson suggested. “I don’t want to haggle with Swedish aid money, but I can only take the perspective of the Swedish taxpayers,” Carlsson said, “one wants results.”
Baird answered that "Let's have some optimism" that John Kerry, who was due to arrive in the region shortly will make progress in reviving the process.

When asked if he had met with PA president Abbas on the trip, Baird answered "yes and it was a good meeting."
Baird also noted that Canada has giv

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.