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John Baird

Tzipi Livni


by Rhonda Spivak, April 13, 2013

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird met last week with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in her office in eastern Jerusalem, which is located on Salah-A _Din street not far from the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Most Western countries refuse to let their officials attend such meetings, such that this be viewed as recognizing Israel's annexation of that part of the city.
Baird also visited the Golan Heights, another area annexed by Israel.
A nongovernmental Israeli source told Ha’retz that, "Baird recognizes the sensitivity, but he wants to set a precedent."
Baird told the National Post that where he has coffee with someone is “irrelevant” to the larger discussion of Middle East peace and does not signal a shift in Canadian foreign policy.
 “I’m just not interested in getting into the semantic argument about whether you have a meeting with one person on one side of the street [and] it’s OK, and you have a meeting on the other side of street and it’s not,” he said during a news conference in London, following a meeting of G8 foreign ministers.
“We’re focused on trying to have an impact on the difficult and serious challenges, that being security for Israelis, an end to the conflict and the legitimate aspirations for a state from those in the Palestinian side.”
Fatah’s Commissioner for International Affairs Nabil Sha'ath responded by saying that John Baird slapped the Palestinian people in the face by holding his meeting in east Jerusalem with Livni.
Sh’ath expressed his views against the meeting in an opinion piece he published in Canada’s Globe and Mail
In his opinion piece Sha'ath said Baird’s visit to Livni’s office “not only marks an unprecedented recognition of the illegal Israeli annexation of Palestinians’ occupied capital, it undermines efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to restart negotiations.
“The visit is a slap in the face to the Palestinian people, particularly Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, who suffer from Israeli policies of colonial settlement expansion,” Sha'ath wrote.
He added that it was just the latest in a series of “provocations” that Canada had taken against the Palestinians, including its rejection of Palestinian statehood efforts at the United Nations.
Baird’s press secretary told the Jerusalem Post regarding the visit that “Minister Baird wanted to get Minister Livni's view on the Middle East peace process, given her new responsibilities and important role in the new Cabinet.
“As guests, we were pleased to meet our hosts where it was most convenient for them,” the press secretary said.
“This doesn't change our long standing position that all final status issues must be negotiated between the two parties,” Baird’s press secretary said.
What do I make of this all?  In my view, Baird couldn’t possibly have what he did by accident—He wanted to set a precedent.
And what is he really saying to the Palestinians? Well, maybe, he is telling them the truth. If, instead of agreeing to get back to the negotiating table with the Israelis as you should be, you choose to take unilateral steps at the UN, then you aren’t the only one that can take unilateral steps. I also can take unilateral steps—literally—even small ones- and therefore I chose to take a few steps and meet Livni across the green line.  If you want to move forward, 46 years after the Six Day War and accomplish something for your people, then agree to negotiations without pre-conditions, as Obama has asked you to do. And if  65 years after the state of Israel was born, you still aren’t willing to level with your people and recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, (as opposed to a state called Israel where millions of Palestinian refugees can return and ultimately become the majority), then I am going to meet Livni in East Jerusalem. You can’t have it both ways; after 65 years you can’t stop the clock, even though Netanyahu did give you a 10 month settlement freeze and that still didn’t get you back to the table.  I know you think that time is on your side, but maybe it isn’t after all.
And finally, maybe Baird is cognizant of the fact that Livni is for sure one of the moderates in the Israel government---she would genuinely try to reach a two state solution with you and that includes dividing Jerusalem. When she was Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, they presented Abbas with a far reaching proposal which indicated East Jerusalem would be divided territorially along the lines of the Clinton Parameters, with the exception of the “Holy Basin”, whose sovereignty would be delayed to a later stage. According to the plan, sovereignty over the “Holy Basin,” which Olmert said comprises 0.04% of the West Bank (approximately 2.2 would be delayed to a later stage. The issue would continue to be negotiated bilaterally between Israel and Palestine with the involvement of the United States, Saudi Arabia. Jordan and Egypt,  but without the ability of these third parties to force an agreement on the parties.
So maybe Baird is really telling the Palestinians that Livni is the best game in town for them, and if they can’t find a way to get back to the table, then time ticks on—after all, the Palestinians could have had a state in 1948 had they chosen to accept the  Partition Plan, rather than wage war against the fledgling state. And in fact newly released archival documents show that Ben-Gurion and Zionist leaders expected that there would be which is why there was a debate in 1948 as to what they ought to call the state of Israel in Arabic. They decided on  “Eesra’il,” (Israel) not “Falistin’ (Palestine) because ,as officials wrote, ““It is likely that the Arab state that will be established in the Land of Israel will also be called Palestine in the future, which could cause confusion.”
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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.