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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 given a lot of aid to the PA "though humanitarian organizations" and not a lot to the PA itself. (Note: Canada has already committed $15 million to UNWRA for 2013 and Canadian aid to the PA goes to their PA justice system, seeking economic private development and health and education assistance.) On June 17, Baird announced $25 million in aid to the Palestinians including na additonal $3.6 million ot furhter the PA's security system reforms and strenghten the rule of low in the West Bank. 

Regarding the Swedish consideration of cutting aid to the PA, Mordechai Keidar,  an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, who was at the conference, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that "It's time that Europe starts thinking (about) what's done with its money." Keidar, who served for twenty-five years in IDF military intelligence, where he specialized in Islamic groups, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic press and mass media, and the Syrian domestic area said he thought that Sweden's consideration of cutting aid due to lack of progress in the peace talks "is a pretext."

As Keidar said, "They [Sweden] have good reason to suspect that their money goes to the wrong bank accounts in Switzerland," suggesting wide-scale PA corruption. "In the culture of the Middle East, you buy your supporters," Keidar noted.  "The rules in this part of the world are quite different than the rules in Europe...Factionalism, tribalism, sectarianism are woven into the culture of the region."
An Israeli foreign Ministry official told the Winnipeg Jewish Review regarding the statements from Sweden about PA aid, "It's a balancing act. You want to have aid to be productive and cutting aid can be counterproductive "in the event it emboldens Hamas.  


Press Release  issued by Canadian Foreign Affars re New Aid ot Palestinians:

June 17, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today visited the West Bank to announce an immediate, $25-million contribution to aid Palestinians.

“Canada supports a better, brighter future for all Palestinians,” said Baird. “The quickest, most sure-fire way to realize the promise of increased prosperity and greater security is to stop negotiating about negotiations and return to the table without preconditions. That’s long been my position and that’s what we’re supporting here today.”

Baird announced up to $1.4 million in new support to the Office of the Quartet Representative. An additional $3.6 million will further the Palestinian Authority’s security system reforms and strengthen the rule of law in the West Bank.

The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, said from Ottawa that an additional $20 million in development assistance builds on previous Canadian contributions of $300 million over five years and will help meet urgent food and health needs while Canada considers future funding.

“Canada will make access to food, water and shelter available to address the basic needs of the most vulnerable Palestinians through reputable humanitarian partners,” said Minister Fantino. “Canada’s support will ensure that these essential goods and services are provided in a timely fashion to those who need them most. The Government of Canada will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

A backgrounder follows.

  • 30 -

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @DFAIT_MAECI

Backgrounder - Additional Humanitarian Assistance for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Canada responds to the annual appeals issued by international and Canadian humanitarian agencies. The government understands the dignity that comes with providing for one’s family and knows that prosperity and security are intrinsically linked. The new funding announced today to assist the people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip responds to a consolidated appeal by the United Nations, in coordination with a range of non-governmental organizations, for more than $416 million.

Today’s nearly $20-million development assistance contribution will be distributed as follows:

CARE Canada, $2.5 million

Improving access to food in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

This project will assist people who could earn a living, but who do not currently produce enough to live, by distributing sheep, chickens, fodder and the provision of veterinary services to improve their access to food.

Some 1,500 families will benefit from improved access to food.

Oxfam Québec, $3.5 million

Improving lives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

This project will target the most marginalized people—the disabled, female-headed households, the elderly and the extremely poor—to help them buy the food they need through increasing their food production, which will in turn increase their income from agriculture.

Project activities will give extremely vulnerable families assistance to buy the food they need and improve their farming practices, and will include mobile veterinary clinics, distribution of drought-resistant seedlings and promotion of backyard gardens. Activities will also promote the safe use of pesticides and fertilizers, along with the efficient use of resources such as water.

The project aims to provide increased access to food for up to 8,000 families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

United Nations World Food Programme, $11 million

Food assistance for non-refugee Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Contributions from Canada will help the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) implement activities in emergency food assistance and food voucher distribution. The contribution will also support WFP cooperation with other agencies on coordinating, monitoring and reporting on the food security situation for non-refugee Palestinians.

In 2013, the WFP expects to reach 260,000 non-refugee Palestinians in the West Bank and 205,000 in the Gaza Strip.

Handicap International Canada, $945,000

Support for children with disabilities in the Gaza Strip

This project provides children with disabilities with essential health and rehabilitation services.

Activities include the provision of mobility devices or prosthetics for children with severe disabilities. Outreach teams, composed of 30 professionals, will provide rehabilitation services to children in their homes, working with families and patients to provide technical- and social-support services on a weekly basis.

About 3,030 children, about half of them girls, will benefit from health and medical services.

Save the Children Canada, $1.4 million

Health and child protection in the Gaza Strip

This project will target the poorest and most vulnerable children and their families with health and protection support in the Gaza Strip.

Activities will improve access to health services for children with special needs by providing medical services and making home visits. Training on health and nutrition will focus on mothers and their children. Protection support will be provided for the poorest children and their families, as will support to livelihoods and delivery of non-food items in response to immediate needs.

Some 8,600 children and their families will benefit.

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, $500,000

Humanitarian coordination, monitoring and reporting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Canada’s contribution will help the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) to coordinate an effective humanitarian response in this highly complex environment. The UNOCHA coordinates the consolidated appeal and provides coordination, reporting and monitoring services for humanitarian projects throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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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.