A Canadian solution?

Now that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has failed so ignominiously to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, perhaps it is time for America’s neighbor to the north to step up to a leadership role in resolving the conflict.

As has been widely reported, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird have been among the strongest and most clear-eyed supporters of Israel’s right to defend itself against the terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza. Both Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau have largely agreed with the government’s stance.

While these words have been splendid, here are two ways the Canadian government can go from words to action. These two suggestions might be seen as mutually contradictory; but either or both would be a valuable contribution.

1. Kick out the Qatari ambassador. The Qatari government has carved out for itself, and clearly cherishes, a pivotal role in Middle East diplomacy. Meanwhile, they play host to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and are actively funding Hamas terror. In an unconscionable betrayal of American values, the Obama administration has just concluded a $11 billion arms sale to Qatar. Mr. Harper’s government should move in exactly the opposite direction. Qatar is now a critical state sponsor of terrorism. Its ambassador in Ottawa should be expelled forthwith.

2. Pursue active diplomacy. In 1956, Lester Pearson, then Canada’s Foreign Minister and later its Prime Minister, achieved a diplomatic solution to the Suez Crisis and in the process created United Nations peacekeeping. For these efforts, Mr. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.

The current crisis requires similar out-of-the-box thinking. Even a medium-term solution will have to ensure that Hamas terrorists can neither fire missiles nor infiltrate via tunnels—and that will require some sort of troop presence that is unsympathetic to Hamas. If the Israeli military pulls out, who will replace them? That’s far from clear. There may be countries with the capacity and the courage to commit troops; maybe—although this will be seen as opening a Pandora’s box—a peacekeeping role is possible for Egypt, the only neighboring country that has worked constructively to resolve the current conflict. (In my opinion, the only tenable long-term solution will entail offering Egyptian citizenship to the residents of Gaza. But that’s a topic for future posts.)

Mr. Harper should dispatch Mr. Baird to Jerusalem and to Cairo to discuss how Canada can help resolve the conflict. Perhaps the Foreign Minister can follow in his illustrious predecessor’s footsteps and lay the foundation for a creative solution. If he does, another Nobel Peace Prize for Canada may well await.

About the Author
Philip Reiss is a Professor of Statistics at the University of Haifa. He made aliyah, with his wife and their three children, in 2015.
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