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Dozens of MPs join pledge demanding strong opposition to West Bank annexation

Last Updated Jul 23, 2020 at 9:46 am MST

FILE: The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — A growing number of parliamentary representatives are calling for the Canadian government to take a stronger stance against Israel’s proposed plans to annex pieces of the West Bank.

Since elections earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced a desire to seize areas of the occupied Palestinian territory, with the support of his now Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.

The idea was backed by the United States administration under President Donald Trump, with his so-called “deal of the century” showing that areas of the West Bank where Israeli settlements lie will be moved under full Israeli control.

It has resulted in condemnation from most members of the United Nations — including some European countries considering sanctions — as international law has also continually ruled that the settlements themselves are illegal.

The Israeli government denies that the settlements are a breach of international law.

To date, the Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not taken a strong stance against the idea, and Canada has voted alongside Israel in United Nations declarations around the settlement dispute.

In May, Trudeau and Netanyahu talked over the phone and a readout said that they spoke about the importance of peace in the region, with Trudeau “reaffirming Canada’s commitment to a two-state solution resulting from negotiations between the parties.”

A month later, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) launched a campaign urging Canadians to sign a letter that would be sent to Members of Parliament calling on them to join on to a pledge demanding the Prime Minister be more vocal against the annexation proposal.

By the middle of July 65 MPs had signed on to the pledge, including the entire caucus of the Bloc Quebecois, the entire Green Party and most of its leadership candidates, and the majority of members of the NDP.

Dozens of community organizations have also signed on, including numerous church organizations, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“We can see that people realize that the peace process has failed and that there’s no progress coming any time soon,” said Michael Bueckert, vice-president of CJPME.

He said it is encouraging there is a grassroots movement here that is gaining traction within Parliament, but there still needs to be a stronger showing within the Liberal Party.

RELATED: Netanyahu signals delay in West Bank annexation plan

While seven Liberal MPs had signed on to it so far, it is a far cry from the 157 members in the house and also no members of the Conservative Party have signed the pledge.

“So many people have been following the issue so closely, they know the stakes that are involved with annexation and they really want the Canadian government to stand up,” said Bueckert.

Edmonton-Strathcona MP Heather McPherson — the lone non-Conservative Member of Parliament in Alberta — is among the 22 NDP members who have signed on to the pledge and said the government’s response to this point has been disappointing.

“I think the government’s response has been weak,” she said.

“We are worried. This is an opportunity for Canada to step up, and we haven’t seen that from the foreign affairs minister or the prime minister to date.”

One notable NDP member to not sign the pledge is leader Jagmeet Singh, but McPherson does not believe this is a sign he is ignoring it and instead just a result of the circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic requiring more attention.

Nevertheless, McPherson said that while Canada is a soft power compared to the United States, there is still room to help generate some more attention to the issue.

“We have to be able to work together to hold government’s that are not adhering to their obligations to account.”

She said the threat to annex the West Bank jeopardizes any chance at peace, as she feels a two-state solution — where independent Israeli and Palestinian states exist side-by-side — is the best option.

McPherson added that even though she is the only MP from Alberta to sign on to the pledge so far, she is confident the motives behind it would resonate with the majority of people here.

“The support for the rule of law, the support for the stop of the annexation of the West Bank is something that so many Albertans would actually support,” she said. “This is an issue of fundamental human rights.”

Bueckert knows there will be some lobbyist pushback on such a pledge, and is disappointed that some groups are minimizing their concerns.

660 NEWS reached out for comment from the Centre for Israeli Jewish Affairs, a major lobby group in the nation, but they declined to offer any comment apart from saying the question of annexation is “speculative.”