It was not just a loss of a council seat, but a loss of integrity when kicking Israel
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s four-year campaign to win a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council came to a humiliating end, Wednesday, June 17.
Two seats were up for grabs, with three contenders vying for them: Canada, Norway, and Ireland. In the world of probabilities, Canada had a 66 per cent chance of winning one seat. Yet she found herself shut out entirely from this elusive dream. The defeat dealt a body blow to Canada’s self-image in how she perceives her place in the world.
Upon winning the election in 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau proclaimed “Canada is back.” It was a rebuke to out-going Prime Minister Stephen Harper about his perceived lack of respect among the family of nations. He, Trudeau, would reclaim Canada’s prestige on the world stage.
Occupying one of the 10 non-permanent seats in the Council is a two-year stint. The real power rests with the Council’s five permanent members: US, UK, France, Russia, and China. They hold the power to veto resolutions. Canada has not had a seat on this Council since 2000, which includes the nine years Prime Minister Harper was in office from 2006-2015. Harper did try (and lost) in 2010 but did not see the quest for a Security Council seat as a priority.
Conversely, Trudeau spent $2.3 million dollars on this bid, which included intense lobbying efforts. The results speak for themselves.
Harper won 114 votes with less expenditure of taxpayer funds and lobbying, while Trudeau only managed to garner 108 votes.
In the postmortem of the vote, one wonders what went so wrong for Trudeau. For starters, Trudeau mismanaged diplomatic relations with three out of the five permanent members. Russia was dismayed, because Trudeau did not want her to re-enter the G7. Therefore, why would Russia want to cozy up with Canada on the Security Council? An eye for an eye.
Then there’s China, who has an ongoing spat with us over Huawei, where Meng Wanzhou, CFO and daughter of the founder of Huawei, was placed under house arrest in Vancouver, and is subject to extradition at the behest of the US. Huawei Technologies is accused of violating American trade sanctions against Iran. Needless to say, China is miffed with Canada, and has taken two Canadians as prisoners, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. News has just broken that they will be tried as spies. Tit for tat.
And Trump may have felt disrespected by Trudeau, after the stunt he pulled while his plane was lifting off the tarmac from the 2018 G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec. The summit’s communique had been drawn up. Trudeau agreed to work with Trump on matters of tariffs and trade. As Trump goes out the door, Trudeau tells the world Canada will not be pushed around by the US. Cowardly negotiating style.
In December 2019, at an event at Buckingham Palace during a NATO summit, Trudeau used sophomoric talk to deride Trump before other world leaders, for monopolizing an unplanned press conference. Unbeknownst to Trudeau, a hot mic picked up the entire exchange.
With the rest of the member states, Trudeau tried currying favour by sacrificing Canada’s principles on the altar of political expediency. He tried to win the support of some dictators by reversing course and voting against Israel, on November 19, 2019. For 13 years Canada had been very supportive of Israel, a tradition that Stephen Harper began and Trudeau, most of the time, continued.
To complete his about-face, Prime Minister Trudeau dispatched his ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, Marc-Andre Blanchard. In a letter dated June 10, 2020, Ambassador Blanchard slammed Israel, while siding with the Palestinians. His letter proved that Canada and Israel are not closely aligned. He said Canada rejects Jerusalem being entirely under Israeli control, as well as the West Bank and Golan Heights. He added that Canada is proud to continue funding UNRWA, a very problematic organization with ties to Hamas.
If there is any way Justin Trudeau can find redemption from this vanity project gone awry, it would be in a new focus, one where he “has Israel’s back” as he has much-promised.
July 1 would be his first test. That is the date Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will apply sovereignty to 30 per cent of the land between Israel’s internationally recognized border and the Jordan River. (I use the word “sovereignty”, not “annexation” because one cannot annex land that is already hers.) Notwithstanding Israel’s historic, religious, and legal rights to the land, Netanyahu’s move is necessary for security reasons.
In this respect, there is, however, a chance for a new beginning for Trudeau, where he can bring clarity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than continuing diplomatic double talk.
How he does this is to recognize The San Remo Conference of 1920, monumental in that it became international law, giving the Jewish people title over Palestine (what is today Israel, and the West Bank). The San Remo Conference, later ratified by the League of Nations, is hardly talked about, but its importance is huge. Even though the League of Nations dissolved in 1946, and the creation of the United Nations followed in 1948, all nation members of the UN agreed to the rights of Jews to Israel via UN Article 80. That Article cannot be reversed, without both parties agreeing and certain legal mechanisms to follow.
Being an “honest broker” demands moral clarity and knowledge of historic agreements, and that is something Trudeau could do, moving forward.
Trudeau does not want this futile quest to be remembered as the cautionary tale of what happens when one panders to the UN. It would be wise for him to be familiar with the San Remo Conference, the Mandate for Palestine, and the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
Remaining steadfast in one’s principles will garner more respect from the people that matter, namely Canadians and like-minded democracies. Let that be Justin Trudeau’s legacy.