The news comes in the form of a pledge posted this weekend on the Conservative Party website, which asked supporters to sign up for the party mailing list if they agree that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.” It comes two months after U.S. President Donald Trump said the same in a decision that sparked an emergency meeting of the United Nations and renewed unrest among Palestinians.
The Canadian government abstained from a vote in December that saw more than 100 states condemn the United States for its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the historic and disputed city, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as the capital of their nations.
“Canada’s Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when we form government in 2019,” the party says on its website.
“Canada’s Conservatives have been, and always will be, a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community. Israel is one of Canada’s strongest allies and a beacon of pluralism and democratic principles in a turbulent part of the world. Canada’s Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
WATCH ABOVE: United Nations votes to denounce Trump’s decision on Jerusalem
Under Israeli law, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel but given the complex state of affairs in the region, most countries have refrained from recognizing Jerusalem as such, given it holds symbolic and strategic importance in any discussions aimed at negotiating a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
In particular, West Jerusalem has been generally accepted to be part of Israel but the same is not true for East Jerusalem.
That is the part of the capital claimed by the Palestinians.
Gil Troy, a professor at McGill University focusing on American presidential politics and Israeli affairs, said the pledge by Scheer to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel likely boils down to two things.
“First, Stephen Harper,” he said in an email to Global News. “This is a way of embracing Harper’s foreign policy legacy, which goes far beyond Trump or Israel or Jerusalem and represented a different Canadian strategy and face vis-a-vis the world, more unilateral and confrontational than multilateral and conciliatory (and, to be cynical, perhaps it’s an attempt not just to woo the ideologues and voters who liked it, but some of the donors who supported Harper too).”
As well, Troy noted part of the thinking behind the pledge might be an effort to give voters a clear example of a distinct policy offering from what is on offer from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
“This is an easy way of saying what every rival has to say,” he said. “‘I’m not Justin Trudeau, I’m my own man.'”
When asked in December whether he would support moving the embassy to Jerusalem or recognizing it as the capital of Israel, Scheer referred questions to Conservative Party foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole and said he would be having a decision with caucus about it.
A spokesperson for Scheer said the announcement by Trump did not factor into the timing of their plan to announce this policy and said it has taken time to have discussions and consultations with caucus members ahead of deciding to announce the policy, which will form part of his 2019 campaign platform.
“The policy reflects a recognition that Israel is one of Canada’s strongest allies and that they have the right to determine where their capital is located,” said Jake Enwright, director of communications for Scheer.
He did not say exactly when the party first began discussing the policy with caucus.
When asked about the effect such a policy could have on attempts to negotiate a two-state solution or on relations with the Palestinians, Enwright said more details on the foreign policy platform for the party would be announced closer to the election.
“The two issues are, for us, different,” he said. “We’re talking right now about a particular policy as it applies to a sovereign country determining for themselves where their capital is and the recognition of that right.”
Enwright also did not say whether the party anticipated Scheer could face similar backlash as Trump did on the floor of the United Nations.