Israel´s Peres set for warm reception from Mulcair (THE GLOBE AND MAIL) GLOBE STAFF 05/07/12)
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As Israel’s President Shimon Peres visits Ottawa this week, he will
be met by support from an unusual corner – the Leader of the New
Thomas Mulcair hasn’t dramatically altered his party’s middle-way
policies on the Middle East, but he’s seen as having a much more
sympathetic stand on Israel than his predecessors.
Stephen Harper’s pro-Israel views are well-known – he recently took
Canada’s support to a new height when he refused to join in
condemning Israel’s claim that a pre-emptive air strike against Iran
would be within its rights. However, Mr. Mulcair has a personal
connection to Israel.
In 2008, at a gala hosted by Tribune Juive magazine, Mr. Mulcair
said: “My in-laws are Holocaust survivors. Their history is part of
my daily life. That’s why I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all
instances and circumstances,” he said in French, according to
Canadian Jewish News.
Mr. Mulcair’s past statements brought him criticism during his
leadership campaign from some groups critical of Israeli policy, like
Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East and Independent
Jewish Voices. The IJV also attacked him for donations he received
from people associated with pro-Israel lobby groups, asserting he was
too close to them.
When Mr. Peres, who was set to arrive Sunday, spends 30 minutes in a
meeting with Mr. Mulcair Tuesday afternoon, it will be the first time
a senior Israeli leader has met with him.
For Mr. Mulcair, it is, according to his press secretary, just part
of the Opposition Leader’s role. “As the government-in-waiting, we do
these kinds of things,” said spokesman George Soule.
It’s true that Mr. Peres’s trip here is not the more political visit
that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, made in March.
Israel’s President, akin to Canada’s Governor-General, is a national
icon, not a leader with political powers. Even when he was in active
politics, Mr. Peres was never seen as being as divisive a figure as
Mr. Netanyahu, and Israeli presidents have been welcomed by
governments and opposition party leaders in the past.
“It is meant to symbolize something, and that is the warmth in ties,”
said Shimon Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel
and Jewish Affairs.
Mr. Mulcair’s sympathies don’t mark a departure from the support for
a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue that his late
predecessor, Jack Layton, adopted. Though some New Democrat MPs have
been more critical of Israeli policies, Mr. Layton strove to make his
policy middle-of-the-road, and to avoid loud talk on the issue to
With Liberal Leader Bob Rae also viewed as pro-Israel, Mr. Peres is
set to get a warm welcome from all the major parties.
Mr. Peres, 88, has already found our air travel to be friendlier: He
booked his trip with Air Canada after El Al, Israel’s national
airline, attempted to charge him nearly $5,000 to bring an oxygen
tank on the official trip to Canada.
Israeli media reported last week that he opted to fly with Air Canada
because after El Al, for the first time, wanted to charge him.
According to protocol, an oxygen tank and other medical equipment is
mandatory whenever an Israeli president or prime minister flies
El Al spokeswoman Anat Friedman said Sunday that the airline sent Mr.
Peres an apology. But it arrived too late – Mr. Peres had already
booked his trip with Air Canada.
With a report from The Associated Press (© Copyright 2012
CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. 05/07/12)
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