Actions, not statements, needed to advance two-state solution in Middle East: expert

·3 min read

OTTAWA — The Liberal government's statements about its commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not enough to advance this outcome as real action is needed to push the parties in a positive direction, says an expert.

Rex Brynen, a political science professor at McGill University, said Ottawa should raise the cost of behaviours that undermine the two-state solution by supporting the International Criminal Court's investigation into settlement activity and military operations in Gaza.

"(Stating that) 'We support a two-state solution' isn't going to move any closer to a two-state solution," he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Tuesday with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of his foreign affairs minister's visit to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank later this week.

Marc Garneau’s office said last week that his visit to the Middle East aims to advance Canada’s support towards the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region and a two-state solution following a deadly 11-day war between Israelis and Palestinians last month.

Global Affairs Canada spokesman Jason Kung said earlier this month that Canada supports the principle of two states for two peoples, with both Israelis and Palestinians living within secure borders that are mutually respected and recognized.

He said Canada calls on Israel to stop settlement activities, including those in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as these activities are a violation of international law.

Brynen, who is a former longtime consultant to the Canadian government on Middle East issues, said Garneau will tell the leaders in the region that a two-state solution is the only viable resolution of the conflict and the parties should not take actions that compromise that solution, but these statements won't be enough.

"I don't actually think (Garneau) will do anything useful at all," he said. "I'm really cynical about visiting the Middle East and making nice statements about our commitment to a two-state solution because it's really not enough to help and no one much cares about what we think."

He said the government believes in a two-state solution but it will not do anything that would be a significant contribution to moving in that extremely difficult direction as the prospects for that solution are eroding.

The situation is no longer a temporary one of Palestinians being denied political rights pending resolution of conflict, he said.

"It looks permanent or semi-permanent."

Brynen said Ottawa should raise the cost of behaviours that undermine the two-state solution including supporting the International Criminal Court's investigation into settlement activity and military operations in Gaza.

He said that would signal to various parties that there are costs associated with their inappropriate behaviour whether that is Israeli settlement activity or Hamas firing rockets at Israeli cities.

The minister’s visit to the region comes weeks after a ceasefire ended the war that left at least 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas erupted on May 10, when Hamas militants in Gaza Strip fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem.

The barrage came after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, which is built on a hilltop site sacred to Jews in the holy city.

Tensions were fuelled by a lengthy legal battle waged by Israeli settlers to take over properties and plan for the removal of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on June 29, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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