Will the new guy just wanna get along?
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s defeat in this week’s general election deprives Israel of arguably its strongest ally in the international arena – and the United Nations of one of its most outspoken critics.
Harper’s downfall at the hands of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party comes a little over a month after another staunch ally of Israel, Tony Abbott, was ousted as leader of Australia’s ruling party, and therefore as prime minister.
Canada and Australia under Harper and Abbott frequently angered Arab and Islamic blocs at the U.N. with their vocal support for Israel and other foreign policy stances. (They similarly upset others over their lack of enthusiasm for global climate change initiatives.)
Over the past nine years, Harper’s Conservative government took the lead in supporting Israel at the U.N., and its Human Rights Council (HRC).
As a member of the Geneva-based HRC from 2006-2009 Canada often clashed with Islamic states and other non-democratic member-states, at times voting alone against resolutions it opposed. (The U.S. was not then a member, the Bush administration having shunned the council over its anti-Israel bias and other concerns.)
When Hamas won legislative elections in the Gaza Strip in 2006, Canada under Harper was the first country after Israel to cut funding to the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
Canada was also the first country to declare it would boycott two U.N. racism conferences – in Geneva in 2009 and again in New York in 2011, taking that stand well before the U.S. and other democracies. Criticism of the so-called “Durban” process centered on its singling out Israel for condemnation.
Harper’s government in 2010 withdrew funding for the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian refugees, and said it would instead direct the money directly to projects such as food aid, in line with “Canadian values.”
That same year, Canada failed to win a two-year seat on the U.N. Security Council – an unexpected development in a secret ballot vote which some attributed to antagonism in the General Assembly to Canada’s foreign policies.
During a visit to Jerusalem early last year, Harper drew praise for his support for the Jewish state and standing ovations when he addressed the Israeli Knesset. (Arab lawmakers heckled him and staged a walkout.)
In that speech, Harper spoke about standing up for what is right in international forums, “regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”