Canadians react to the ‘Deal of the Century’

US president Donald Trump, pictured here with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in in Jerusalem in May 2017, announced the Deal of the Century on Jan. 28. (FLASH90/ FILE PHOTO)

The Israeli government love it, the Palestinian Authority hate it, and Canadian Jews have a mixed reaction to the “Deal of the Century,” the Middle East peace plan unveiled by the Trump administration on Jan. 28.

The Canadian government, meanwhile, repeated its longstanding official position, which called on the parties to negotiate a comprehensive peace.

In a statement, Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said, “Canada remains committed to the goal of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. This includes the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and ensuring Israel’s security within its own borders.”

“Canada recognizes the urgent need to renew efforts toward a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will carefully examine the details of the U.S. initiative for the Middle East peace process,” he said.

“Canada has long maintained that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. We urge the parties to create the conditions for such negotiations to take place,” Champagne added.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the Jewish community’s main advocacy organization, welcomed any effort to advance peace.

“All proposals should be scrutinized, negotiated, and modified by the key stakeholders. We encourage all parties to review the details of the plan, come to the negotiating table, and to engage constructively in the discussion to the benefit of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said it was examining the Trump plan, which is 181 pages long.

“At stake is the preservation of Israel’s security and stability in the long run, with Jerusalem as its eternal capital, while ensuring a free and democratic Palestinian state that is willing to live peacefully alongside the Jewish state,” said FSWC president and CEO Avi Benlolo.

FSWC called on all parties to engage in constructive discussions and work toward a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

B’nai Brith Canada said it “supports a two-state solution which paves the way to peace between the Israelis/Palestinians and ends years of conflict. The proposed plan … is a creative solution balancing the need for an independent, prosperous Palestinian state with a safe and secure Israel.”

A much more negative appraisal of the plan was offered by two Jewish organizations on the progressive wing of the political spectrum.

“The plan released on Jan. 28 reduces even further the chance of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” JSpaceCanada said in a statement.

“As history has shown us, real peace can only be achieved through mutual agreement,” said Karen Mock, president of JSpaceCanada. “Palestinians, like Israelis, deserve a plan that respects their dignity, security and national aspirations. It is our hope that both sides will come to the table to negotiate a real peace, with Jews recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination, and Palestinians recognizing the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own.”

JSpaceCanada went on to note that it “has consistently advocated against the unilateral annexation of West Bank Settlements. Such a move would go against international law and the values outlined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Unilateral annexation endangers Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, and has serious implications for the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

A similar position, but with a much harsher tone, was adopted by Canadian Friends of Peace Now (CFPN), which called the Trump plan the “sham of the century.”

CFPN said the plan is “guaranteed to exacerbate rather than resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan pays lip-service to a two-state solution, but, at the same time, green lights immediate Israeli annexation of the entire Jordan Valley and the extension of Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank.”

The group characterized the plan with terms such as dangerous, “one-sided” and “double speak.”

“Presenting bad plans bears real costs of increasing disillusionment, anger, and distrust between the parties. Imposing a plan unilaterally on the Palestinians in the fashion the plan was announced is not a pro-Israel act. It sells a lie to the Israeli people and furthers Israel from peace,” CFPN concludes.

A far different perspective was offered by Chani Aryeh-Bain, the 2019 federal Conservative candidate in Eglinton-Lawrence, a riding in midtown Toronto.

Aryeh-Bain said Canada should support the peace plan. She rejected suggestions the plan is one-sided.

“This plan offers Israel security while it offers the Palestinians their much-coveted statehood with ensuing economic prosperity. It is time for the Palestinian leadership to embark upon building their state and allowing its citizens to join in creating economic prosperity for all,” she said.

Saying she expected the Palestinian leadership to reject the plan, Aryeh-Bain  suggested “the political landscape has changed: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have all issued statements welcoming Trump’s peace plan. Oman and Bahrain attended the announcement, signaling a warming of relations between their countries and Israel.

“Therefore, I am optimistic that this plan will lead to meaningful negotiations and hopefully, a resolution that both sides can live with.

“At the end of the day there will be concessions, sometimes painful ones, that will have to be made by both sides,” she said.