Why was Ya’ara Saks holding hands with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas last week?

Ya'ara Saks and Melanie Joly with Mahmoud Abbas
Is Canada signalling it wants the Palestinian Authority to rule the West Bank and Gaza after the war with Hamas ends? Melanie Joly (L), Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and Ya'ara Saks, (right) Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, pose for photos in Ramallah on March 12, 2024 (Government of Canada photo)

The photo has caused outrage in Canada’s Jewish community. Last week, the government released an image of the minister of foreign affairs, Melanie Joly, and Ya’ara Saks—her Israeli-Canadian cabinet colleague and Toronto area MP—smiling and holding hands in Ramallah with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The grip and grin photo was taken on March 12, while the two Canadian politicians were on a diplomatic swing through the region, pledging aid to both sides while the war between Israel and Hamas enters its 24th week.

The furor over the photo comes just as Canadian lawmakers on Monday are set to debate a key NDP motion in Parliament which, among other things, would see this country unilaterally recognize Palestine as an independent state.

Will this motion will pass? What is Canada signalling about whose side they are on, now that Ottawa has also restarted financial aid to UNRWA, blocked export permits for military equipment to Israel and pledged $1 million to investigate sexual assaults on Palestinian prisoners by Israeli police and soldiers? On today’s episode of The CJN Daily, we dive into that infamous photo, the upcoming vote and what it all means. With Conservative insider Anthony Koch of AK Strategies; Emma Cunningham, a former Ontario NDP riding president; and Joe Roberts, formerly of JSpace Canada, and now a lobbyist and managing director with Winston Wilmont Public Affairs in Ottawa.

What we talked about:

  • Read the NDP motion on recognizing Palestine as an independent state, on the House of Commons website.
  • When the Liberals voted in favour of an NDP motion to re-examine Canada’s relationship with Israel and Palestine, in May 2023, on The CJN Daily.
  • Read about Emma Cunningham’s departure from the Ontario NDP over antisemitism, in The CJN.


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here. Hear why The CJN is important to me.