‘We have a fundamental difference with the Palestinians about their path to statehood, a thoroughly unapologetic John Baird tells The Times of Israel
BY RAPHAEL AHREN, TOI, January 21, 2015,
Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird meets with Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on January 19, 2015.
John Baird has no intention of apologizing. The Palestinians would like the Canadian foreign minister to say he’s sorry for his government’s unabashedly pro-Israel stance. They shouldn’t hold their breath.
In fact, Baird is waiting for an apology from Ramallah — not for having his car pelted with eggs and shoes Sunday during his visit there, but for a top Palestinian official’s comparison between Israel and terrorists of the Islamic State.
“People may disagree with our position with respect to Israel, but so be it,” Baird said Tuesday in Tel Aviv, as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the region. “It’s always wise to speak with moral clarity,” he submitted, adding that despite Ottawa’s unflinching friendship with the Jewish state, “we have a pretty good relationship with most of the Arab countries in the region.”
But evidently not so much with the Palestinians, as his visit to Ramallah Sunday underlined. While Palestinian protestors booed, hurled shoes and eggs at Baird and told him he was unwelcome in their land, senior Palestine Liberation Organization official and ex-chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat released a statement denouncing Baird and urging him to ask the Palestinian people for forgiveness for his country’s consistent support for Israel.
“The Palestinian people as well as the rest of the Arab and Muslim countries deserve an apology from the Canadian government for years of systematic attempts at blocking the right of the Palestinian people to a state of their own,” Erekat declared. Canada stands “on the wrong side of history” by blindly supporting Israel’s “apartheid policies,” Erekat charged, attacking Baird personally for contributing to alleged Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.
Policemen stand guard in front of Palestinian protesters holding placards before a meeting between PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and Canada FM John Baird on January 18, 2015, Ramallah. (AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Speaking to The Times of Israel in his Tel Aviv hotel, Ottawa’s top diplomat made crystal clear he makes no apology for his government’s positions on Israel. Instead, he noted that he is awaiting an apology from Erekat, who earlier this month said Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank was “terrorism” tantamount to that practiced by the Islamic State.
“That speaks volumes,” Baird said of Erekat’s comparison. “I’ll leave it to any fair-minded observer to come to conclusions about him,” he added diplomatically.
At the time, Baird’s spokesperson, Rick Roth, said Erekat’s comments “are offensive and ridiculous, and he should apologize immediately.” Such comparisons undermine efforts to combat the IS terrorists and could “inflame tensions in the region,” Roth stated in Baird’s name.
‘We strongly support a Palestinian state. We just believe it’s a byproduct of negotiations with Israel’
“We have a fundamental difference of opinion with the Palestinian leadership,” Baird …read more