CJPME: Netanyahu’s comments show that Israel is not a partner for peace

Montreal, January 19, 2024 - Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is raising the alarm about yesterday’s comments by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who reiterated his firm opposition to a Palestinian state in any post-war scenario and asserted that Israel will maintain permanent control over all territory “West of the Jordan [river].” CJPME emphasizes that this position is not new, but has been expressed throughout Netanyahu’s career and is explicitly laid out in the Likud charter. Nonetheless, these comments serve as an important reminder that the Israeli political establishment is committed to the permanent oppression of the Palestinian people, and Canadian policy must be adjusted to reflect this reality.

First, Canada must recognize that the Israeli government is not acting in good faith and is not a partner for peace. This is a problem that extends beyond the Prime Minister. While senior ministers in Netanyahu’s far-right coalition openly push for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza, Netanyahu’s more ‘moderate’ rivals are promoting plans for Israel to maintain military control over Gaza while giving Palestinians greater autonomy, resembling the Bantustan system under apartheid South Africa. No Israeli leader has ever supported a truly independent Palestinian state, and decades of impunity have emboldened Israel to consolidate its illegitimate control over the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). If Canada wants this situation to change, it must acknowledge the problem and change its approach. Only meaningful political and diplomatic pressure, including sanctions, can compel Israel to relinquish its control over the OPT.

Second, Canada must commit itself to the cause of Palestinian self-determination. This will require more than empty lip service about a “two-state solution.” Most people believe that after decades of deliberate policy, Israel has effectively killed the possibility of an independent Palestinian state. This means that Canada must be open to the possibility of a future in which Palestinians and Israelis share equal rights within a single democratic state. Regardless, this is a question that is up to the Palestinians themselves to decide. Canada does not get to dictate the form that the future political reality will take, how Palestinians will govern themselves, or who is allowed to sit at the table.

To affirm Palestinian self-determination, CJPME argues that Canada’s approach to a ‘post-war’ scenario must be based on the minimum following principles:

  • Canada must focus on achieving an immediate ceasefire before it turns its attention to the ‘day after,’ as such discussions can distract from the damage that Israel is inflicting on the civilian population every day. Given the scale and nature of Israel’s attacks, there may be no Gaza left at the end of this war. Halting Israel’s destruction of Gaza must be Canada’s highest priority.
  • Canada can accept nothing less than a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the rest of the OPT. This requires more than a withdrawal of ground forces, but the termination of all forms of effective control, including over the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Israel must relinquish all power over the Palestinian people and dismantle its structures of oppression and apartheid.
  • Canada must insist that Palestinian refugees and internally displaced people have every opportunity to exercise their right to return to their homes. This is an issue that goes beyond the 1.9 million people who are currently displaced within Gaza. Two-thirds of the Gaza population were already refugees, originally displaced during the 1948 Nakba and the creation of Israel, and they have an inalienable right under international law to return. Their dispossession remains at the heart of the current conflict.
  • Canada must insist that Israel pay reparations to fund the rebuilding of Gaza. Israel is deliberately destroying all forms of physical and social infrastructure in the territory, and the international community must not be left financially responsible for addressing this catastrophe. Israel must know that it will pay for every building it turns to rubble.
  • Canada must acknowledge that it does not have the right to dictate who represents the Palestinian people, or how they govern themselves. Canada’s position that there is “no role for Hamas in the future governance of Gaza” directly contradicts this basic principle of self-determination and erodes the possibility of a negotiated end to the war.

Learn more:

CJPME explainer, “Israeli party policies on the question of Palestinian self-determination” (2023)

CJPME policy note, “Beyond the Two-State Solution: A New Canadian Foreign Policy for the Middle East” (2021)