OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed concern about Israel’s policies, saying that he has no immediate plans to invite his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to the country.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Trudeau reiterated Canada’s opposition to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.
“We recognise the violence going on right now. It is difficult for people across the region — both Israelis and Palestinians,” the Canadian prime minister said.
“We’re calling for de-escalation and peace and working through some of the flashpoints that are happening. Canada has a longstanding position that settlements and the settlement process is illegal. And we need to stand against that.”
Trudeau added that, while Canada is a “steadfast” friend of Israel, the two countries have points of disagreement.
Israel has escalated its military raids in the West Bank in recent months, killing at least 177 Palestinians in the occupied territories this year so far. Netanyahu’s far-right government has also increased settlement activities and pushed to legalise outposts that had been illegal under Israeli law.
Canada is a close ally of Israel, but unlike the United States, it has not moved its embassy to Jerusalem and does not recognise East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights as Israeli territories.
Late last month, Canada joined Australia and the United Kingdom — also staunch Israel allies — in expressing concerns about settlement expansion, saying that the policy is “obstacle to peace and negatively impacts efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution”.
On Thursday, Trudeau went on to criticise Netanyahu’s push to overhaul the country’s judiciary, which critics have said would all but scrap the courts’ oversight over the government and weaken the rule of law.
“We’re also very concerned about the judicial reforms that the Israeli government is determined to move forward with,” Trudeau said, adding that he will encourage Netanyahu to seek “greater consensus” for the plan.
The judicial plan has been facing mass protests in Israel for months. Earlier this month, the Israeli parliament gave initial approval for the overhaul bill.
US officials, including President Joe Biden, have expressed misgivings about Netanyahu’s judicial reform proposal, as well.
When asked on Thursday whether he plans to invite Netanyahu to Canada, Trudeau said, “That’s not on the table right now.”
The remark came a day after Israeli President Isaac Herzog — who serves in a largely ceremonial role — spoke before the US Congress. In his speech, Herzog tried to play down the domestic political crisis in his country.
“Although we are working through sore issues — just like you — I know our democracy is strong and resilient. Israel has democracy in its DNA,” he said.