Clark Scraps Embassy Transfer Pledge

Prime Minister Joe Clark yesterday scrapped his election campaign pledge to move Canada’s Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus reversing, an intended move which brought Canada under strong criticism from Arab states and caused several to cancel contracts with Canadian firms. Clark’s decision, based on an interim report by his special Ambassador, Robert Stanfield, brought expressions of disappointment from Jewish leaders and praise from Arab spokesmen in Canada.

Clark, in submitting the interim report by Stanfield, who returned from the Mideast after a six-week tour of Arab countries and Israel to get their views on Clark’s transfer proposal, said ” It is not now our policy to move the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “However, he appeared to leave the issue open when he added: “If there is a just and lasting peace settlement that settles and clarifies the question of Jerusalem, that may allow us to reopen the question. But until there is such a clarification, within the context of a just and lasting settlement, the Canadian Embassy will remain in Tel Aviv.”

Clark said, in answering a question, that “as a result of extensive consultations, Mr. Stanfield has concluded that a change in the location of the Canadian Embassy in Israel could be seen as prejudging the negotiations among parties in the Middle East. The move might in fact world against progress toward a just and lasting peace. The government accepts the recommendation that no action be taken until the status of Jerusalem is clarified within a comprehensive agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors.”

Stanfield, in his preliminary report, said Canada could not use “whatever influence we may have in the (Middle East ) area to encourage moderation and compromise” without retaining credibility with both sides. “We could not do this if we were to move our Embassy to Jerusalem.”

Clark’s back treading on the Jerusalem promise has put him in an awkward position with the opposition parties. Both Liberal Party leader Pierre Elliott Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Edward Broadbent questioned what they termed Clark’s “irresponsible campaign commitment.” Broadbent called Clark’s pledge “an incredibly bad decision.” Trudeau, the former Prime Minister, said that it was a disastrous decision made by Clark which has not brought only tremendous financial losses but also loss of credit internationally for Canada. “He also stated that Stanfield had consulted with the Palestine Liberation Organization and charged that this amounted to a “de facto” recognition of that group.

JEWISH COMMUNITY REACTION

Within the Jewish community, the disappointment was manifest in the statements given by Leon Kronitz, executive vice president of the Canadian Zionist Federation. He said “we are disappointed” that Clark “gave in to this type of pressure. We believe that only the government of a country can decide which city will be its capital. Israel has chosen Jerusalem for historic, cultural and political reasons, and Jerusalem, in our view, will remain the capital of the State of Israel. Therefore, eventually all the friendly countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel will have their embassies in Jerusalem.”

Abdullah Abdullah, director of the “Palestine section” of the Arab League Information Center in Ottawa, said that Clark’s decision was “a correction of a previous mistake which is a good thing. It is a positive step for the government to realize its mistake and correct it.”

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