Jerusalem, Israel -“Canada does not support a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the United Nations” this coming September, Canadian Minister of Public Security Vic Toews has told the Winnipeg Jewish Review after visiting Israel at the end of June 2011.

In a telephone interview Toews, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his recent visit said, “Our [Canada’s] position is consistent with Israel’s position, which is that the creation of a Palestinian state “has to be the result of negotiations between the parties, and not through any unilateral steps.”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews meets with the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu (right).
Photo taken by: Amos Ben Gershom

Toews noted that his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister was “not on my scheduled itinerary” but that once he was in Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to meet him. “I was initially told by his [PM Netanyahu’s] advisors that the meeting would be twenty minutes, but we actually met for forty minutes.” Toews said that the PM Netanyahu and all the Israeli officials he met will expressed their appreciation for the support Prime Minister Harper has given Israel and for his friendship.

Toews went to see the training centre of the Palestinian Authority police in Jericho, since Canada has been funding the training of the PA police force, which first began training under now retired US General Dayton. The force is now being trained under Lieutenant General Michael Moeller, US Security Co-ordinator for the PA and Israel, with whom Toews met and whom is about to retire at the end of September. Toews’s office has confirmed that Canada currently has two police officers on the ground as part of the civil police force training the PA– one RCMP police officer and one from the Ottawa Police Service. They are deployed under the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories (EUPOL COPPS). There are also 18 Canadian officers on the ground training the PA forces under the jurisdiction of the US Security Co-ordinator Moeller. Toews did not meet with any of Caanda’s police officers during his trip.

When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review whether he had any concerns that in light of the reconciliation between the PA and Hamas, that Hamas forces would be integrated with PA police forces in the West Bank, Toews responded that he had met with the Prime Minister Netanyahu for some forty minutes, as well as the Director of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, and the head of the Shin Bet, Yoram Cohen and that none of them nor any other Israeli officials he met “ever raised that concern with me.” He added that all Israeli officials he met with, including the Prime Minister were “supportive of Canada’s approach”, and were “encouraging of our direction,” and “saw that the training of the PA police was a good thing.” He mentioned that the PA force had clamped down on theft and created a sense of order in the West Bank, which had not existed before.
When asked whether Israeli officials expressed any concern that after September’s bid by the Palestinians to have the UN declare a Palestinian state, the PA could stop co-operating with Israel and the U.S/ Canadian trained and equipped PA forces could direct their fire against Israel, Toews also replied that none of the Israeli officials he met with had raised this as an issue.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review sent an email to Minister Toews’s office asking whether Toews had discussed with General Moeller what PA forces would do if there were large scale riots (as there have been in other Arab countries) erupting in the West Bank against Israel in the event the PA failed in its bid for unilateral statehood at the UN this September. The Review also asked in th email if the two men discussed whether on the ground the PA has released or is set to release Hamas prisoners in PA jails as a result of its reconciliation with Hamas. Additionally, the Review asked whether the two men discussed anything relating to the PA-Hamas reconciliation and how it might affect PA security cooperation with Israel in the future.

Olivia Baldwin-Valainis of Minister Toews’s office replied by email to our inquiries on July 19 above writing that “For reasons of security, it is not our practice to disclose what is discussed during the Minister’s meetings.”

Also on July 19, jailed popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti called on a million Palestinians to take to the streets peacefully during the week of the UN vote in sEptember in support of the PA bid for statehood. A prominent European official who has just met with Salam Fayyad in Ramallah told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he belives that many palestinians, especially young people will participate in “demonstrations” in the streets in the West Bank and it will be a “challenge” for the PA security forces in determining how to act.

In 2010, Canada made a $300M. commitment over five years to the Palestinian Authority, to fund the training of PA police forces and the building of court houses and training of prosecutors and other justice officials to ensure a functioning police force and justice system in the PA. Toews noted that “we are funding specific projects” in the area of the PA justice system.

Regarding the recent flotilla to Gaza, Toews said in the interview that “Canada had made it clear on numerous occasions that Canada didn’t approve of the flotilla, as there were other ways to ensure humanitarian aid makes it to Gaza. The flotilla was less about humanitarian aid than making a political statement.”

Toews added that Canada applauded the government of Greece’s decision to bar the flotilla ships from leaving that country. When asked by the Review why Canada itself didn’t try to prevent the Canadian boat Tahrir from leaving Canada on its way to Greece to join other Flotilla boats that intended to depart to Gaza, Toews replied that he didn’t have details of what Canada knew about where and when the Tahrir left Canada such that “I cannot comment on what Canada could or could not have done,” he said.

In his meetings with the heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet, Toews said he discussed intelligence co-operation, counter-terrorism, radicalization on the internet, and regional and international threat assessment.

During his trip, Toews also met with Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Yitzhak Aharonovitch; Matan Vilnai, Minister of Home Front Defense; Yaakov Amidror, the Chairman of the National Security Council; Dr. Eran Lerman, Deputy Chairman of the National Security Council; Yohanan Danino, Commissioner of the Israeli Police; Aharon Franco, Commissioner of the Israeli Prison Service; and Zeev Tzuk Ram, Head of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA).

Also on the agenda for Toew’s trip was the “possibility of Canada selling to Israel six ‘Bombardier’ water bombers made near Montreal.” Toews said these could help put out large forest fires like the recent devastating forest fire which broke out in the Carmel.

When asked if the subject of Iran was a part of his discussions with Israeli officials, Toews replied that the issue of Iran was “always raised indirectly” and that “we discussed Iran in the context of Hamas and concerns in the West Bank.” He added, “Iran was always at the periphery of my discussions.”

Toews also said he met with Israeli cyber security experts, and their discussion focused on protection of critical infrastructure against cyber attacks, and radicalization on the internet.