March 8, 2013 | The Jerusalem Post

AIPAC Conference Highlights Canada-Israel Ties

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird electrified the massive pro-Israel crowd at this week’s AIPAC’s policy conference with his straight-talking affirmation of Israeli-Canadian shared values.

Known for his no-nonsense anti-terror policies toward Iranian- sponsored terrorism and its main proxy – the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah – Baird earned accolades from experts on Israel, leading to a crystallization of Canadian-Israeli ties into a non-formal special relationship.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Baird studiously avoided the bobbing and weaving that frequently takes place with top diplomats on contentious Middle East crises.

Take the example of the EU’s refusal to list Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations. In contrast to this, Baird stated that the Lebanese group is “obviously a terrorist organization.”

He stressed Canada’s push to convince EU countries in international forums to outlaw Hezbollah, and noted that Canada will work on two tracks – at the NATO foreign minister’s meeting and during visits between the French and Canadian governments.

France is largely viewed as the most recalcitrant EU country blocking a move designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Josh Block, who spoke at the AIPAC event and is head of The Israel Project, told the Post on Wednesday that “Canada’s model is extraordinary.”

Block, who served as a spokesman during the administration of former US president Bill Clinton, said that both Baird and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper deeply understand the “threat to civil society poised by intolerance and terrorism and the undercurrents of Islamic radicalism that are sweeping the region” in the Middle East.

Block added that “there is a moral clarity that Harper and Baird have brought to these issues.” He declared that, despite the many naysayers fearful of blowback from Arab countries regarding Canada’s pro-Israel position, claims that Canada’s embrace of the ethical high ground would “worsen relations with Arab world” turned out to be patently false.

Baird and Harper are “against anti-Semitism, terrorism and violence” and they “should be admired for their choices,” Block declared.

Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies who is both a leading expert on Canadian-Israeli relations and an authority on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, told the Post, that “the Canadian government deserves significant credit for its courageous and resolute stand against the threat represented by the Iranian regime to liberal democracies.”

Dubowitz explained that Harper, Baird and other government officials “have led the way in highlighting the regime’s atrocious human rights record, its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability, its overseas terrorist operations and its genocidal threats against Israel.

“The Canadian government has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, and expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, who were Iranian intelligence officials running WMD [weapons of mass destruction] procurement and financing networks from the Iranian embassy and an intimidation campaign against Iranian-Canadians. The Canadian government has also added Iran’s two overseas terrorist units, the Quds Force and Hezbollah, to Canada’s list of terrorist organizations under the Canadian Criminal Code,” said Dubowitz.

While stressing Canada’s “record of achievement,” he added that “more can be done.” Dubowitz’s policy recommendations center around Canada adding “Iran’s entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to that Criminal Code terrorism list – like the United States did in 2007.”

“The Revolutionary Guards are the regime’s praetorians who direct Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile and terrorist activities, and are responsible for Iran’s vast system of domestic repression.”

Benjamin Weinthal is a European affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post and a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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