Canada Won't Hesitate to Criticize Israel, Says New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

At the same time, Trudeau described Israel as 'a friend, an ally' and a country that is 'very much aligned with Canadian values' on many issues.

In this Jan. 26, 2016 file photo, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Montreal.
AP

Canada will be a frank voice in the Middle East, even if it means criticizing Israel, the country's new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.

"Israel is a friend, Israel is an ally, Israel is a country that has values and an approach on many, many issues that are very much aligned with Canadian values," Trudeau said at a global town hall hosted by The Huffington Post Canada.

"But, at the same time we won't hesitate from talking about unhelpful steps like the continued illegal settlements. We will point that out. We will continue to engage in a forthright and open way because that's what people expect of Canada."

Trudeau said that the position of his government was more in line with Canada's "traditional approach" to Israel and the Palestinians.

He suggested that true friendship does not mean unequivocal support — something that could provide a glimpse of his wider approach to global affairs.

"There are times we disagree with our friends and we will not hesitate from pointing that out. There are times we agree with our friends and will stand with them," he said. "And there are times we will disagree with our friends, but we will stand by our friends."

Canada's approach to Israel in the United Nations is not going to change, Trudeau said, adding that UN votes singling out Israel aren't an effective or helpful part of international discourse.

"The demonization, the de-legitimization or the double standard that's often applied to Israel is not helping reach the two-state solution of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state alongside a peaceful, democratic Israel," he said.

Trudeau defended his government's decision to lift some sanctions against Iran and start the process of restoring diplomatic relations that were severed by the previous government of Stephen Harper.

"I think Canada is sending exactly the right signal," Trudeau answered, adding that Canada still needs to engage with nations that represent a threat to global or regional security.