by Yaakov Ahimeir
Just recently, the Qatari prime minister stood in Washington, D.C. and declared that the Arab world is ready for land swaps between the Palestinians and Israel when a peace deal is reached. Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani made the declaration while flanked by foreign ministers from Arab countries.
His words have been praised to high heaven by opinion makers. He has become the darling of MKs from Israel's opposition parties, who view this declaration as an unprecedented historical step.
This is the public face of Qatar. But behind the scenes, in tandem with these declarations on territory swaps and border adjustments, Qatar is waging a campaign against Canada, whose Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird are exceptionally friendly toward Israel.
The diplomatic duo of Harper and Baird are the most pro-Israel there is. Both publicly express their support for Israel, and they don't hide their positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in the eyes of the Arab League, this Canadian position is unacceptable and must be eliminated. Qatar has been given the job of spearheading the Arab League's revenge campaign against Canada.
Qatar is trying to exact punishment for this "Israel-Canadian conspiracy" by requesting that the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) be moved to Doha. At present, the headquarters are seated in Montreal. In this way, Canada will pay for the "sin" of its supporting Israel.
This is no small matter. ICAO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, has enormous international clout because it sets the routes for international civil aviation. If Qatar's ruse is successful, the transfer of the headquarters to Doha will do much to detract from Canada's international prestige. Qatar's efforts are unrelenting and at present it is busy recruiting the necessary 115 votes in the U.N. General Assembly for the move to Doha.
Qatar is furious over another matter as well. Not long ago, Canada's foreign minister met with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in her office, which as everyone knows is located in east Jerusalem. In other words, it is on the other side of the Green Line. Minister Livni's Canadian guest did not make an effort to excuse the visit to critics, nor did he apologize for the location of his meeting with Livni.
The vengeance campaign that Qatar is conducting against Canada has already set off. Canada's influential Globe and Mail newspaper, which has devoted detailed reporting to Qatar's moves, claims that the emirate is hinting to other countries that if they dare show signs of support for Israel, there will be a punishment campaign against them just like the one being waged against Canada. Fortunately, the U.S. is taking Canada's side.
There is a lesson to be learned from this international diplomatic incident. It's always wise and a good idea to give credit where credit is due. To praise and glorify Qatar, but only on the condition that it does not conduct a two-faced policy toward Israel: on the one hand making declarations concerning land swaps and on the other punishing countries like Canada whose leaders are not ashamed of their friendship with Israel.
Harper has already clarified that even if he has to pay a political price, he will not shy away from his government's policies toward Israel. This uncompromising stance certainly makes him worthy of an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University, which should await the day when he arrives in Israel and can don the academic regalia of the institution.
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