Peter MacKay, who seeks to become the leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, this week walked back comments in which he would not commit to moving Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Canadian Jewish News reports.
In a tweet on February 4, MacKay said, “It has always been my personal view that Jerusalem is the undisputed capital of the State of Israel and that is where Canada’s embassy should be and under my leadership, will be located.”
Canada’s Jewish community “knows that the Conservative Party stands shoulder to shoulder with them,” MacKay tweeted, adding that, as minister of defense, “I made it clear (that) a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada. I will always stand with one of Canada’s closest allies.”
It will be important, MacKay went on, “to consult our diplomatic officials at our embassy in Israel to make the necessary preparations for the move.”
The statement appeared to signal a change of heart, as only the day before, the Post Millennial website quoted MacKay as saying he needed to consult and learn more before deciding whether to move Canada’s embassy from Tel Aviv.
“I said that there is a lot of priorities, and I want to hear more about those priorities before I make these pronouncements on a whole range of issues and so we’re in this process now – consulting broadly, hearing from experts who are well-informed on these issues, and I’m very much interested in hearing their perspectives and that’s what I’m doing right now,” MacKay was quoted as saying.
When the Post Millennial asked MacKay under what circumstances he would move the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem, he replied, “Well, that’s where we need to talk to people and find out what the various perspectives and circumstances would be.”
“This is a complicated subject and I’m not in a position to do it, so I can’t be presumptuous in making these kind of commitments until I hear from people,” he continued. “I think that would be understood that consultation just over a week into a leadership contest – it would be rather presumptuous for me to say this is what I’m going to do based on the outcome that’s yet to arrive.”
MacKay seeks to replace Andrew Scheer as leader of the Conservative Party. Scheer stepped down after losing the October election to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
In February of 2018, the Conservatives said they would follow the US lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In August of that year, the party approved a resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel and endorsing the moving of Canada’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if the Conservative Party wins the general elections.
The Conservatives, under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, held power from 2006 until 2015 when they lost to the Liberals in a general election.