TORONTO — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Canada’s prime minister designate, Justin Trudeau, in a telephone call affirming the friendship between the two countries.
Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s spokeswoman, described the conversation as a “very positive call.” Trudeau also “explained there would be a shift in tone, but Canada would continue to be a friend of Israel’s,” she added.
The Canadian Press (CP) wire service reported that Rafael Barak, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, said the call from Netanyahu took place October 23 and left his country assured that relations between Canada and the Jewish state will remain strong after the defeat of the staunchly pro-Israel government of Stephen Harper on October 19.
Barak told CP on Thursday that Trudeau also has a strong record of support for Israel.
“Mr. Trudeau has been very consistent from the very beginning of his campaign, in expressing his support for Israel,” said Barak. “I’m sure maybe the style will change. But I don’t feel there will be a change on the substance. I’m really reassured.”
Some observers in Canada’s Jewish community have expressed concern that Canada, which under Harper has been a staunch supporter of Israel, will diminish its support for the Jewish state under Trudeau.
Trudeau’s Jewish critics have pointed to his decision to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran. Harper’s government severed relations with that country in 2012.
Harper was the world leader most supportive of Israel and of the policies of various Netanyahu governments. During a press conference last year in Jerusalem, Harper resolutely refused to say as much as one bad word about Israel’s settlement enterprise.
This summer, his government was strikingly unenthusiastic about the nuclear deal with Iran, with Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson declaring that Ottawa appreciates the West’s efforts but will judge Iran by its actions and not its words. Harper, in an interview, maintained “a fair degree of skepticism about Iran, about whether it will adhere to the terms of this agreement.”