Elizabeth May backs Green Party motion condemning 'illegal' Israeli settlements

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has no plans to pull her endorsement of a motion that would see the party "fully condemn all illegal Israeli settlement expansions" as "undeniable obstacles to the Israel-Palestine peace-process," despite escalating tensions in the region. Kady O'Malley has the details.

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Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has co-sponsored a policy resolution condemning Israeli settlements that is expected to come up for debate during the party's policy convention in Fredericton this weekend. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has no plans to pull her endorsement of a motion that would see the party "fully condemn all illegal Israeli settlement expansions" as "undeniable obstacles to the Israel-Palestine peace-process," despite escalating tensions in the region.

The proposed resolution is on the list of policy proposals slated to come up for debate during the party's weekend convention in Fredericton.

"I support the existing resolution condemning illegal settlements," May told CBC News Friday.

In fact, she says she wouldn't be surprised to see emergency resolutions related to both Gaza and the situation in Ukraine raised during Saturday's opening session.

The motion, which was drafted by Young Greens co-chair Ghaith El-Mohtar, a former intern in May's Ottawa office, is one of 54 draft policy resolutions on the agenda for convention attendees this weekend.

May is one of 14 listed co-sponsors.

Motion 'will likely have political repercussions'

According to an official policy statement on the Department of Foreign Affairs website, Canada believes the Israeli settlements "constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace," but the government has in recent years avoided commenting on the settlements.

In a backgrounder posted on the Green Party website, El-Mohtar acknowledges the motion "will likely have political repercussions" for the party.

"It will almost certainly frustrate the party's supporters who happen to support Israel's settlement expansions," he explained.

"It may also provoke a reaction from Canada's Israel lobby, which currently enjoys almost unconditional support for Israel's actions as the political norm in Canada."

On the other hand, he pointed out that it could "reinforce [the party's] image as a supporter of justice in the Middle
East," which, he predicted, "would likely win over former NDP supporters who oppose [NDP Leader] Thomas Mulcair's unquestioning support of Israel."

The NDP hasn't been shy of reminding the government of Canada's official position on settlements, but it is fair to say the party has become less critical of the Israeli government under Mulcair's leadership.

Last month, a would-be NDP candidate claimed his position on Israeli-Palestinian issues were behind the party executive's move to block him from running for the nomination in the new B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. The NDP refused to confirm or deny his claim.

The government and the Conservative Party have been vocal about their staunch and unwavering support for Israel, while the Liberals this week expressed support for Israel in the current conflict with Hamas.

Motion discussed on party website

The comment thread for the motion on the Green Party website — which is open to members and non-members — provides a rare glimpse into the pre-convention discussions that go on behind the scenes amongst the party faithful.

"Removing the second 'be it resolved' might make this seem less pro-Palestinian," suggests commenter Brian Smallshaw, who hails from May's home riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

El-Mohtar agreed.

"It has been removed," he replied.

A commenter going only by the name "Celena" offers her support, but "with concern" over what she called the "euphemistic use of 'settlement' (for) ... the more accurate reality, which is 'occupy,'" a term she nevertheless conceded was, perhaps, "too politically volatile."

Meanwhile, Harald Tilgner suggested that particular issue "would be better left till after the elections."

"Only by focusing on subjects that need to be resolved to create a strong party, which looks at the domestic issues first and foremost, can we then deal from strength and help others meaningfully, without splitting our collective efforts into too many issues," he wrote.

Commenter Alex Hill, also a co-sponsor, disagreed.

"Especially in light of recent gaffes on our part re the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I think it's important we stake out firm and unequivocal ground on these sorts of issues. Further, being very clear and consistent on our policies re: the conflict will help differentiate us from the NDP and Liberals as a party with actually progressive positions on the issue at hand."

Online vote suggests support

Even with May's backing, the resolution isn't guaranteed a slot during the main plenary sessions, which are set to take place on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

But the results of the pre-convention online vote — which, while not formally counted, are presented to attendees — indicate the position could garner widespread support within the rank-and-file membership if it does.

According to the numbers posted to the website, 83.6 per cent voted in favour of the resolution as drafted, 10.7 per cent were prepared to endorse it if it was "clarified" during the workshop session, and just 5.7 per cent were opposed.

The website doesn't say how many members took part in the online survey, which is not scientific.

Last week, the Green Party put out a press release calling on both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to "put an immediate end to the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel," in which May decried what she described as "a terrible cycle of violence which is killing innocent Israeli and Palestinian children."

Here is the full text of Motion G14-P22:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Green Party of Canada fully condemn all illegal Israeli settlement expansions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as undeniable obstacles to the Israel-Palestine peace-process.