Scheer says as PM, he'd move Canada's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

A Conservative government would move Canada's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, party leader Andrew Scheer said in a sometimes fiery foreign-policy speech on Tuesday that took personal aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Scheer's speech in Montreal was a table-setter for the upcoming federal election, the first of several major policy statements the Conservatives say he will make in advance of the fall campaign.

"I will re-open the Office of Religious Freedoms and stand up for religious minorities all around the world. And I will recognize the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,'' Scheer said, in a portion of the speech not included in the prepared text his office distributed.

Afterward, as he exited the Marriott Chateau Champlain's ballroom followed by a phalanx of journalists, the Conservative leader said what such recognition would mean for the Canadian Embassy: "That obviously would include making sure that Canada's representation there is in Jerusalem and we'd work with the government of Israel to accomplish those types of things.''

The promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital reaffirmed a pledge Scheer first made more than a year ago — but he didn't include a promise to move the embassy then.

Jerusalem is disputed territory between Israel and the Palestinians and its status is a pivotal question in any peace talks. Israel says Jerusalem is its capital and maintains nearly all its own national government institutions there, but nearly all the embassies in Israel are in Tel Aviv, 70 kilometres away.

Moving Canada's embassy to Jerusalem would echo U.S. President Donald Trump, who has already angered Palestinians by moving his own country's mission, and would align Canada more closely with Israel than the last Conservative government of Stephen Harper did.

Canada's official position on Jerusalem now is that its status can be resolved "only as part of a general settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Canada does not recognize Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem.''

Then Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark promised to move the Canadian Embassy to Jerusalem in 1979, sparking recriminations against Canada at the time. Clark gave up on the idea after a special report he commissioned advised that the move could harm prospects for peace.