A renowned academic known to his grandchildren as ‘Grandpa Book,’ Johnston told the Canadian Press, “The way forward in this very specific region is a two-state solution and a just, longstanding and comprehensive peace.” And if that can be achieved then there is hope that some of the larger problems in the region can be dealt with.
Johnston said the political situation in the Middle East was “complicated.” Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders told the Governor-General they wanted peace. Despite the rebuke of the Palestinians in the Harper era, where John Baird often looked like the Foreign Minister for Israel, Johnston said that Canada remains firm in its view that a two-state solution was the way to peace. He told CP, “anything we can do to encourage the representatives of those two peoples to get together face-to face to negotiate the challenges, that is very much what we want to do.”
Johnston's visit is a Canadian first:
Johnston is the first Canadian Governor-General to make a state visit to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. The GG was received by the King of Jordan, and visited Zaatari refugee camp where 80,000 desperate refugees from Syria wait for better days. Johnston met some of the Syrian families who will soon be coming to Canada, and played soccer with their children. Jordan is a country overwhelmed by 650,000 Syrian refugees, and 55,000 Iraqis.
Canada’s new ambassador to Jordan, Peter McDougall, the career diplomat who replaced PM Harper’s body guard, Bruno Saccomanim, recently announced $20 million in funding for the refugees in Jordan.
All told, Johnston spent three days in Israel, where he was warmly welcome by Netanyahu. Canada signed an industrial partnership agreement with Israel, and Johnston said he had a good discussion with Netanyahu on key areas of Israeli- Canada engagement. Johnston is the first Canadian to plant an olive tree in the Grove of Nations” as a symbol of peace.
Like so many of Trudeau's initiatives, it's hard to predict the long term consequences of Johnston's visit. But one thing is certain: When Canada talks about the Middle East, it no longer bellows.
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