Israel envoy to Canada signals resignation over ‘different policy’ under Netanyahu

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

Posted Sunday, January 22, 2023 6:07 pm EST

Israel’s ambassador to Canada says he intends to leave his post early after a change of government at home as protests rage in Tel Aviv over controversial new policies.

Ronen Hoffman said on Twitter late Saturday that he is taking the move due to a change in management under the new government.

“With the transition to the new government and a different policy in Israel, my personal and professional integrity has compelled me to request a shortening of my tenure and return to Israel this summer,” the envoy said in a tweet.

“I will continue to serve the State of Israel here in Canada with the same passion and pleasure until a replacement is named later this year.”

Hoffman, who was appointed to the post a little over a year ago, did not elaborate on what he meant by “different policy.” A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Ottawa said on Sunday that he had no further information to add.

His decision comes after Yael German, Israel’s ambassador to France, announced in late December that she would resign in protest of the incoming administration led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power with a governing coalition described as the most right into the nation’s history.

Shimon Fogel, executive director of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, called Hoffman an “outstanding individual” who ultimately cannot reconcile his personal views with those of the government he is supposed to represent.

“He comes from a different political tradition and would be consistent with those who express concern about the direction the government is taking,” Fogel said.

He added that Hoffman’s was a political appointment by a previous government of a different kind, and that it is not unusual for such envoys to resign after national elections. That’s typically what happens with US ambassadors in Canada, too, she said.

“However, the fact that he is staying until the end of the summer indicates that there is some level of mutual respect,” Fogel said. “That is an indication that there is not a level of acrimony that characterizes this decision.”

Joe Roberts, who chairs the board of JSpaceCanada, said Hoffman’s statement was “diplomatic but clear.”

“I think given the deepening and increasingly complex relationship between Israel and Canada, this is significant,” said Roberts, whose organization describes itself as a Canadian voice for progressive Jewish values ​​and Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“I think this should be a clear message to the Canadian Jewish community that if someone who is serving as an ambassador for Israel is willing to resign and say that this goes against their integrity, that means that as Jews, with our relationship with the state of Israel, it’s time for us to speak up too.”

Roberts said he is asking the Canadian government to commit not to seek official relations with the “more extreme elements” of the ruling coalition.

Asked whether Ottawa should make such a commitment, Fogel said Canada’s relationship is with Israel and not with the government in particular, and furthermore, the coalition members “people have expressed the most concern about” are not would naturally fall into the bilateral agreement. dynamic with Canada.

“So it’s a bit of a moot point. But you know, we can’t choose who our interlocutors are from another democracy,” he said, pointing south of the border again.

Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest plans by Netanyahu’s new government to overhaul the judicial system, moves that opponents say endanger the country’s democratic foundations.

Israeli media, citing police, said some 100,000 people were protesting.

The protest followed another rally last week that also drew tens of thousands in an early challenge to Netanyahu and his ultra-nationalist, ultra-Orthodox coalition government.

The government says an imbalance of power has given judges and government legal advisers too much influence over lawmaking and governance. Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with the changes despite opposition.

In addition to the protests, the new government has faced mounting pressure after the country’s attorney general asked Netanyahu to fire a key cabinet ally, following a Supreme Court ruling that disqualified him from holding government office due to a conviction for tax crimes.

Netanyahu, who remains on trial for corruption, fired the minister on Sunday in a move expected to deepen the gap in the power of the courts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 22, 2023.

— With archives from The Associated Press.

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