Israel's President Shimon Peres has said that Canada could play a significant role in the peace process, especially with regards to the Palestinian refugee issue. Mr Peres made his remarks after meeting Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird in Tel Aviv.
Peres pointed out that Canada has shown willingness in the past to absorb about 120,000 Palestinian refugees and grant them full Canadian citizenship so that they can live there forever. According to Peres this is an important offer as it would "save" the refugees from the "terrible suffering" they face in the refugee camps. As far as the Israeli president is concerned, "Instead of returning to what is now Israel, they can choose between compensation and migration to a country like Canada or moving within the borders of an independent state of Palestine."
Baird did not address the refugee issue openly, but Israeli sources confirmed that following Canada's offer to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 2010 to allow Palestinians to migrate to the North American country, around 5,000 Palestinians holding travel documents issued by the UN agency had made the move. This was done ostensibly to reunite Palestinian families in the diaspora.
Commentators have warned that this does not make the refugee issue disappear; it merely switches it to another country as the Palestinians' right to return to their land is enshrined in international law. "Canada's offer would simply get Israel off the hook," said MEMO's senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt. "If Peres is serious about doing something to save refugees from such terrible conditions in the refugee camps, why doesn't he implement UN Resolution 194? After all, allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their land was one of the conditions of Israel's membership of the UN which has never been fulfilled."