POLITICS
02/26/2018 16:08 EST | Updated 02/26/2018 16:08 EST

Andrew Scheer: Jerusalem Will Be Recognized As Israel's Capital If Tories Win In 2019

But it's not clear if the party would move the embassy.

Adrian Wyld/CP
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa on May 6, 2016.

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says if his party forms government in 2019, it will follow Donald Trump's lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Scheer's declaration comes in the form of a pledge posted to the Conservative party website designed to gather signatures from members of the public.

"Canada's Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital when we form government in 2019," the pledge says, describing the party as "a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community."

It marks Scheer's first definitive statement on the issue since it became a renewed matter of public debate late last year.

That debate was prompted by the U.S. president's decision in December to not just recognize Jerusalem as the capital, but to promise to move the American embassy there as well.

It's a contentious move: while Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, so do the Palestinians and the status of the city is part of ongoing peace negotiations. The U.S. decision was seen as taking sides in the debate and upending years of American diplomacy.

In the aftermath of Trump's announcement, the federal Liberal government said the issue must be resolved through negotiation.

Siding squarely with Israel

The pledge from Scheer sides squarely with Israel. "Canada's Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located," it says.

It makes no mention, however, of whether or not a government led by the Conservatives would move the Canadian embassy from Tel Aviv. Jake Enwright, a spokesman for Scheer, said that would be discussed when the party forms government.

"We're focused on this policy and this recognition and we'll consider that at a later date," Enwright said.

In the aftermath of Trump's announcement, the Tories had found themselves scrambling to define their policy on Jerusalem, as neither Scheer nor the party had taken a public position on the issue. At the time, the party said it would discuss the issue as a caucus and make a decision.

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That debate was settled weeks ago; earlier this month, foreign affairs critic Erin O'Toole referred to the party's support for Jerusalem as the capital during a conservative conference in Ottawa.

The party's efforts to use the issue to recruit new supporters signals the latest Conservative effort to position the party as distinct from the governing Liberals by rolling out specific policy planks.

"If Canadians want a government who will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we want their support to recognize that," Enwright said.