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foreign policy

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves the Palace Elysee, in Paris, France, on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. Trudeau is in Paris to attend the United Nations climate change summit.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau's new tone in relations with Israel will have its first test Monday, when he meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time on the margins of global climate talks in Paris.

His Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, made it a point to exhibit staunch support for Israel, promising during a 2014 visit that Canada would stand by the Jewish state "through fire and water."

Mr. Trudeau has indicated that he won't change Canada's official policy, or its support for Israel, but that he'll seek a new tone in relations – his Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, has said Canada will return to its Pearsonian "honest broker" role in Mideast politics.

During the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau insisted at a foreign-policy leaders' debate that he – and all major party leaders – support Israel. But he criticized Mr. Harper for turning relations with Israel into a contentious political issue in Israel. When Canada voted last week at the UN on resolutions regarding Israel and Palestinians, it cast votes the same way it did under Mr. Harper.

Mr. Harper's Conservatives did not, in fact, change Canada's official policy on issues like the legality of Jewish settlements in territory deemed to be Palestinian land under UN resolutions. But he did dramatically alter the tone in practice, making a point to avoid any criticism of Israel, and working to reflect Israel's concerns in international organizations, watering down language at the 2011 G8 summit in France, for example. Mr. Netanyahu – and many other Israeli political leaders – indicated their appreciation for Mr. Harper's vocal support.

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