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Courtesy of Linda Bell

Michael Dougall Bell

 

“I think of myself as being both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli.”

Michael Dougall Bell

 

“Receiving Honourary Degree just prior to his Passing, 2017”. Courtesy of the University of Windsor.


Michael Dougall Bell was one of the key architects of Canada’s policy in the Middle East. Born in Windsor, Ontario, in 1943, Bell was educated at the University of Windsor before joining the Department of External Affairs (DEA) in 1967. After serving in Ottawa, Jamaica, and Trinidad, he was posted in 1975 to Israel, which sparked his lifelong interest in the Middle East. Known for his keen intellect, sound judgment, and unassuming nature, Bell became deputy director of the DEA’s Middle East Relations Division in 1978, serving as chief of staff to former Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, who had been appointed by Prime Minister Joe Clark to study Clark’s controversial election promise to move the Canadian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. After travelling throughout the Middle East, Stanfield and Bell prudently recommended that the embassy stay put, advice that was followed. After a stint in Rome, Bell headed the Middle East Relations Division from 1983 to 1987 and then served as ambassador to Jordan. From 1990 to 1992 he was ambassador to Israel, an assignment that required all of his diplomatic skill since it coincided with the end of the First Palestinian Intifada and the Gulf War. After serving as the department’s Director General for Central and Eastern Europe, a critical role since the region’s countries were abandoning communism following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Bell returned to the Middle East as ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1998 and then to Israel from 1999 to 2003. His assignment there this time overlapped with the Second Intifada and the US invasion of Iraq (which Bell had visited in 1997 as a UN weapons inspector), both of which roiled the region and frustrated his determined efforts to achieve peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Widely respected, from 2005 to 2007 Bell chaired the international donor committee for the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq. In addition to holding various university positions and serving as a frequent commentator in the media, he devoted his retirement to the cause closest to his heart, finding a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, co-directing the Jerusalem Old City Initiative. Bell died in 2017.

Further reading:

  • Tom Najem, Michael J. Molloy, Michael Bell, and John Bell, eds., Track Two Diplomacy and Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Old City Initiative (New York: Routledge, 2017).
  • Tom Najem, Michael J. Molloy, Michael Bell, and John Bell, eds. Governance and Security in Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Old City Initiative (New York: Routledge, 2017).
  • Tom Najem, Michael J. Molloy, Michael Bell, and John Bell, eds., Contested Sites in Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Old City Initiative (New York: Routledge, 2017).
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