A few months ago, Justin Trudeau assured Jewish voters in a private video that he had “Israel’s back” and assured them that that there is an “all party consensus” on Parliament Hill on this question.
It has certainly looked that way. At a time when our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister show “over the top” support for Israel, it is remarkable that none of the other parties has made any significant effort to distance themselves from his views. Even more remarkable, given that a recent poll shows that Canadians are in fact split on Israel/Palestine.
However there are some recent (feeble) signs that all 3 of the opposition parties are under some pressure to revise their positions toward a more balanced position.
At their recent convention, the Green Party of Canada passed a motion condemning Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank. While this is not a huge step, it was notable because it could have been headed off by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. She decided not to do so. The motion is not binding on her, but she will have to take it into consideration in future statements if she does not want to have a row with her own activists.
The New Democratic Party has also been struggling with this issue. Since the silencing of Libby Davies a few years ago, the NDP has gone pretty well ‘mum” on the Palestine/Israel issue. It couldn’t even bring itself to criticize Harper’s statements in the Knesset during his visit to Israel. However, the Paul Manly affair has provoked a huge discussion within the party. Manly says he was prevented from being an NDP candidate by party brass because he is seen as strongly pro-Palestine. The party claims unconvincingly that his exclusion was for other reasons.
In any event, the NDP has been backpeddling ever since. While Baird and Garneau attended a big pro-Israel rally in Ottawa a week ago, the NDP discretely took a pass. A small gesture but a significant one. You can bet they were under a lot of pressure to attend.
While the NDP does not look to its activist base for money, it does need their active support when election time comes. They are the ones who knock on doors.
And there are even some glimmering signs that the Liberal Party is starting to feel some pressure. Mr. Trudeau may have fed the opposition forces within his party by his lopsided press release of a few days ago which essentially blamed Hamas for the current struggle in Gaza. That was too much for many longtime Liberals.
Here is an example of a letter which was copied to me by a Laurier Club member and Liberal Party volunteer.
“Mr. Trudeau, I am very disappointed with your statement of July 15th in regards to the current situation in Gaza. You refer to Israel’s right to defend itself but what about the rights of Palestinians to have access to the world? (…) The Liberal party’s failure to take a balanced stand is very demoralizing for members who are looking for better government, not just a different government.”
The letter writer told me that they immediately received a written personal email from Trudeau’s staff thanking them for their opinion. While responding to members letters is “pro forma” the opinion was given that this was not the only letter of this type arriving in Trudeau’s office.
Is the “all Party consensus starting to crack”? I hope so.
Anybody got a chisel?