Ivison: An agitated Liberal caucus is driving Trudeau’s Israel stance, John Baird says

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Canada’s former foreign affairs minister, John Baird, said Justin Trudeau was responding to pressure from his own caucus members to shift to a more pro-Palestinian stance, when he called on Israel to use “maximum restraint” in Gaza.

“I think supporting Israel is not a popular thing in all quarters, but it’s the right thing. Trudeau has one eye on foreign policy and the other on the next election (because) a group of his MPs are getting increasingly nervous and increasingly concerned that they’re facing defeat.”

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Trudeau said “the killing of women, children and babies … must stop,” particularly around the Al Shifa Hospital.

The remarks drew a diplomatic slap from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid. Netanyahu said unlike Hamas, Israel is not deliberately targeting civilians, and is providing humanitarian corridors while Hamas is preventing people from leaving at gunpoint.

In a video interview with the National Post’s John Ivison, Baird said Trudeau is “trying to have it both ways.”

“You can’t support both sides at the same time. You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. It’s really unprecedented for a close friend and ally like the prime minister of Israel to openly criticize our prime minister. And what was even more shocking was that the leader of the opposition in Israel, former prime minister Lapid, joined Netanyahu in condemning Trudeau’s comments,” he said.

“I’ve never seen this in diplomacy anywhere. I think it’s regrettable, it’s unfortunate, but there’s a pattern here. Our relationships all over the world are in a mess, whether it’s Saudi Arabia;  whether it’s China, even before Madam Meng (Wanzhou) and the two Michaels;  whether it’s India; or even having the prime minister of Australia badmouth our prime minister. It takes a lot of work to screw up the Canada-Australia relationship,” he said.

Baird said the Israelis are facing “excruciatingly difficult decisions.”

“These civilian deaths are awful. They’re terrible. But they have all the fingerprints of Hamas, and Hamas has got to take full responsibility for them,” he said. “I can tell you, if there were rockets being fired from one side of the Ottawa River onto the other side, people would want one single thing: They would want their government to make it stop. And that’s what the Israelis are doing. You can’t try to have it both ways.”

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