Justin Ling is a freelance investigative journalist who writes the Bug-eyed and Shameless newsletter.
Israel is in the process of making a colossal mistake. It is now in the next phase of a war that promises unimaginable misery for innocent Palestinians, more danger for Israel, and potentially broader regional conflict.
What is needed, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said on Monday, is de-escalation, peace, and a two-state solution – “conversations I will never shy away from,” she said.
But shying away from tough conversations is exactly what this government is doing.
Ms. Joly’s speech, long on carefully crafted but utterly hollow talking points, called for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza, just days after Canada abstained from a vote calling for such a truce at the United Nations. Her words made clear that Canada has no plan or policy, other than what we’ve inherited from our allies.
Ottawa needs to wake up and set out a position that puts principles first. It is uniquely suited and morally obligated to leverage whatever modest diplomatic power it can amass to help avert catastrophe. It may not be a Quint member nor on the UN Security Council, but Canada still can and should play a vital role in the conflict by pushing for a negotiated ceasefire in Gaza.
A growing chorus is begging Israel to reconsider its war. Some are coming from within Ms. Joly’s own party; one Liberal member of Parliament told me there is a veritable caucus revolt brewing, upset with Ottawa’s cluelessness. But the calls are coming from inside Israel as well, where protests have broken out, opposing war.
Given Canada’s long-standing friendship with Israel, giving voice to these calls would be powerful and credible. Canada knows that Israel must defend itself, protect its people, and obtain justice for those killed and kidnapped. It also knows Palestinian life must be protected.
The question is not whether Israel should fight Hamas; it is a matter of how. The costs of an open-ended war will be enormous, and it will do little to make Israel safer in the long run. As Israel advances into Gaza, it faces a brutal and bloody insurgency. Extended, vicious conflict will only encourage further patronage to Hamas from Iran and Qatar, and risks escalating the involvement of additional actors in the conflict, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which would significantly compound the risks to Israel.
While there is much talk of destroying the group, Hamas is not a rogue military with a quantifiable membership. Even if every single one of its leaders, organizers, engineers and fighters were killed, Hamas would not die, and even if it did, a more militant group would just take its place. If its terror infrastructure is destroyed, it will be rebuilt, as it has been before. Hamas draws support – or, at least, tolerance – from those in the Gaza Strip because the group speaks to the anger, trauma and grief that comes from decades of death, suffering, and the denied destiny of the Palestinian people.
Hamas, of course, does not actually care about the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Its objective, similar to al-Qaeda’s and a host of other like-minded terror groups, is to provoke cycles of violence to justify its own existence and promote its messianic ideology. Hamas welcomes Israeli military operations as a new lease on life.
There is no denying the legitimate pain Israel feels. But if it wants to honour those lives lost, and if it wants to free the hostages still being held captive in Gaza, it needs a new plan. Negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and Qatar are a good place to start. Israel should demand meaningful security guarantees and a plan to marginalize, defund and disarm Hamas in exchange for a path to economic opportunity and self-determination for the Palestinian people. Given the lack of trust on all sides, Canada could advance these ideas and become a useful interlocutor.
Many paint the idea of a negotiated peace as impossible, even naive. But waging yet another war to fight an ideology is not realism – it’s delusional.
Oct. 7 was the single deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. These past few weeks have been the deadliest for the Palestinian people in decades. It may feel wrong to consider peace, but now is exactly the time.
Consider the 1994 ceasefire in Northern Ireland. It came not after calm or thoughtful discussion, but after a slew of deadly attacks on civilians. “It is to the credit of both republicans and loyalists,” wrote Eamon Collins, a former Provisional IRA fighter, in 1997, “that they walked up to the edge of the abyss, peered over, gulped, then stepped back.”