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Quebec Liberal MP Anthony Housefather says he is 'reflecting' on his future in the Liberal party after a heavily amended NDP motion on Palestinian statehood passed in the House of Commons on Monday.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government’s decision to support a softened NDP motion on the Israel-Hamas war is drawing sharp criticism from its Israeli ally and from within the governing caucus, with one MP saying he’s considering leaving the party over the vote.

On Parliament Hill Tuesday, Quebec Liberal MP Anthony Housefather told reporters he is reflecting on his next steps and, with his voice cracking, said the result of the vote left him feeling isolated by his own party.

“I truly felt last night that a line had been crossed,” Mr. Housefather said, adding it was the first time he has been in such a position.

“When my party members got up and cheered and gave a standing ovation to Heather McPherson and the NDP, I started reflecting as to whether or not I belonged.”

During the vote, Ms. McPherson and several NDP MPs were wearing the black and white keffiyeh scarf – a symbol of the pro-Palestinian protest movement.

Mr. Housefather said he would make a decision in the next few days, adding “for the moment, I’m still there.”

Late on Monday, the NDP opposition motion on the Israel-Hamas war passed the House thanks to the governing Liberals’ support from most of caucus and cabinet. Mr. Housefather and backbench MPs Ben Carr and Marco Mendicino voted against it.

The vote in favour of the motion came after intense negotiations that went down to the wire and included an emergency cabinet meeting. Ultimately, the Liberals convinced the NDP to remove the most controversial element of the motion, which called for the recognition of a Palestinian state, and to temper much of the other language.

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Israel's Ambassador to Canada Iddo Moed speaks in Ottawa, on Jan. 26.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Mr. Housefather, who is also a parliamentary secretary in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, said that while the motion’s amendments improved its content, it was still flawed and he would have preferred to see Liberals vote against the original motion, rather than agree to changes.

He also said that changes to the motion, which were announced 20 minutes before the vote was scheduled, didn’t give parliamentarians time to properly consider and understand them.

His colleague, Mr. Carr, told The Globe and Mail that he had consulted with his Winnipeg constituents – which include the largest Jewish community in Western Canada – before deciding to vote against the original motion and said in order to change his vote he would have needed time to consult on the changes. Still he said he views the Liberal caucus as a microcosm of society and he is “very comfortable being in the Liberal caucus.”

The motion from the NDP originally called on the government to recognize the Palestinian state and included no language condemning Hamas or calling for its surrender. The final version removed the statehood call and said Hamas should surrender, but still fell short, according to Israel’s Ambassador to Canada, Iddo Moed.

In an interview, Mr. Moed said the motion failed to grasp the threat Israel faces and the reason why the war is still continuing – the more than 100 hostages still held captive by Hamas.

John Ibbitson: A divide is growing between the Conservatives, Liberals on issue of Israeli and Palestinian rights

In particular, Mr. Moed said the clause that called on Canada to “cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel” would weaken its right to self-defence and is counterproductive.

“The motion’s language is there to weaken Israel’s ability to defend itself,” Mr. Moed said.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz weighed in on social media. “History will judge Canada’s current action harshly. Israel will continue to fight until Hamas is destroyed and all hostages are returned home,” he said.

Such a motion is usually non-binding, but in this case Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly told reporters that her government intended to “follow what is written in this motion.”

Canada has already said that it stopped issuing military export permits to Israel – but the Department of Global Affairs said it is still reviewing applications for permits to export military goods to Israel “on a case-by-case basis,” despite the fact it has not issued new ones since Jan. 8.

This means Canada has not closed the door to future exports of military goods to the Israeli government.

Canada does not typically export full systems to Israel but does export military end-use components on an annual basis. Waterloo, Ont.-based Project Ploughshares, an arms-control advocate, says by its count Canadian companies exported more than $21-million in defence equipment to Israeli customers in 2022, the latest year with complete data.

“The department continues to review export permits requests on a case-by-case basis. The rapidly evolving situation affects GAC’s review process under our rigorous export regime,” Global Affairs spokesman Jean-Pierre Godbout said in an e-mailed statement.

Canada “supports Israel’s right to defend itself, in accordance with international law,” Mr. Godbout said. “In defending itself, Israel must comply with applicable international humanitarian law.”

Canada doesn’t typically release many details on defence exports to Israel or other countries.

Since 2015, however, the largest annual categories of shipments to Israel fall into three categories: bombs, torpedoes, missiles and other explosive devices; aircraft, drones, aero engines, aircraft equipment for military use and electronic equipment; and spacecraft and components.

Two sources said one of the export applications in the Global Affairs pipeline is a request to ship armoured vehicles to Israel. The Globe is not naming the sources because they were not authorized to comment on the matter.

Lior Haiat, the head of the Israel Foreign Ministry’s North America division, said his government is in talks to try to get Canada to reverse restrictions on arms exports.

He predicted the NDP-sponsored resolution will be celebrated by Hamas and said curbing arms exports to Israel inhibits its ability to defend itself. “What Israel is doing is exactly that: We’re fighting against a terror organization that’s main goal is to destroy the State of Israel and kill all the Jews in this world.”

Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher at Project Ploughshares, said he believes Ottawa’s obligations under arms-control law require it to stop exports to Israel because of the country’s conduct in the war.

“Canadian officials cannot authorize the transfer of military goods if such exports pose a substantial risk of facilitating serious human-rights violations,” Mr. Gallagher said. “In considering Israel’s conduct throughout its operation in Gaza, this threshold has evidently been met.”

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