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A Palestinian man retrieves belongings from the site of Israeli strikes on a house, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 26.Mohammed Salem/Reuters

The federal Liberals expected upwards of 80 of their backbench MPs to vote with the NDP last week on a motion that included a call to recognize a Palestinian state, according to sources with knowledge of the deliberations, prompting a scramble to convince New Democrats to accept amendments and avoid exposing deep divisions in the governing party.

But while there were intense negotiations between the Liberals and the NDP, several sources said the government ultimately dodged the looming embarrassment only because Muslim and Palestinian groups urged the New Democrats to make concessions. Those groups did so, the sources added, in order to ensure the opposition day motion, proposed by the NDP in response to the Israel-Hamas war, would pass in the House of Commons.

The result was a rewritten motion that forced the government to take stronger positions against Israel in a few cases, but didn’t include a call for immediate recognition of Palestinian statehood, and otherwise largely reiterated existing government policy. While the motion still prompted an angry rebuke from many Jewish groups and the Israeli government, the sources said Liberals believe the outcome would have been much worse for the party had the majority of its backbench voted for the original motion and against government policy.

Although the amended motion gave the Liberals an out, and prevented the NDP from driving a wedge into the politically vulnerable minority government, the sources said New Democrats and others involved in the negotiations believe the concessions helped the NDP make inroads with Muslim and Palestinian voters.

The Globe and Mail spoke with a total of 11 sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations, including Liberals, New Democrats and members of community groups. The talks began the week before the March 18 House debate on the motion and culminated just 20 minutes before MPs were scheduled to vote that day. The revised motion passed late that evening.

The Globe is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to reveal the internal deliberations.

In the lead-up to the day of the debate, Liberal MPs had been under pressure from constituents and advocacy groups to support the NDP motion. By mid-day on March 18, one source said, more than 70 Liberal MPs had told the whip’s office that they would vote with the original version of the motion. Several sources said the government expected that number to keep rising to between 80 and 90. Others believed it could climb even higher, opening the possibility that the motion would pass.

For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his 39 cabinet ministers, supporting the original motion was a non-starter, according to three sources. They said Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet would have voted against the motion until about 7 p.m., when the NDP agreed to soften language that called for an end to arms exports to Israel.

In addition to calling for the arms export ban and recognition of a Palestinian state, the original NDP motion called for a ban on Israeli settlers entering Canada and sanctions on Israeli officials. Those calls were softened or removed entirely.

The opposition day motion was on the notice paper for weeks, but two sources said the Liberal backbench received little guidance on how to handle it. Facing intense pressure, many MPs released statements in support of the motion before March 18.

Opposition days in the House of Commons are scheduled in proportion to the share of seats a party has, and are meant to give non-governing parties a chance to set the agenda. As the fourth-place party, the NDP gets only three opposition days a year. Two sources said the government didn’t expect the party to be open to amendments.

But, with less than a week before the vote, three sources said, B.C. Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed asked Alberta NDP MP Heather McPherson to consider making amendments.

That set off a cascade of meetings, calls and text messages over the weekend, and near-hourly meetings on March 18 between the NDP and Liberals.

At the table for the government was House Leader Steven MacKinnon and his chief of staff, Rhéal Lewis, as well as deputy chief of staff to the Prime Minister Brian Clow, one source said. Mr. Trudeau’s senior foreign affairs adviser, Patrick Travers, participated by phone.

Ms. McPherson was at the table for the NDP, along with House Leader Peter Julian and their top aides, Jen Pedersen and Blake Evans. NDP deputy chief of staff Jonathan Gauvin was on the phone.

Until those meetings, two sources said, the Liberals had not put forward concrete proposals for amendments. This, the sources said, led to a last-minute rush to finalize wording, and an emergency cabinet meeting.

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly was also part of the negotiations, and led the talks as they came down to the wire.

In the days leading up to the vote, and throughout the day of March 18, the Liberals and the NDP had frequent calls with Muslim and Palestinian advocacy groups. Most of the sources said the influence of these groups, in particular the National Council of Canadian Muslims, was a main driver of the NDP’s decision to accept the proposed amendments.

The sources said the NDP also consulted with JSpace Canada and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, advocacy organizations that supported the original NDP motion.

At the same time, the Liberals were under pressure from the Israeli government to ensure the original motion did not pass. Mr. Trudeau spoke with Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet. On social media, Mr. Gantz said he argued that recognizing a Palestinian state would reward Hamas for its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which sparked the war.

With neither side sure they would succeed in renegotiating the motion, both the Liberals and NDP left their caucuses in the dark on the substance of the pending amendments, even as an emotionally charged debate was under way in the House of Commons.

Four sources acknowledged that a mid-day Liberal caucus meeting was mishandled, and said the secrecy was vexing for Liberal MPs.

The day after the vote, the National Council of Canadian Muslims gave first credit for the motion to the NDP. Stephen Brown, the organization’s CEO, said in a news conference that Muslims won’t forget “those who stood up to do the right thing.”

Even with the changes, the motion was damaging to the Liberals. Among other fallout, backbench Liberal MP Anthony Housefather has said that he is considering leaving the party over the vote.

But from the Liberals’ perspective, that is still better than a result that could have exposed a rift within their caucus, upset Jewish and Palestinian communities and further risked the party’s coalition of voters.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included an incorrect title for Benny Gantz. He is a member of the Israeli war cabinet.

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