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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 18.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The House of Commons passed a non-binding motion late on Monday that came closer to mirroring existing government policy on the Israel-Hamas war, after a day of tense negotiations between the Liberals and NDP that saw the New Democrats remove the most contentious part of their motion, which called on Canada to recognize the state of Palestine.

Just 20 minutes before the House was set to vote on the controversial motion, which would have split the government caucus, the Liberals announced a deal with the NDP to significantly amend it.

The changes to the non-binding policy statement replaced the call for the recognition of a Palestinian state with the existing Liberal government policy on a negotiated two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Among the other changes was the incorporation of stronger language against Hamas.

The amendments followed hours of tense talks Monday between the minority Liberals and the NDP, who have an agreement with the government to prop it up in the House.

By then the other political parties had clearly outlined their positions: The Bloc Québécois and Greens would support the motion; the Conservatives would oppose it.

The Liberals, though, allowed a free vote on the matter and while many backbench MPs aligned themselves early on one side or the other, the federal cabinet stayed mum. Earlier on Monday, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said an opposition day motion wouldn’t change government policy. However, after the Monday night vote, Ms. Joly told reporters it was the intent of the government to follow the motion.

Mid-way through the day, one source with direct knowledge of the talks said it appeared that negotiations had ended with no agreed changes, but they were soon revived and culminated with an emergency cabinet meeting late Monday. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source as they were not permitted to publicly discuss the internal talks.

While cabinet was meeting to weigh its vote on the motion, Ms. Joly was dashing up and down the stairs between that meeting and more talks with her Liberal colleagues in the lobby of the House of Commons.

Agreement from the NDP and her Liberal cabinet colleagues came in just under the wire but delayed the vote by nearly two hours and pushed the House sitting late into the night.

The changes were introduced with just minutes to spare and briefly appeared to throw the entire motion in jeopardy as the Conservatives and some backbench Liberal MPs argued such substantive amendments were out of order. Ultimately though, the vote went ahead.

The amended motion passed 204 to 117.

Most of the Liberal cabinet and caucus voted in favour of the amended motion, however backbench MPs Anthony Housefather, Marco Mendicino and Ben Carr voted against it.

Ya’ara Saks, a Jewish cabinet minister, voted for the motion.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh defended the changes to journalists in a scrum before the vote. He argued that the NDP had forced the government to agree to other policy changes, such as ceasing arms exports to Israel and calling for an immediate ceasefire.

However, earlier in the day, Ms. Joly had said such permits had been stopped since January, and in December, the government voted in favour of a UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The NDP also agreed to amendments that added the recognition of Israel’s right to defend itself and demanded that Hamas surrender – something the original NDP motion had not included.

The non-binding motion re-exposed Liberal caucus divisions over the Israel-Hamas war, with backbench Liberal MPs lining up for or against the motion ahead of the vote.

The NDP said their concessions to the Liberals were made in consultation with unnamed Jewish and Muslim groups.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims posted a statement to social media supporting the revised motion, saying it would lead to an arms embargo and sanctions on settlers. “Canada voted in favour of Palestine today,” the group said.

However, Jewish advocacy groups B’nai Brith Canada and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto released statements condemning the motion, calling it shameful and appalling. Michael Levitt, former Liberal MP and president of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, said the Liberals surrendered control of foreign policy to the NDP.

“Yet again and worst of all, they sold out Israel and the Jewish community for the sake of political expediency,” he said on social media.

The Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas, which is a designated terrorist group in Canada, invaded Israel, killing about 1,200 people and torturing and raping some of its victims. The military group took about 250 people hostage and is still believed to be holding about 100 captive.

More families will be allowed to apply to come to Canada from Gaza, Immigration Minister says

Since then, Israel has launched one of the most intense bombing campaigns in recent history. The military assault has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health agency. Five months on, Palestinians have no access to adequate health care, vast swaths of their homes have been destroyed and aid is moving into the tiny enclave at a trickle.

On Monday, the United Nations warned that famine is “imminent” in northern Gaza and a further escalation of the war could push about half of Gaza’s total population to the brink of starvation.

Despite that, Israel is promising to push its ground assault into the only relatively safe enclave left in the tiny Gaza strip. The country’s allies strongly supported Israel in the wake of the October attack but have increasingly pushed back against Israel and become more vocal in raising concerns about how the country is conducting its war.

On the weekend, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz questioned the “terribly high costs” of Israel’s offensive in Gaza. He made the comments at a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Currently, Canadian government policy is to call for a two-state solution that creates a Palestinian state alongside Israel through peace talks. The federal policy has been to recognize a Palestinian state as the outcome of those talks rather than in advance of any such discussions.

Earlier in the day, the House debated the original motion, which called for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

The international community has failed to “stop the unfolding carnage in Gaza,” NDP MP Heather McPherson told the House as debate on the motion got under way. She suggested Israel is responsible for ethnic cleansing and war crimes and said Canada has failed to prevent them and uphold international law.

“While Canada rightfully condemned the attacks on Israelis, Liberals are not doing the same thing for Palestinians,” Ms. McPherson said in explaining that party’s motion.

In her reply in the House, Ms. Joly reiterated her government’s calls for the release of hostages, a humanitarian ceasefire and the flow of humanitarian aid. She also said she believes Israelis and Palestinians are “closer than ever” to a two-state solution and Canada won’t be drawn into picking sides.

“We have to condemn both sides and we have to help both sides to get eventually to an understanding that Israelis and Palestinians will have to live together in peace,” Ms. Joly said.

The Conservatives said the focus should be on Hamas, saying the group is the genesis of the current war, and must release the hostages and surrender unconditionally. Conservative MP Michael Chong said his party supports a two-state solution but said it can’t be done through a “unilateral declaration in the House of Commons.”

With reports from Reuters and Associated Press.

MPs debate an NDP motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to "officially recognize the state of Palestine" on March 18. Liberals have been divided over the war and say they want to support both Israelis and Palestinians, while Conservatives say the motion won’t help peace in the region. Muslim groups say the symbolism would be meaningful.

The Canadian Press

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