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Protesters hold Palestinian flags during a rally to call for a ceasefire, on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on March 9.Ismail Shakil/Reuters

Canada’s decades-old bipartisan consensus in support of a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question is falling apart.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government voted Monday night for a heavily diluted version of a non-binding NDP motion that advances support for Palestinians in the conflict in Gaza.

The amended version arrived at almost literally the last minute, after Parliamentarians had spent the day debating the original and much firmer NDP motion. Clearly, the two parties had been in talks that went down to the wire, before reaching wording both could live with.

But it left even some Liberal backbenchers fuming that, after hours spent debating one motion, they were now expected to vote without debate on something quite different.

“This violates my privileges and the privileges of the people of Mount Royal,” protested Liberal MP Anthony Housefather. He voted against the motion. The Liberal amendments were so rushed they did not even include a French translation.

In the end, the Liberals, with a few exceptions, joined with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois to support the amended motion, while the Conservatives opposed.

The last-minute act of political legerdemain may have preserved Liberal and NDP co-operation and prevented a more serious split within the Liberal caucus. But it is also so very, very Liberal, substituting clear declarations of support for Palestinians with mealy-mouthed platitudes.

Nonetheless, the day represented another sign that Conservatives and Liberals appear to be drifting apart on the issue of Israeli and Palestinian rights. Increasingly, Conservatives defend Israel virtually without qualification while Liberals are gradually evolving toward a more pro-Palestinian stance.

Monday’s vote will be seen as an important signpost along that path.

For the NDP, which proposed the original motion, the killing and maiming of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza trumps all other considerations.

Israel, said NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson, is waging a “horrific war against people who are not responsible for what Hamas has done.” Along with recognizing Palestine as a state, the original motion would have banned the sale of military goods and technology to Israel, pushed for an immediate ceasefire and supported funding for UNRWA, the United Nations agency delivering relief to Palestinians, even though some of its workers have ties to Hamas.

Except Liberals have already restored funding UNRWA, voted for a United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire and placed restrictions on the export of military goods to Israel. The rest of the NDP motion they supported, with plenty of inserted qualifiers.

On the most contentious point, recognizing Palestine as a state, the Liberal rewording piled clause upon clause of boilerplate that would see Canada “work with international partners” to seek peace in the Middle East, and which would include recognizing the state of Palestine “as part of a negotiated two-state solution.” Which is pretty much what everybody already agrees to, at least in principle.

Nonetheless, the motion as amended shifts the government’s emphasis toward the plight of the Palestinians and away from the right of Israel to defend itself.

In her statement on the original NDP motion, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly invoked the memory of former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who played a crucial role in United Nations deliberations that led to the creation of the State of Israel. Those deliberations also called for the creation of a Palestinian state, and in the years since, both Liberal and Conservative governments have agreed on the need for a two-state solution.

But “a two-state solution cannot be achieved by a declaration,” in the House of Commons, Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said. The Conservatives opposed the watered-down motion just as they opposed the original, in part because everything was so rushed.

That vote is probably less a result than a process: the gradual evolution of the federal Liberal Party away from unqualified support of the right of Israel to defend itself, and toward greater support for the rights of Palestinians.

This is not some academic debate. As Mr. Housefather observed: “The war in the Middle East has torn this country apart.”

If the Liberals and Conservatives do move to opposing positions on the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, then their division will reflect growing divisions within the country itself.

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