Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Liberals Respond to Gaza War

Here is what Michael Ignatieff had to say about the war in Gaza.

"I am greatly concerned by the deepening violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip and the fear and suffering on all sides that this mounting instability has caused.

The Liberal Party of Canada unequivocally condemns the rocket attacks launched by Hamas against Israeli civilians and calls for an immediate end to these attacks. We affirm Israel's right to defend itself against such attacks, and also its right to exist in peace and security.

We regret the loss of life sustained on all sides of the conflict. We call on all parties to end these hostilities, mindful that a durable ceasefire will be necessary to prevent continued civilian casualties and lasting damage to essential civilian infrastructure.

The international community has a responsibility to ensure that the cost of conflict is not borne by the innocent and Canada must stand ready to assist and ensure that basic humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it.

Our thoughts are with those in Israel and the Gaza Strip whose lives are imperiled by the cycle of violence in the region. In the midst of this crisis, we continue to stand for a peaceful resolution. We firmly believe that the basis of this peace will be the mutual recognition by both Israelis and Palestinians of two states, living side by side in peace and security, with a full resolution of the issue of refugees and settlements, as well as secure and internationally recognized borders and boundaries."

Michael Ignatieff had the biggest challenge in responding to the war in Gaza. During the Lebanon War in 2006, Israel killed a Canadian Peace Keeper. Ignatieff rushed out to condemn Israel for being guilty of war crimes. It did not take long for the evidence to mount that while the death was tragic Israel had acted appropriated. The victim had even left documentation that Israel was responding to Hizzbullah using the UN compound to launch attacks on Israel.

Ignatieff spent time before the last election appologizing for his mistake and trying make ammends within the Jewish community. This was the first true litmus test to his sincerity. The statement is simple. Israel has an obligation to protect it's people. The innocent should not suffer from the conflict.

Ignatieff's comments in 2006 have left me skeptical of his ability to be a credible leader of a federal party. His statements on the current situation are refreshing and demonstrate he may have what it takes to lead Canada either on the opposition benches or as Prime Minister.

Bloc Comments on Gaza War

This is from the Bloc Quebecois press release.

"Le porte-parole du Bloc Québécois en matière d’Affaires étrangères, Paul Crête, demande au premier ministre du Canada, Stephen Harper, de faire preuve de leadership au plan diplomatique pour qu’une force d’interposition onusienne intervienne rapidement dans la bande de Gaza afin de permettre notamment l’acheminement de l’aide humanitaire.

« Le Canada ne peut se contenter de simplement reconnaître le droit d’Israël de se défendre. Il est vrai que les tirs du Hamas sur le territoire israélien qui perdurent depuis trop longtemps sont inacceptables, tout comme le refus du Hamas de reconnaître le droit d’Israël d’exister. Cependant, pour éviter d’être accusé d’avoir choisi ce moment précis, soit juste avant les élections israéliennes et l’entrée en fonction de l’administration Obama à Washington en janvier, pour riposter avec une telle vigueur, le gouvernement israélien doit permettre l’envoi des casques bleus et l’établissement d’un corridor sécuritaire pour que l’aide humanitaire puisse entrer dans la bande de Gaza » a déclaré Paul Crête.

« Les populations israélienne et palestinienne ne doivent pas être prises en otages. Le premier ministre du Canada ne peut rester les bras croisés. Stephen Harper doit multiplier les pressions pour que la force d’interposition sous l’égide de l’ONU voit le jour » a conclu Paul Crête"

The Bloc have indicated that the attacks on Israel by Hamas are unacceptable. They would like to see Peace Keepers patrolling the border and are concerned about the flow of Huminitarian aid.

Peace Keepers are very limited in how they are able to help in a conflict. They act as a buffer zone when two parties cannot trust each other to maintain the cease fire agreement. When one side chooses to attack the other the best they can do is duck. Peace Keepers would be useless in this situation.

The Bloc can not be blamed for being so concerned about humanitarian aid. They have probably been getting their news from CBC. Earlier today they reported that Israeli Navy had rammed a ship bringing humanitarian supplies to Israel. The ship was designed more as a poitical statement than bringing true relief to Gaza. The ship included reporters and politicians. Israel was concerned that it contained agents who would try to help Hamas. The fact that Israel had let about 100 trucks filled with aid, plus five new ambulances was overlooked in the original story. This correction has been made by CBC after hundreds of people commented on the original story.

Israel began letting humintarian aid to flow into Gaza on Friday. They are trying to make it clear that they are at war with Hamas and are out to get the people living in Gaza. The world needs to recognize the steps Israel is taking to minimize the loss of innocent life while protecting it's own citizens.

NDP Comment on War in Gaza

Here is the NDP take on the war.

"Canada's New Democrats condemn the unacceptable escalation of violence in the Middle East causing death and injury to so many civilians in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

It is a tragedy that hundreds of civilians have again become the victims of violence in this conflict. The continuing airstrikes by Israel on civilians in the Gaza strip and the ongoing rocket attacks on Israeli civilians are serving to compound the existing civilian disaster and further harm chances for a negotiated peace.

We call on the Government of Canada to immediately call for an end to the aerial bombing of Gaza, the blockade of aid to civilians and the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel. Indeed, the government must urge both sides to agree to end the current hostilities immediately, reinstate the ceasefire and return to the peace process.

The Government of Canada should also work to ensure that medical and food aid is provided to the civilians of Gaza through U.N. agencies.

New Democrats believe that Canada must pursue a balanced approach to the Middle East crisis, in keeping with Canadians' deep desire for peace in the Middle East and are ready to work with the new administration in the U.S. towards a lasting peace in the region. This goal cannot be achieved while citizens in such large numbers are being killed and endangered."

It is great that the NDP want peace in Israel. Israel has not been targeting civilians. They have been firing and military targets that have put Israeli lives at risk. The NDP claim they want a balanced approach. Israel waited patiently as their citizens were attacked. It is only once Israel choose to respond by force that the NDP felt the need to condemn the actions of Hamas. If the NDP really care about this situation they need to be willing to take a stand during times of quiet and not just when the battle is front page news.

Canadian Political Parties Respond to War in Gaza

On Saturday the Israeli government finally took action to defend it's citizens from the barrage of rocket attacks launched by Hamas towards civilians.

The Canadian Government was quick to respond to Israel's military action on Saturday. They said that Israel has the right to defend it's borders and it's innocent civilians that have been targets of Hamas rockets. The support from the Canadian and US Government was reassuring for those living in Israel and dealing with the consequences of Hamas aggression.

The opposition parties decided to wait until after the long weekend to respond. Press releases were sent out yesterday commenting on the situation.The next few posts will deal with their statements.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hamas gets the War they Asked for, Not the War they Expected

Hamas wanted to go to war with Israel. They have been egging Israel on, hoping to get some sort of small response. They need to justify undermining the Palestinian interests they claim to represent. Over 200 rockets were fired into Israel during the last month of the cease fire. Israel refused to retaliate and begged for the cease-fire to be extended.

In the recent celebration of Hamas' birthday they decided to play the Gilad Shalit card. They had a play with the actor playing Shalit begging to be returned to his mommy and daddy. Shalit has been a prisoner for over 900 days. Hamas has refused to act according to the Geneva Convention by allowing the Red Cross to visit. The price for his release has been set to include prisonsors serving life sentences for carrying out terrorist attacks. When the head of the PFLP last week was sentenced to 30 years in jail, Hamas responded that he was number one on the list for any trade.

Nothing positive has come out of Israel pulling out of Gaza. There are communities that still have not found permanent housing accomodations. Sderot has been a regular landing spot for target practise from Gaza. While the government was lauding the success of the ceasefire, on the ground Israeli's were asking "What ceasefire?" Hamas decided not to renew the ceasefire and increased rocket attacks as soon as the agreement expired.

Israel had to respond. Prime Minister Olmert went on Palestinian TV to speak directly to the people to tell them the rockets had to stop. On Friday Israel began allowing huminitarian aid into Gaza. Previously this had been a condition of cease to the rocket attacks. The public in Israel was told that they military would wait for better weather before launching an attack.

On Saturday the IAF hit Hamas and they hit them hard. They had used the same tactic they had used to remove Jews from their home in Hevron. They convinced Hamas that they were not going to attack yet and took out all 40 Hamas police stations. Hamas cried foul. They had not evacuated the stations because they had received assurance from Egypt a mere hours before that Israel was not ready to attack. This is why the casualty count was so high on the first day.

Israel needs to protect it's population from constant rocket attacks the same way they need to protect their citizens from suicide bombers. The security wall may attract negative attention but it works. Hopfully this war will finally bring the same result. The rockets being fired are landing in territory that would remain part of Israel. Even if Israel agreed to withdraw to the 1948 borders, Hamas has made future territory conessions impossible. It just brings their weapons and rockets closer to more heavily populated parts of the country.

There is only one permanent solution to this crisis. Palestinians living in Gaza must concede that Israel is here to say and they need to live with that reality. This means stop shooting at civilian targets and recongnizing that while Israel has made many concessions since they embarked on the peace process, it is time for them to do the same.

On a side note, I have noticed that the Canadian media has not reported on the Israeli casualties today. Hamas killed one and wounded 5 in a rocket attack on the city of Ashkelon. They hit a building under construction. All of the victims were Arabs with the death being of a Bedouin from a near by village. Hamas has demanded all Egyptian and Jordanians out of Israel to avoid such incidents in the future.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Annointing the Prime Minister in Waiting

Yesterday, 800 senior brass of the Liberal party unanimously appointed Michael Ignatieff as the interm-Liberal leader. Edward Blake and Stephane Dion are the only Liberal leaders since 1873 that failed to become Prime Minister. The appointment will be made permanent when he is endorsed at the next Liberal convention. The formality of a vote seems silly when there are no other options.

Under Dion's leadership the Liberal party was rudderless as it drifted to the left. Harper exploited his weaknesses at every turn. Ignatieff is looking to take his party back to the centre and focus on the best interest of Canadians and not just his party.

Ignatieff has been luke warm at the idea of toppling the government. He will read the budget before deciding how to vote. He will only topple the government if it is necessary. This is how the opposition is supposed to function in a minority government. He has offered to work with the government to come up with mutually acceptable solutions.

Harper is taking the change in leadership seriously. Plans are already been made to have a meeting to discuss the budget. Harper is also going to fill 18 empty vacant seats before the house resumes. Harper has always been reluctant to appoint senators because he wants them to be elected. The move signals that Harper is aware of the possibility of having to face the voters again or being replaced as Prime Minister.

Effective government requires a strong leadership with an effective opposition to provide a counter balance. Perhaps Canada will finally have the right balance.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Liberals turn Lemons into Lemon Juice

There was one really great commentary on the Government's attempt to end subsidies for political parties. It was like throwing a grenade in the opposition's underwear. They had to react.

Confronted with a live grenade their are two options. One is to run for safety or throwing the grenade out of harms way. The other is to try to toss the grenade back at your attacker before it explodes in your face. Dion decided to make one last ditch effort to become Prime Minister. The grenade exploded with the Liberal party taking considerable collateral damage.

The coalition forces were so weak that it could not be held together until January, the next opportunity to defeat the government. Dion could no longer hang on to the party leadership until his replacement is chosen in May. He would need to be replaced before the next confidence vote. The Liberal leader needs to be able to lead the party wherever the political landscape takes them. Dion is cannot even hold down that job.

Bob Rae took the approach that the coalition was an absolute necessity. He was to begin campaigning this week to support the coalition forming the government January. He wanted to defeat the government on the budget irrelevant of the contents. This blind partisanship approach to politics is harmful to his party and the country in general. He also showed his true colours by showing such enthusiasm for a Liberal/NDP government. Perhaps he had plans down the road to formally merge the parties to unite the left.

Michael Ignatieff played his cards right. He was reluctant to support the coalition and emerged as a centre choice versus the left leaning Rae. He was willing to read the budget before making a decision if he should support it. This was a breath of fresh air. Dion would announce his opposition to the budget before reading it. He would then sit out most of his caucus to allow the budget and other legislation a free pass. Anyone who thought there were positive aspects in the budget would be thrown out of caucus. It was clear that Ignatieff had overwhelming support to become party leader.

The Liberal party now has some technical issues to deal with. The party leader must be elected. They need to finalize who is going to be eligible to vote for the party leader. In recent days Rae has campaigned for a system where every card carrying member gets one vote. The current system has delegates vote where senior party members have as much say as a delegate representing hundreds or thousands of people. Either way there will be only one candidate to vote for. Communists countries have been holding free and fair elections for single parties or candidates for decades.

The good news is once the dust clears the Liberals will be able to set sail in a new direction. Ignatieff may still steer his party straight into a rock. At least he can shed the baggage the Dion was so quick to acquire.

Prime Minister and the Queen

The Canadian parliamentary system is rich tradition. Technically the Queen's representative, the Governor General holds a lot of power. In most cases convention dictates how the Governor General is to exercise his/her power.

Last Thursday, presented a rare opportunity for the Michelle Jean to set the course of history. Her Prime Minister was on the brink of losing a confidence motion. Canadians had elected their new representatives less then seven weeks earlier. The current session of parliament had lasted less then two weeks. She would have to decide between three options. Each one was guaranteed to be the wrong decision.

Her first option was to porogue parliament. This would end the current session of parliament and a new one would be started in January. This move would allow the government to hide from a vote of confidence, a move that has been frowned on by Governer Generals in the past. It would also render the current session of parliament useless, as there was not enough time to get anything done.

The second and third option was to deny the request. In such a situation the Prime Minister would be expected to resign. She would have to choose between calling an election or allowing the opposition form a government.

Stephane Dion had clearly demonstrated that he was able to cobble together a coalition to take over the government. The move would make Stephane Dion Prime Minister. Two months earlier, the Liberals received the lowest popular vote since confederation. The Liberals lost 22 seats and the Conservatives went from a small to large minority government. The Conservatives won more seats with 50% of the vote then the Liberals won in total. Canadians had rejected the idea of Prime Minister Dion. Even Dion intended to step down as soon as a new leader was choosen.

Calling an election would be a fair way to decide the outcome. The Liberals had just spent a year refusing to bring down the government because Canadians didn't want an election. Would having two election in three months really help? What if the election results turned out exactly the same? The potential was there for time and money wasted, at a time when Canadians want politicians working to help with the financial crisis. From a democratic view this would be a great way to let the people decide. From an administrative view it could bring the government to a complete standstill. Places like Italy and Israel are more accustomed to such embarrasing scenarios.

Jean choose the poroguement option. She has further established that her role is to listen to the Prime Minister and carry out her ceremonial duties. Hindsight has shown that she has made the right decision. The coalition has fallen apart, proving that despite the documents signed it was held together on a weak foundation. The house will reconvene at the end of January with a thrown speech and budget. By then cooler heads will prevail so that the government can get some work done.