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Former Israeli PM ‘disappointed’ in Canada’s position on Gaza conflict – National |



Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett says he is “disappointed” in Canada’s position on Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, arguing Israel is being held to a double standard not shown to others in times of war.

The Canadian government has said it supports Israel’s right to defend itself while saying that “a sustainable ceasefire cannot be one-sided,” and urged Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. The House of Commons passed a non-binding motion last month with support from most Liberal MPs that said Canada should cease further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel, which the government later followed through on.

The motion drew condemnation from the Israeli government and resulted in Liberal MP Anthony Housefather publicly mulling his future in the party, before saying he had decided to stay.

In an interview that aired Sunday on The West Block, Bennett criticized Canada’s stance, as well as the restoration of funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the primary aid organization in Gaza, after Ottawa temporarily froze it over allegations that UNRWA workers participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

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“I’m disappointed,” he told host Mercedes Stephenson. “We expect friends to be with us not when it’s easy, but when it’s tough.

“Do you understand how vital it is that the world supports us in defeating this total evil?”

Click to play video: 'Canada will not sell arms to Israel after altered NDP motion passes: Liberal MP'

Canada will not sell arms to Israel after altered NDP motion passes: Liberal MP

More than six months after Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attacks, Israel’s western allies have grown sharply critical amid rising Palestinian deaths and a growing humanitarian crisis in the territory.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Israel has said the Oct. 7 attacks, which killed 1,200 Israeli citizens and saw Hamas take 250 hostages into Gaza, showed Hamas needs to be eliminated and insists it is focused on killing its members while limiting civilian deaths.

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Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned over one million Palestinians who have fled to southern Gaza to escape the violence are on the brink of famine, after months of Israel limiting aid deliveries. The international pressure has led to Israel taking steps in recent days to opening up new corridors for aid to get in.

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The United States demanded those steps be taken amid outcry over an Israeli drone strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy that killed seven aid workers, including a dual Canadian-American citizen. Israel has said the strike was a mistake and punished the military officials it says were responsible.

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas: No Gaza ceasefire without release of hostages, says Netanyahu'

Israel-Hamas: No Gaza ceasefire without release of hostages, says Netanyahu

Bennett — a self-described right-wing Israeli nationalist who served as prime minister from 2021 to 2022 — acknowledged it was a mistake but one that is no different than others committed by other countries in war, including the United States, that have not been as widely condemned.

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“I can only see a double standard that I think the source is very deep, and goes centuries back,” he said.

Asked if he believes that double standard is rooted in antisemitism, Bennett said, “absolutely.”

“What other reason will the world ignore and accept mistakes that happen in war, because war is a terrible thing, but when it’s Israel, the whole world condemns and the whole world wants to take this tragic accident and use it as a reason to prevent Israel from protecting themselves,” he said.

“That is a double standard, and I don’t accept that.”

Bennett added Israel has done “more than any other country in the history of warfare to reduce collateral damage,” including distributing warnings to Palestinians through leaflets and text messages to evacuate ahead of an airstrike or ground incursion.

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas war: Haunting drone footage shows before and after of Gaza following 6 months of war'

Israel-Hamas war: Haunting drone footage shows before and after of Gaza following 6 months of war

He said Israel is also committed to ensuring a peaceful future for Gaza once Hamas has been eliminated.

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“We have to defeat Hamas,” he said. “Hamas has to be gone. And only then we’ll be able to begin rebuilding a new Gaza and hopefully a peaceful Gaza.”

Iran an ‘octopus of terror’

Elsewhere in the interview, in a clip first shared on Saturday, Bennett said he believes Iran should “directly pay the price” in its capital of Tehran if it follows through with a feared retaliatory attack on Israel.

The world is waiting to see if Iran follows through on vows to attack Israel in response to an Israeli strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria last week that killed a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ overseas Quds Force and six other officers.

Such an attack would escalate the existing conflict in the Middle East. The violence in Gaza has sparked attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen — groups that, like Hamas, are backed by the Iranian regime.

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Bennett said Israel has long fought Iran through those “proxies,” which justified the Israeli strike in Syria.

“Iran is like an octopus of terror, whose head is in Tehran but then it sends its tentacles into Lebanon with Hezbollah terror organization, into Gaza with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” he told Stephenson.

Asked what he believed Israel should do in response to an attack from Iran, Bennett made clear the capital should be a target.

“If we are attacked — and we’re already being attacked by the proxies — I definitely think that Iran should directly pay the price in Tehran,” he said. “I also think that the free world can and should engage in an ongoing soft campaign to collapse the Iranian regime.”

Click to play video: 'Iran vows revenge on Israel after Damascus embassy attack'

Iran vows revenge on Israel after Damascus embassy attack

The United States has vowed to support Israel in the event of an Iranian attack, which could include military assets.

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Bennett said following through with an attack on Israel “would be detrimental to Iran” in the end.

“Iran until now has enjoyed fighting a one-sided war (with Israel),” he said. “We’re in a boxing ring and one side is hitting the other and the other is not responding.

“If they directly attack Israel, clearly Israel will retaliate. And what I’ve learned is that (the Iranian) regime, they’re very incompetent and corrupt and a lousy regime. The people despise it. They don’t like incurring losses, and they have a lot to lose.”

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