While the Obama administration has urged Israel to limit the scope of its ground operation in Gaza to only striking tunnels used by terrorists, Canada’s Conservative Party-led government has expressed unbridled support for Israel as it faces Hamas’ threats.
The contrasting approaches over the past 10 days of the Israel-Hamas conflict have been seen in a series of statements, diplomatic exchanges and tweets.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Israel sent ground troops into Gaza Thursday to expand the Jewish state’s effort to combat the firing of Hamas and other terrorist group rockets at Israeli communities.
Kerry reaffirmed the U.S.’ “strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist threats emanating from tunnels into Israel and expressed our view that this should be a precise operation to target tunnels, as described in a statement from the Israeli Defense Forces,” the State Department said.
Kerry also “emphasized the need to avoid further escalation” and “the importance of doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.”
Kerry’s words of caution stood in contrast to a stream of 10 uncompromisingly pro-Israel tweets Friday morning from Canada’s ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici:
She also slammed self-professed human rights activists who have been hammering Israel with criticism:
Leaving no confusion as to which side she sympathizes with, Bercovici hashtagged some of her tweets #IsraelUnderAttack and #OperationProtectiveEdge, noting the Israeli military operation name.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also tweeted support for Israel after the ground operation was announced.
In the days leading up to Thursday’s expansion of Israel’s 10-day air and sea campaign on terrorist groups, the Obama administration consistently called for “de-escalation from both sides” of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched an online campaign unconditionally declaring: “Stand with Israel.”
A video titled “Through Fire and Water” released Wednesday featured Canadian leaders in Israel intercut with statements from Harper and the foreign minister strongly voicing their unequivocal support for the country.
“Canada’s government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been a leading voice defending Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacks,” the Times of Israel observed.
The Israeli news site noted that the video’s title was taken from Harper’s speech to the Knesset earlier this year in which he vowed: “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada’s Conservatives stand with Israel — are you with us?” read a banner posted on the Conservative Party’s website.
“There must be no moral equivalence between Hamas, a listed terrorist organization, and its blatant disregard for human life, and the liberal democratic State of Israel’s duty and obligation to defend its people from cowardly and indiscriminate attacks,” Baird said in a statement before the ground operation.
President Barack Obama has also said Israel has a right to defend itself from those launching rockets on its towns.
“As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people. There’s no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets,” Obama said Wednesday.
But in contrast with the Canadian government, representatives from both the White House and the State Department appeared to suggest Israel was not trying hard enough to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this week, “What we would ask the Israelis to do is to exhibit some concern for the safety and welfare of innocent civilians who are at risk of being caught in the cross-fire.”
Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, suggested Thursday that Israel was not doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.
The IDF has released footage is says shows pilots aborting bombing runs after seeing civilians near terrorist targets and has also dropped tens of thousands of leaflets warning Gaza civilians of imminent strikes.
“We are increasingly concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides. We continue to urge all parties to do all they can to protect civilians, and we have been heartbroken by the high civilian death toll in Gaza,” Psaki said Thursday before Israel’s ground operation.
Referring to the deaths of four Palestinian boys playing on a beach Wednesday, Psaki said, “The tragic event makes clear that Israel must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed …we will continue to underscore that point to Israel.”
Even as Israel was fighting the onslaught of more than 1,300 Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets, former President Bill Clinton in an interview with India’s NDTV Wednesday said Israel is “isolating itself” by not moving forward with the peace process.
“Over the long run it is not good for Israel to keep isolating itself from world opinion because of the absence of a viable peace process,” Clinton said before the ground operation was announced.
“But in the short to medium term, Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on Israel by forcing it to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas,” he added.
Clinton criticized Hamas for hiding behind Palestinians civilians: “They have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.”
The former president supported Israel’s right to defend itself and placed the blame on Hamas for the current round of fighting.
“It’s a miracle to me that they [Hamas] fired 1,000 rockets [at Israel] and more people weren’t killed,” he said.
An op-ed posted on the Jewish news site the Algemeiner called on Obama to follow Harper’s lead.
“[T]his past week, as hundreds of Hamas rockets rained down upon the Jewish State, and Israel really needed an ally to have its back, President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu to demand that Israel show ‘restraint,’” wrote Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn of Religious Zionists of America. “By pressing for ‘restraint’ and a ‘truce,’ Obama and Kerry are, in effect, trying to save Hamas from being crippled or destroyed by Israel. Is that their idea of ‘having Israel’s back?’”
“The difference between us is that we’re using missile defense to protect our civilians and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “So naturally, they’re responsible for all the civilian deaths that occur accidentally.”
“We’re sorry for any accidental civilian deaths, but it’s the Hamas that bears complete responsibility for such civilian causalities,” he told CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”