Canada should provide Israel with ‘complete, blanket support,’ says Brian Mulroney | CBC News

Canada should provide Israel with ‘complete, blanket support,’ says Brian Mulroney | CBC News


Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says Canada should fully support Israel in its fight against Hamas — but warns that this country now has only limited influence in global affairs.

Canada must cultivate relationship with U.S. to boost global influence, former PM says

Two men speak.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney speaks with former U.S. president George H. W. Bush in 2002 in Washington. Mulroney says the key to greater Canadian influence is a strong relationship with the U.S. president. (William Philpott/Reuters)

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says Canada should fully support Israel in its fight against Hamas — but warns that this country now has only limited influence in global affairs.

“I think that Canada could have only one position — complete, blanket support for Israel and unrelenting denunciation of a jihadist criminal group, namely Hamas,” said Mulroney, who served as prime minister from 1984 to 1993. He was in office during a number of transformational international events, including the initial steps toward the end of South African apartheid, the end of Cold War and the first Gulf War.

Speaking to CBC’s The House, Mulroney said that while his heart breaks for civilians in Gaza, Israel is doing the right thing by warning civilians to evacuate parts of the Gaza Strip before an expected military assault.

“I think Israel is doing everything that it can. But I’m deeply, deeply sorry and troubled by the fact that this operation is going to involve the death of lots of people,” he told host Catherine Cullen.

The House25:34The role for diplomacy in the Middle East

Featured VideoIn the early nineties, former prime minister Brian Mulroney helped build international connections in the run-up to the first Gulf War. He speaks with host Catherine Cullen about why he thinks Canada should grow its influence in the world to respond to the current crisis. Then, two former diplomats join The House to discuss what nations can do to prevent the violence from escalating: Arif Lalani served as Canada’s ambassador to Jordan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates; and Daniel Kurtzer was U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt.

Israel’s military has ordered roughly 1.1 million people in northern Gaza to evacuate, something the UN has said is “impossible” and would itself represent a humanitarian disaster.

The precarious situation is the most recent development in the week of turmoil that followed devastating attacks by Hamas that have killed more than 1,300 civilians and soldiers. More than 1,900 people have died in Israel’s retaliatory strikes, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Mulroney said Canada must be firm in its support for Israel and its right to defend itself.

“This is the worst demonstration of Jew-hatred since the Holocaust,” he said.

Mulroney also said that while it’s likely global public opinion will shift against Israel as it escalates military operations in Gaza, Canada should continue to support Israel. He added that in his view, Israel is the “innocent victim here.”

“We owe it to them and to the Jewish populations who have helped so much in Canada. We have to defend them.”

Risks of escalation

In a separate interview on The House, two former high-ranking diplomats warned that the conflict could escalate beyond an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

“I think there is danger that in the West Bank, Palestinians themselves rise up. I think there’s a danger in the north that [Lebanese militant group] Hezbollah joins the fight in a bigger way than they have been,” said Arif Lalani, former Canadian ambassador to Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt, agreed with Lalani and noted that U.S. officials should also be pushing Israel to consider humanitarian factors in its approach.

“Israel, I think, needs to be made aware that the narrative will change overnight with pictures out of Gaza that show humanitarian distress,” he said. He added it’s difficult to deal with a population that is “being used as human shields” by Hamas but noted that the Biden administration is likely pushing Israel quietly on that front.

Lalani said that, with Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly in the region, he hopes Canada pushes a similar message of proportionality.

“It’s a time to punish Hamas, but not to punish the two million people that are also suffering at the hands of Hamas,” he said.

WATCH | How the fallout from the Hamas attacks is playing out in Canada  

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Lalani warned that there’s only so much Canada can do at the moment.

“I think Canada’s influence is, frankly, limited,” he said, adding Canada could play a role in a post-conflict settlement in the medium term.

Kurtzer said all eyes should be on Qatar, Turkey and Egypt, countries which have been known to play a mediating role in the conflict.

Canada has waning influence, Mulroney says

Mulroney warned that he sees Canada’s international reputation slipping below what it should be. The key to retaining influence and clout on the international scene, he argued, is a close relationship with the United States.

“Canada can play a very valuable role, particularly if the prime minister of Canada is perceived to be a very close friend of the president of the United States and working closely with him,” he said.

During his time as prime minister, Mulroney cultivated close relationships with the like-minded U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

“You’ve got to have the strength and the connections and the influence to make the argument when it is vital,” Mulroney said.

The former prime minister warned that Canada’s international influence is waning at a time when its diplomatic relationships with China and India are at a low ebb.

The rest of the world “appear[s] to be ignoring Canada, obviously, and they don’t have much time for our opinions,” he said. “And that leaves us without influence.”

WATCH | The toll of conflict on civilians in Gaza 

Hundreds of thousands displaced in Gaza as humanitarian supplies dwindle, UN says

Featured VideoFears of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza are growing as the United Nations says 340,000 people have been displaced by Israeli airstrikes and supplies, including food, clean water and medical supplies, are being cut off by an Israeli blockade.


Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at

    With files from Catherine Cullen and Emma Godmere


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