As I?ve said before, after festering into increasing complexity for many generations, a solution for lasting peace in the Middle East will not be formulated quickly. And, despite their best intentions, a couple of Canadian MPs certainly won?t uncover the solution in one quick fact-finding mission to Lebanon.
While I?m sure Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj and NDP MP Peggy Nash had the best of intentions, I don?t think they understood the political minefield they were entering on their recent trip to Lebanon. Mr. Wrzesnewskyj has now been forced to back-peddle on his outrageous suggestion that Canada should remove Hezbollah from our list of terrorist groups and Ms. Nash from her suggestion that Lebanese politicians work with Hezbollah.
Perhaps Mr. Wrzesnewskyj and Ms. Nash, after witnessing the destruction and suffering of war spoke off-the-cuff having momentarily lost their impartiality and perspective. Yet, once the news of their suggestions reached Canadians, hopefully they fully realized their mistake.
Canada does NOT negotiate with terrorists. Period. Conservative MPs supported the decision by the former Liberal government to place Hezbollah on that terrorism list in 2002. Absolutely nothing has changed to prompt reconsideration of that decision.
Hezbollah remains a violent and dangerous terrorist organization that periodically shoots rockets at civilian targets inside Israel, among other violent acts. The founding charter of Hezbollah calls for the genocide of the Jewish people and the annihilation of Israel.
Debate continues throughout the world over the Israeli government?s actions in this conflict, and certainly our own government has strongly cautioned Israel to act with restraint. However, Israel has the right to defend itself and its citizens from terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
Arguments put forward by a number of opposition MPs that our Conservative government is risking Canada?s ?neutrality? by supporting Israel?s right to defend its citizens are meaningless. Neutrality is simply irrelevant when it concerns a violent terrorist group.
So what can Canada do to help the people of the Middle East? Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the creation of a $25-million Lebanon Relief Fund to provide for early recovery and stabilization needs in support of the United Nations Security Council Ceasefire Resolution 1701.
This two-year fund will provide practical help to those in need through reputable non-governmental organizations and is in addition to Canada?s previous allocation of $5.5-million to humanitarian efforts in Lebanon, including the transport by sea of humanitarian personnel and over 140 tonnes of relief items.
In addition, the Prime Minister has made peace the priority, not partisan politics, by appointing Liberal MP Wajid Khan as his special advisor on the Middle East. While we have Muslim MPs in our own caucus, Mr. Khan represents the larger Muslim community of Toronto.
While maintaining his commitment to his own party, he has already worked with the Prime Minister for months, helping him to differentiate between moderates and radicals in Canada?s Muslim leadership.
The Conservative government will continue to seek these kinds of opportunities to take an active role in working towards peace in the Middle East, but we will NEVER support negotiating with terrorists.