Times have changed

Back in 1979, then Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark unexpectedly announced that Canada would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The decision, which in effect recognized the disputed city as Israel’s capital, sparked a furor in the Arab world—and a quiet warning from Ottawa to Canada’s diplomatic community living overseas not to display their nationality outwardly.
Mr. Clark quickly backtracked and the potential crisis passed, but the incident clearly illustrated the dangers of choosing sides, whether explicitly or implicitly, in the political quagmire known as the Middle East.
Now, more than a quarter-century later, another Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, seems to be taking Canada down a similar path after supporting Israel’s response to the kidnapping of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah last week that touched off this latest Mideast crisis.
Critics argue the move cripples Canada’s long position as an “honest broker” in that region and again puts our citizens at risk of reprisals. What is different this time, though, is that our country no longer is sitting on the sidelines as a neutral party. Canadians were killed in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001—and Canadian soldiers now are dying in Afghanistan trying to stamp out Islamic extremists bent on destroying our way of life in the Western world.
And the recent arrest of 17 young men in southern Ontario underscores the very real threat of a terrorist attack on our own soil.
Canada certainly is in no position to go charging off to help defend Israel, nor should we brush aside any role we can play to help bring both sides together to ensure the current conflict doesn’t escalate into a wider war.
But we also cannot ignore our vested interest to stand up against terrorism no matter where it may occur.

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