Whaddaya mean, anti-Israel?

10.13.06

Liberal leadership candidates are falling all over each other to deny Harper’s accusation that they’re anti-Israel:

Bob Rae, Ignatieff’s chief rival, likened Harper’s comment to being accused of a hate crime, while Gerard Kennedy said Harper had surrendered his ability to act as prime minister for partisan purposes.

“I think that the prime minister’s comments were shameful,” Rae said. “This goes beyond the usual give-and-take of partisan life. It’s an appalling statement.”

He noted his own wife and children are Jewish and he’s travelled often to the Middle East.

Yesterday, Ignatieff insisted he remains a supporter of Israel.

“It is disgraceful that the prime minister is playing crass politics with the issue of the Middle East,” he said.

“The Liberal Party has always been a friend of Israel, and I will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel and the Canadian Jewish community to defend

Israel’s right to respond when it is attacked by terrorists or when its neighbours wrongfully deny its right to exist.”

Kennedy echoed the concerns. “I think he (Harper) has given up his sworn responsibilities as prime minister to play for partisan advantage, and I think it is highly unfortunate,” he said.

Kennedy described himself as “resolutely a friend of Israel” but also “a friend of Lebanon.”

Stephane Dion said: “I feel insulted by my prime minister.”

Sure, the Libs are seeing this as a way to try to attack Harper. But personally, I find it refreshing that, regardless of their actual individual positions, all the Liberal candidates seem to feel that it’s politically expedient to come across as being supporters of Israel. In a time when being anti-Israel is more and more “in”, it’s nice to see that the potential next leaders of our country still recognize that it’s “out”. In other words, it’s a relief to see that being perceived as being “anti-Israel” in this country is still bad PR.

Even as they attack Harper for being too pro-Israel and try to spin this into a political point for the Liberals, the leadership candidates seem to understand that they have to prove – or at least claim – to be friends of Israel in order to win the race. Cynical as this may be, it could be a lot worse; they could be trying to prove that they’re the most anti-Israel. (Of course, we’re talking about the Liberals here, not the NDP…)

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