At the outset of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Harper defended publicly Israel's "right to defend itself," and described the invasion of Lebanon as a "measured" response, feeling that Hezbollah and Hamas's release of Israeli prisoners would be the key to ending the conflict. Many Arab-Canadians criticized Harper's description of the response as "measured". On July 17, 2006, Harper noted that the situation had deteriorated since his initial comments, but that it was difficult for Israel to fight "non-governmental forces" embedded in the civilian population. Harper reiterated his earlier support for Israel and called on both sides to show restraint and minimize civilian casualties.
The Canadian government made arrangements to evacuate about 30,000 Canadians, mainly of Lebanese descent, from Lebanon after hostilities broke out. The response was criticized as slow and inefficient. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay had defended the response mentioning that the capacity of the ships were limited.
On July 17, a group of protesters, primarily expatriate Lebanese, protested Israeli aggression in front of the Israeli consulate in Montreal; further protests took place July 22 in localities across Canada.
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Despite criticisms, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay joined Harper in reiterating support for Israel's position and urging restraint while calling for a ceasefire. Speaking of the situation in both Lebanon and Gaza on July 18, Harper told reporters, "We all want to encourage not just a ceasefire, but a resolution. And a resolution will only be achieved when everyone gets to the table and everyone admits... recognition of each other," referring to the refusal of Hezbollah and Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. Harper laid the blame for the civilian deaths on both sides at the feet of Hezbollah. "Hezbollah's objective is violence," Harper asserted, "Hezbollah believes that through violence it can create, it can bring about the destruction of Israel. Violence will not bring about the destruction of Israel... and inevitably the result of the violence will be the deaths primarily of innocent people.".
In August 2006, Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro was scheduled for a National Council on Canada-Arab Relations-planned visit to Lebanon along with members of the Opposition parties. However, shortly before his departure, Del Mastro canceled his trip citing security reasons.
Read more about this topic: Foreign Policy Of The Harper Government
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