Could Canada's decision to stop arming Israel create a domino effect?

Politicians and lawyers in countries allied to Israel have been putting increasing pressure on governments to stop arms exports

More than 31,900 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

Israel should fear that Canada's decision to stop arming its ally over its devastating war in Gaza could open the door for others to take similar measures if the assault continues, experts have said.

The decision was taken after a back-and-forth parliamentary session that stretched into the late hours of Monday night, with the Liberal government making several amendments to a motion led by the New Democratic Party that called for tougher action on the Israel war in the Palestinian Strip.

It also came amid a stream of reports that US President Joe Biden is growing increasingly concerned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not listening to American requests to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and limit the war's toll on civilians.

About 32,000 people have been killed by Israeli fire in the coastal territory since the war began on October 7, after Hamas militants invaded southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and kidnapping more than 240. The war has pushed hundreds of thousands of Gazans to the brink of famine.

The decision has little tactical impact on Israel. However, there is a great deal more concern about the damage to its reputation.

Chuck Freilich, a researcher at the Israeli think tank Institute for National Security Studies, believes Canada's decision could encourage other nations to take similar measures.

“It’s a symbolic move," the former deputy National Security Advisor told The National. “Internationally, Canada holds particular sway on the moral level... So if Canada stops exports, it becomes easier for others to do the same."

Canada is a minor supplier of arms to Israel. Last week, it said it had paused non-lethal military exports since January because of the rapidly evolving situation on the ground. The country has not sent lethal aid to Israel since the war started after October 7, a senior government source told The National.

“Israel should fear that Canada's decision could create a domino effect and push other friendly countries to follow suit,” a Palestinian veteran politician told The National.

“There are already signs that other friendly countries are changing their policies and considering delaying or embargoing weapons to Israel, including Britain.”

“The problem with the resolution is that it is an expression of the difficult situation that Israel is experiencing, and essentially shows how the world, which stood by Israel after October 7, could quickly forget,” added the politician.

The US remains Israel’s biggest arms supplier, accounting for almost 70 per cent of its weapons imports between 2013 and 2022. Restricting military aid is, therefore, perhaps the greatest leverage Mr Biden has over Mr Netanyahu.

During an interview with MSNBC last week, Mr Biden said he would never “cut off all weapons so that [Israel does not] have the Iron Dome [missile defence system] to protect them”.

The President's specific reference to Iron Dome led some commentators to speculate whether the US might nonetheless consider limiting offensive weapons.

Politicians and lawyers in countries allied to Israel have been putting increasing pressure on governments to stop arms exports in recent months.

A Dutch court ruled in February that the Netherlands must stop deliveries of parts for F-35 fighter jets. The same month, reports emerged that the British government, will consider stopping arms export licenses if Israel launched an offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Israeli officials have criticised Canada's decision. Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X that the decision “undermines Israel's right to self-defense against Hamas terrorists” and that “history will judge Canada's current action harshly.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid wrote on X that the move is "wrong, harmful and dangerous".

"Israel is waging a war against an extreme and cruel terrorist organisation and the Canadians simply do not understand what is really happening here," he added.

"This does not change the fact that we are witnessing the collapse of Israel's foreign relations because of an evil and negligent government that manages them terribly."

Updated: March 21, 2024, 12:55 PM