Ignatieff, Liberals must wait as Israel trip postponed
The Jewish group that had invited Michael Ignatieff and other Liberal leadership hopefuls on a trip to Israel has pushed back the visit until after the party picks a new chief.
The Canada-Israel Committee said a planned all-party parliamentary delegation will take place over the Christmas holidays, after the Liberal leadership convention and when Parliament is in recess.
"The CIC believes that trips for parliamentarians serve a very valuable function in educating them about the challenges facing Israel," the committee said in a statement late Tuesday.
"However, it serves no one's purpose to undertake such an initiative in so highly a charged political environment. Therefore, the CIC has decided to postpone this trip."
Ignatieff, who is the front-runner in the leadership race, had accepted the invitation, hoping to make amends after a controversial comment he made earlier in October.
The remark about a deadly Israeli air strike in Qana, Lebanon, during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah last summeroffended a number of Jewish organizations and cost him his Toronto campaign co-chair, Susan Kadis.
"I was a professor of human rights and I am also a professor of the laws of war, and what happened in Qana was a war crime and I should have said that," he said in an interview that aired Oct. 8 in Tout le monde en parle, a program on the CBC's French-language network.
Ignatieff later said it was up to international organizations to decide whether a war crime had occurred — but the damage had been done.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper seized on the comment, saying it was "consistent with the anti-Israeli position that has been taken by virtually all of the candidates for the Liberal leadership."
Ignatieff labelled Harper's accusation a "disgrace," while other leadership contenders also condemned the prime minister.
Ironically, Ignatieff made the comment while trying to clear up previous controversial remarks he had made about the air strike that killed 28 civilians, many of them children. In August, Ignatieff told the Toronto Star that civilian deaths in Lebanon were inevitable in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
"This is the kind of dirty war you're in when you have to do this and I'm not losing sleep about that," he said.
The Liberal leadership race will decided by a Dec. 2 convention vote in Montreal.
With files from the Canadian Press