Middle East experts suggest that Canada has compromised its credibility in the region

·Politics Reporter

It appears that, for the time being at least, the latest conflict between Israel and Palestine has come to an end.

On Wednesday, after a week of shelling resulting in hundreds deaths, both sides agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

But will the ceasefire last in a region where peace has always been considered tenuous, at best?

We asked two Canadian Middle East experts — former Canadian ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker and the Royal Military College's Houchang Hassan-Yari — that very question.

[ Related: Gaza ceasefire holds but mistrust runs deep ]

We also asked the two men about Canada's credibility in the region.

The Harper government has unabashedly committed their support for the Israelis. While they see this as a principled stance behind a democratic country struggling with multiple security threats, others argue that it undermines Canada's influence.

Here's what the experts had to say:

Y! Canada News: Will the ceasefire last?

Paul Heinbecker: I don't know the answer to that, I don't know that anybody does.

If the [Palestinians] think they have accomplished something then maybe that will bring a period of respite at least.

But you know there is no [long-term] peace in this issue until there is a resolution of Palestinian-Israeli two state issue. The Israelis fear for the security and the Palestinians see there territory that's supposed to be there's taken away bit by bit.

Houchang Hassan-Yari: I think it will last for a number of reasons.

It seems that both the Palestinians and the Israelis didn't have any other choice but to agree to the ceasefire.

The other point is that there's a lot of pressure coming from the people from the inside. From the Israelis who aren't used to this type of conflict. And many Palestinians are asking questions about why they should face a high price because of decisions made by some of their leaders.

The third reason is, I believe, the pictures that we saw on TV of the Palestine babies who were killed. [That] made it impossible for Obama, Morsi and others to not to be more pro-active.

The good news, in my view, is that the ceasefire is going to last.

Y! Canada News: Does the Canadian government's pro-Israel stance undermine the country's ability to contribute to a peace-plan for the Middle East?

Paul Heinbecker: Undoubtedly. There's no doubt about it.

Did you hear of any phone calls [from the Middle East]? Was anybody on the phone to our prime minister?

We have always been seen in the Middle East as pretty pro-Israeli.

But there was always an intent, and to my mind a general successful [intent], to be fair minded and to see that the Palestinians also had points. That they weren't totally wrong and the Israelis were totally right. Unfortunately, that capacity to see the larger picture seems to be in short supply in Ottawa these days.

In the various statements that have been made has all been Palestinians are terrorists the Israelis have the right to defend themselves and that's the sum and the total of the story. There's very little contextualization. There's very little recognition of the disproportionate harm being done to the people of Gaza.

Frankly it's a very one-sided policy and when you follow very one sided one policies you're not in a position to be a broker. Even the Americans were talking about restraint and about the harm being done to innocent civilians on both sides.

[ Related: Canada's political parties react to Israel, Hamas attacks ]

Fundamentally I don't the world is beating a path to our door to participate in a solution to this problem.

Houchang Hassan-Yari: The Canadians are really lost in the region. It did not start with Prime Minister Harper but his policies and his actions are going further than any other prime minister. Even Mulroney didn't do it this way.

He is very very pro-Israeli. He's conscious about that and the damage that he's done to Canadian foreign policy and policy in the region. Because [they're] identified very clearly as a pro-Israeli country.

In that sense, it's obviously disturbing really. Because it undermines our national interests in the region.

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