Trudeau Reiterates Call for ‘Maximum Restraint’ From Israel

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is continuing to urge Israel to exercise “maximum restraint” to limit civilian deaths in Gaza, even after his earlier remarks prompted a rebuke from Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Trudeau called on Israel this week to do all it could to avoid civilian casualties, saying “the world is watching” as women, babies and children die. Netanyahu responded in a social-media post that it is Hamas, not Israel, “that should be held accountable for committing a double war crime — targeting civilians while hiding behind civilians.”

After Netanyahu’s reproach, the Canadian leader spoke with Benny Gantz, an Israeli opposition leader and a member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet. Asked Friday if he used the same language in that call, Trudeau said he was consistent in all his conversations.

“Canada is extremely concerned about the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, both because the loss of life is heartbreaking to see, but also because the pathway towards a secure, viable, independent Jewish state alongside a secure, viable, independent Palestinian state is getting more difficult with all the hardship that Palestinians are undergoing,” Trudeau told reporters in San Francisco.

“Even as we absolutely must see releasing of hostages and condemnation and justice for the Hamas terrorists, we need to also be moving towards peace and stability in the region.”

When a reporter pointed out he didn’t use the expression “maximum restraint” in his answer, Trudeau replied simply: “Maximum restraint.”

The prime minister’s comments, made on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, will do little to ease tensions with Netanyahu. The Israeli leader said in his social-media post that while his country is “doing everything to keep civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way.”

Trudeau also said he has had “long disagreements” with Netanyahu on the necessity of a two-state solution and on condemning Israeli settlements in occupied territories. “That’s well-established Canadian policy that goes back years even as we continue to stand in support of the people of Israel.”

Hamas militants stormed into Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking hostages to Gaza. Authorities in Hamas-run Gaza say the death toll there since the war erupted has reached 12,000.

The conflict has sparked protests as well as what Trudeau described as a “terrifying” rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks in Canada. On Friday, pro-Palestinian protesters convened at Bank of Nova Scotia headquarters in Toronto, shutting down the lobby as a crowd of police officers and security guards prevented anyone from getting in.

The bank, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, has faced criticism in the past for a large stake its asset management firm holds in the publicly traded Elbit Systems Ltd. The Israeli defense contractor has been accused of manufacturing cluster munitions, which can kill or maim civilians during a conflict or long after it has ended.

Scotiabank’s 1832 Asset Management holds more than 5% of Elbit’s shares and valued the stake at $443 million in a recent regulatory filing. The bank told Bloomberg last year that its asset management arm “does not knowingly invest in companies that directly manufacture cluster munitions” and said it had confirmed with a third-party investment research firm that Elbit doesn’t do so.

Before he traveled to San Francisco, Trudeau himself was forced to leave a Vancouver restaurant after protesters calling for a ceasefire surrounded the eatery, prompting 100 officers to respond.

--With assistance from Christine Dobby and Stephanie Hughes.

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