Israel thanks Canada for pro-Israel stance at G8

FM tells Canadian counterpart John Baird "Canada is a true friend of Israel"; Canada objected to wording of G8 call for renewed negotiations.

By
May 28, 2011 02:20
4 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu and Stephen Harper

Binyamin Netanyahu and Stephen Harper 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman phoned Canada’s new Foreign Minister John Baird over the weekend to thank him for Ottawa’s position at the Group of Eight meeting in France that led to the softening of a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the elimination of a reference to the 1967 lines.

Canada was a “true friend of Israel,” and through a correct reading of the situation understand that the 1967 lines were incompatible with both defensible borders for Israel and demographic realities, Lieberman said.

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had insisted that no mention of the 1967 lines be made in the leaders’ final communiqué, even though most of the other leaders wanted a mention, diplomats said on Friday.

Meanwhile, an Arab League committee decided at a meeting in Doha, Qatar on Saturday to seek full UN membership for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with east Jerusalem as its capital, it said in a statement.

The Arab League’s peace process follow-up committee said it would request membership for the state of Palestine at the UN General Assembly’s meeting in New York in September.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Harper by phone from Washington last week, Israeli officials said. Netanyahu had originally hoped to stop in Canada on his way back from the US, but was unable to do so because of scheduling conflicts.

“The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week,” one European diplomat said of Harper’s position.

In the final communiqué, the leaders called for the immediate resumption of peace talks, but did not mention the 1967 lines.

“Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict,” the communiqué said. “The framework for these negotiations is well known. We urge both parties to return to substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final-status issues. To that effect, we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011.”

In speeches last week, Barack Obama said the June 4, 1967 lines should be a basis of talks to achieve a negotiated settlement, but acknowledged that any agreement would ultimately involve land swaps that would be able to take into account the “new demographic realities on the ground.”

Canada’s strong backing for Israel was cited by diplomats last year as one reason why Ottawa failed to win a rotating two-year seat on the UN Security Council.

Harper has made his position on Israel very clear, saying last year: “When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.”

In elections on May 2, the Tories, under Harper, won its first majority government since 1988.

Harper, according to Toronto’s The Globe and Mail newspaper, said after the G8 meeting that the 1967 lines were only part of the position Obama laid out in his May 19 Middle East speech, and that he couldn’t accept the inclusion of the 1967 lines in the communiqué without referring as well to Obama’s call for the Palestinians to take steps toward peace.

“You can’t cherry pick elements of that speech,” the paper quoted Harper as saying.

“I think if you’re going to get into other elements, obviously I would like to see reference to elements that were also in President Obama’s speech. Such as, for instance, the fact that one of the states must be a Jewish state. The fact that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized.”

In Doha, the head of the Arab League reiterated on Saturday that the Palestinians should seek UN recognition of statehood in September because negotiations with Israel had proven futile.

“The sound path is going to the United Nations and political struggle,” Amr Moussa told Reuters.

He was speaking as Arab League member states met on Saturday night to discuss Palestinian options in the wake of major policy speeches by Obama and Netanyahu.

Moussa said a vision presented by Netanyahu in an address to the US Congress on Tuesday had amounted to a series of “no’s.”

“I believe that negotiations have become futile in light of all of these no’s. What will you negotiate on?” Moussa asked, referring to the Netanyahu speech, which the Palestinians said put more obstacles in the path of the moribund peace process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was in Doha for the meeting of the Arab League’s peace process committee, reiterated last week he would seek UN recognition for Palestinian statehood if there was no breakthrough in the peace process by September.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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