Harper tells Israeli PM Canada doesn't support settlement plans
Published Thursday, December 6, 2012 1:16PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 6, 2012 1:54PM EST
Just days after Canada stood in solidarity with Israel to oppose a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he disapproves of a plan to build more settlements east of Jerusalem.
Canada’s opposition to an expansion set for the West Bank was expressed in a phone call between the two leaders, the Prime Minister’s Office told CTV News.
The move by Harper is a rare break from Canada’s staunch support for Israel on Mideast policy.
Canada was among a minority of countries in the UN’s General Assembly that did not support a bid to recognize Palestine’s symbolic statehood in New York last week. The vote officially elevated Palestine’s UN status to that of non-member observer.
The Prime Minister’s office told CTV that the settlement expansion will ultimately hinder efforts to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Harper also condemned Israel for taking unilateral action.
The expansion plan would see 3,000 more Jewish homes built in the West Bank and Jerusalem, though construction is likely years away. Israel is also working on two settlement projects in East Jerusalem.
Much of the international community – including some of Israel’s closest allies – has condemned the move, suggesting it could affect ongoing peace efforts in the region, which experienced its worst bout of fighting in years late last month.
Israel has showed no signs of bending on the issue, while the Palestinians have said they would leverage the new UN status to seek a Security Council resolution to halt any development.
The PMO did not immediately respond to questions of whether Canada’s stance extends to all settlements in East Jerusalem. There was also no mention from the PMO on Netanyahu’s reaction to Canada’s position on the matter of Israeli settlements.
Though the criticism appeared to be a softening of Canada’s categorical support for Israel, Canadians shouldn’t expect to see a drastic shift in policy stance on Israel.
Meanwhile, the Harper government on Dec. 4 promised to continue on with its humanitarian aid commitment to the Palestinians, after Foreign Affairs minister John Baird and International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino convened a meeting in Ottawa with envoys from Israel, the West Bank and UN missions in New York and Geneva.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press