Harper, Netanyahu did not discuss 1967 borders: PMO
Published Sunday, May 29, 2011 8:46PM EDT
Canada appears to have prevented the G8 from endorsing U.S. President Barack Obama's plan for a Palestinian state based on Israel's 1967 borders, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office denies it was at the behest of the Israeli government.
A recent report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a senior Israeli official saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Harper two days before the Group of Eight leaders met. According to the report, Netanyahu argued that the border issue would be detrimental to Israeli interests and a reward to the Palestinians.
The summit wrapped on Friday with no mention of the so-called 1967 borders, and European diplomats told reporters then that the omission was because of objections from Canada.
Harper spokesperson Dimitri Soudas said Sunday there was no G8 discussion with Netanyahu.
"The prime minister's views are long-standing and well known on the Middle East process towards a two-state solution," Soudas told The Canadian Press. "It's important that any statement on the Middle East always have balanced references to the various positions and the G8 statement is a balanced statement."
The other G8 member nations, including the U.K., France and Russia, supported or appeared to support the 1967 plan heading into the summit, and according to CTV's Martin Seemungal, Israel has been open about its efforts to quash the idea.
"The government and the ministry are both saying they did in fact try to get the word out through their envoys in various G8 nations, Canada being one of them, that they had concerns about the use of this particular word: 1967," Seemungal told CTV News Channel Sunday morning from Jerusalem.
Israel occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem which, along with the Gaza Strip and other territory, it seized during the Six Day War in 1967. The territories have been a stumbling block in the Middle East peace process ever since. Obama recently said Israel should withdraw to its original borders, making room for a Palestinian state.
"It seemed heading towards the G8 that it was going to embrace the Obama line in its totality, but Canada made this point," said Seemnugal, noting that statements from the G8 must be consensual. "It just takes one nation to stand up and say 'I want it to be written this way.' If one country objects then that's what they must do."
Harper, a staunch supporter of Israel, has spoken out against Obama's plan but at the close of the summit would neither confirm nor deny that he had road-blocked the idea.
"President Obama emphasized that in a two-state solution, one of those states has to be a Jewish state and conceded to be a Jewish state, another is that the Palestinian state must be a demilitarized state," Harper said. "So I think these and other messages are important messages to deliver and I say I think if you look at the statement in its totality it was very balanced and it is certainly something that Canada can support."