Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a very principled stand on Israel and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians at the 2011 G-8 conference in France this week, a stand which should make Canadians proud because Canada alone among the G-8 nations supported a key Western ally and refused to be bamboozled and bullied into agreeing to an untenable and unsupportable United States position on peace talks between the two. Untenable and unsupportable to anyone who is committed to Israel’s survival and interested in real peace in the Middle East that is.
Harper made it very clear that Canada supported a return to the negotiating table by the two parties and also made it clear that a return to 1967 lines should not be a starting point for the negotiations. This was in direct contravention to President Obama’s position that the 1967 lines should be the starting point for negotiations as expressed in a speech he gave last week and a clear endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of Obama’s position on national security grounds in a follow-up response. Obama and the Americans pushed very hard to get the G-8 to endorse his position but failed in their efforts. The final communique of the conference endorsed a re-opening of negotiations but there was no mention at all about the 1967 lines as a result of Harper’s insistence that it be kept out…the G-8 would have included it but it didn’t appear because of Harper and only because of Harper.
The Canadian Prime Minister exhibited a great deal of political courage by standing up to Obama’s nonsensical, politically expedient position and should be congratulated for doing so. Among other things, the final communique was a stinging rejection of an American position that was clearly ill-conceived, not grounded in reality, had no chance of success and was an obvious impediment to peace. It was also a firm rejection of the Palestinian’s attempt to avoid peace talks altogether by seeking a United Nations resolution endorsing statehood for themselves, an attempt which no Western government wants them to make.
Kudos for Harper and Kudos for Canada. Despite the short term political price that may be paid it was the right thing to do, practically, morally and ethically and marginally enhanced the prospects of Palestinians coming to their senses, putting their affairs in order and becoming a true ‘partner for peace’. President Obama’s position would have done none of that and would in fact have had the opposite effect.