Reuters reported on Friday that Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper prevented the G8 from calling for Israel’s retreat to the 1967 borders in a communiqué. The group of eight leading industrialized countries was meeting in Deauville, France.
All the other seven countries—including the United States—favored calling for the Israeli withdrawal. But “the Canadians,” a European official told Reuters, “were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week.”
Instead, the communiqué said:
Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict.
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.
The G8, then, appears to be implicitly opposing the Palestinian plans for a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN in September—without explicitly demanding that Israel commit territorial suicide.
Israel’s Haaretz further reported on Sunday that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself had called Harper last week to request that he keep the 1967 borders out of the G8’s statement—and that Netanyahu had done so after his speech to Congress on Tuesday.
Netanyahu’s appeal to Harper was, of course, no accident. The Conservative prime minister, reelected with a solid majority earlier this month, is a staunch supporter of Israel who stated 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.
Reuters also reports that “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 United Nations Security Council.”
Notable here is that the other G8 countries—the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and Japan—were all prepared to stipulate Israel’s return to the “Auschwitz borders” even despite the Israeli prime minister’s fervent, publicly expressed opposition to it both after his meeting with Obama on May 19 and in his speech to Congress last week. By returning to those lines, Israel—situated in the heart of the Middle East and surrounded by Muslim-Arab countries—would shrink from its current width of 45 miles to 9-15 miles.
Here are the (maximum) widths in miles of those seven G8 countries (minus Canada):
United States 3300
Also notable—and lamentable—is the rarity of a national leader taking such a principled stand on Israel as Harper has.
The administration of George W. Bush, for instance, was—like Harper—on the conservative side of the fence and considered strongly pro-Israel. Yet it frequently hectored Israel about building plans for Jews in Jerusalem. Along with Russia, the UN, and the EU—and without inviting Israel to the gathering—it produced the 2003 “road map for peace,” which laid out a path to a Palestinian state even as Palestinian suicide bombers were besieging Israeli cities. In 2001 Bush’s policy led then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to declare angrily that Israel would not be “sacrificed” like Czechoslovakia before World War II.
Israelis are well aware that, as Harper put it, their “very existence is under attack” and yet that they are “consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation.” They are also aware that other democracies—sometimes even including the one that is their major ally—are often willing to throw Israel to the wolves of their own perceived interests. In such a world Stephen Harper stands out like a beacon.