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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Harper sides with Netanyahu over Obama

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected U.S. President Barack Obama's vision for Israel-Palestinian peace talks to be based on Israel's borders that existed prior to the 1967 Six Day War.

Obama last week, in a speech on the Middle East, and in another address to the Israeli lobby group AIPAC on Sunday, called on the parties to base their negotiations on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps.

The G8 leaders meeting in Deauville, northern France, on Friday issued a communique setting out their support for Obama's vision for the Israel-Palestinian talks, but omitted a key section which stated the negotiations should be based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps.

On Saturday it was confirmed that Canada, at the insistence of Prime Minister Harper, had strongly objected to the 1967 borders wording and wanted it omitted from the statement. Reuters reported other leaders wanted the terminology in but Canada was insistent. The communique was then released without the wording.

Israel was overjoyed at the Canadian intervention which prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to telephone Stephen Harper to thank him for his support.

"Canada is a true friend of Israel," Lieberman told Harper, adding that "you understand that the 1967 lines are inconsistent with Israel's security needs."

Lieberman told local media in Israel the pair also discussed Hamas's reconciliation with Fatah and agreed that Canada would take a stand against Hamas being involved in any Palestinian government.

Mr. Lieberman issued an invitation to the Canadian prime minister to visit Israel.

According to Reuters, Canada's strong backing for Israel was cited by diplomats last year as one reason why Canada failed to win a rotating two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council.

At a speech against anti-semitism in November, Harper said he would defend Israel at all times, no matter what the cost. “As long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie, or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand whatever the cost," he said.

Mr. Harper made headlines at the G8 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, in 2006 when he refused to support a resolution calling on Israel to show restraint during what became known as the Lebanon War. Harpet at that summit issued his own resolution calling it a 'Canada resolution,' which was strongly supportive of Israel.

Harper's support for the Jewish state according to JTA has paid off. In national elections earlier this month his government won 167 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, although it obtained only 40% of the popular vote.

"Harper's strong and clear support for Israel apparently drew many Jewish voters away from their traditional Liberal base. In heavily Jewish districts, Israel emerged as a key election issue," JTA said.

"In two Toronto-area electoral districts, Jewish Conservative challengers played up the government's support for Israel and defeated longtime Liberal lawmakers," the JTA report added.

Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber told JTA that while Jewish voters may have have shifted away from the Liberals, "the Jewish community doesn't determine any election."

"The voting pattern in the community really mirrors the rest of Canada," Farber said.