Stand strong, Mr. Harper. We support you!
(Globe and Mail) — It was meant to be, as Barack Obama described it in London with his British counterpart beside him, another unified mission to storm the beaches of Normandy in the name of peace and democracy.
And the Western world’s leaders do plan to use the Deauville, France, G8 summit to present a united front on the conflicts and revolutions of the Middle East. But one of the rare sources of friction has turned out to be the renegade Middle East views of Stephen Harper.
Alone among G8 leaders, the Canadian Prime Minister refuses to embrace the U.S. President’s plan to begin peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of a return to Israel’s de facto borders as they existed before its 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries – a precondition, accepted by Arabs and by many previous Israeli leaders and Canadian governments, that would be necessary to get Palestinians back to the table.
Mr. Harper made his opposition to that position clear through a spokesperson shortly after Mr. Obama’s Middle East speech last week in a pre-G8 briefing, making him the lone leader in the G8 not to back the U.S. preconditions.
A unified statement on a negotiated path to a Palestinian state had been a key goal of the Deauville summit, in large part because such a statement might have pre-empted an attempt to pass a United Nations resolution that would declare a Palestinian state against Israel’s will.
There was some sense that Canada is putting an obstacle in the way of this goal. “Mr. Harper clearly is the odd man out on this one, and it won’t do him any favours,” a British official involved with the G8 conference said.
Indeed, the summit opened Wednesday after a day of meetings between Mr. Obama and Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in which the two leaders made a bold show of having brought together their positions on Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab revolutions.
Mr. Cameron has generally been much tougher in his criticisms of Israel and more hawkish in his support of Arab revolutions than his U.S. counterpart, but Mr. Obama said they had “turned a corner” and built a common front. Mr. Cameron, standing beside the U.S. President, called his speech “bold” and “visionary.”