Palestinians hold pictures of Prime Minister Stephen Harper superimposed with a face of a dog during a protest in Ramallah, Wednesday.
Canada set to vote against UN recognition of Palestinian statehood
A bid for United Nations recognition of a state of Palestine is a last-ditch attempt to rescue troubled Mideast peace efforts, a Palestinian spokeswoman said Wednesday, rejecting Israel’s charge that it is an attempt to bypass negotiations.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, urged the U.S. to drop its opposition to the bid, dismissing Washington’s stance as “pathetic” and harmful to American interests in the region. The Palestinians have come under intense pressure from the U.S., Britain and others to modify the bid but “have not succumbed,” she said.
On Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but still controls most access.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Wednesday that Canada will oppose the bid for statehood.
“The Canadian position is very clear. We favour a two-state solution in this region,” Harper said in Ottawa.
“That will not be accomplished in reality unless and until the Palestinian Authority returns to the negotiating table and is able to get a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel.
“We encourage them to do that. We will not support any other shortcuts or any other ways of trying to arrive at that solution without such a peace agreement,” the prime minister said during a news conference with Mexican president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.
That was echoed in the Commons by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who warned the Palestinian push for statehood would undermine its relations with Canada.
“We are tremendously disappointed with the Palestinian Authority for the action it is taking. It is obvious that this will affect our relationship,” Baird said.
“This government makes no apologies for standing with the Jewish state,” said Baird, who will be at the UN on Thursday to cast Canada’s vote on the issue. “We encourage both parties to get back to the negotiating table and establish a long and lasting peace.”
But NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) accused the Conservatives of taking an unbalanced approach to the Middle East.
“How is the government’s threatening approach helping to encourage moderates who want to pursue the path of politics rather than the path of violence?” Dewar said.
“Cutting off diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority will undermine the cause of peace and cutting off aid will undermine security.”
The Palestinians expect some two-thirds of the General Assembly’s 193 members will accept Palestine as a non-member observer state.
The vote will not change the situation on the ground, yet the Palestinians still say it is significant.
Abbas has said UN recognition is not meant to replace negotiations with Israel, but to improve Palestinian leverage and secure the pre-1967 war frontiers as the baseline for future border talks — an idea Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected.
This does not mean the UN vote will pave the way for a quick resumption of talks, which broke down four years ago.
Abbas has said he will not negotiate as long as Israel keeps expanding settlements on war-won land. Half a million Israelis now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, blurring the 1967 lines.