Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Take Netanyahu Rhetoric on Palestinians with 'Grain of Salt,' Envoy Says

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Take Netanyahu Rhetoric on Palestinians with 'Grain of Salt,' Envoy Says

Article excerpt

Take Netanyahu with 'grain of salt': envoy

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OTTAWA - The Israeli ambassador to Canada says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election statement that he opposes Palestinian statehood should be taken with a "grain of salt."

Envoy Rafael Barak told several dozen people gathered for a post-election discussion in Ottawa that Netanyahu's comment two days before Israelis went to the polls was likely not the true foreign policy of his government.

Netanyahu's comment sent ripples through Washington and European capitals and has implications for Canada, which endorses a two-state solution for the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Harper government took a wait-and-see attitude Wednesday on the foreign policy implications of the Israeli election rhetoric, although Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson tweeted warm congratulations to Netanyahu.

Based on what Barak had to say in Ottawa, it appeared that approach might have been the best one.

"Take all the statements that you give in an electoral period . . . also with a grain of salt I would say," the ambassador said in reply to a question about whether the two-state solution was still Israeli policy.

Barak suggested that observers pay attention to "what the prime minister will say the day he will present his government to the Knesset. This will be the real policy on that. Things will be more clear than a short statement that was picked up by one newspaper on Sunday evening."

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party won re-election in Israel's national ballot, although it will take some horse-trading to form a government with partners.

In the final hours of a campaign in which the polls had him fighting for his political life, Netanyahu announced that he opposed Palestinian statehood and vowed to continue the construction of settlements. …

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