TORONTO (JTA) — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has joined a growing list of politicians calling for the resignation of a senior member of Parliament who questioned Israel’s right to exist.
Harper said Libby Davies, deputy leader and house leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, should step aside following her comments at an anti-Israel rally earlier this month in Vancouver.
Asked in a video interview whether the "occupation of Israel" began in 1948 or 1967, Davies replied, " ’48 … It’s the longest occupation in the world."
In the House of Commons, Harper called Davies’ remark "a fundamental denial of Israel’s right to exist. It repeats the kinds of comments that were made by [veteran White House journalist] Helen Thomas on which she was forced to resign, and the member of the NDP who said that should be forced to resign as well."
Liberal Party foreign affairs critic Bob Rae also called on Davies to resign her leadership roles, calling her comment "an appalling statement for a member of Parliament to make."
On her website, a contrite Davies wrote that her comment "was a serious and completely inadvertent error; I apologize for this and regret any confusion it has caused.
"I have always supported a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have never questioned Israel’s right to exist and the Palestinian’s right to a viable state. I reject the allegation that I hate Israel, and I reject the assertion that I said that Israel is illegitimate or an abomination. Neither are true."
NDP leader Jack Layton said Davies’ views are "not party policy," and he showed no sign of stripping Davies from leadership positions — a move that B’nai Brith of Canada had sought.