The Canadian prime minister has called for a senior politician to step down after she questioned Israel’s right to exist.
Stephen Harper joined other Canadian figures in demanding the resignation of Libby Davies from her position as the deputy leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) following comments at an anti-Israel rally.
Ms Davies was asked in a video interview whether “the occupation in Israel started in '48 or '67”.
Laughing, she replied: “1948, the year Israel became a State.
“It’s the longest occupation in the world.”
Ms Davies, a Vancouver MP since 1997, indicated support for boycotts of Israel and also compared the experience of critics of Canadian Israel to that of suspected communists during the McCarthy trials of 1950s America.
Mr Harper criticised her for trying to hide “the truth” and called on the leader of the NDP to “get up and unequivocally distance himself from the comments”.
He said: “This is a fundamental denial of Israel's right to exist.
He also compared Ms Davies to Helen Thomas, the White House journalist who said “all Jews should get the hell out of Palestine”.
Mr Harper said that as in that case, Ms Davies “should be forced to resign as well.”
Another Canadian politician, Liberal MP Bob Rae said: “Someone who would say such a thing and who would mouth these words should not have a serious political office in a major political party.”
Writing on her website, Ms Davies apologised for what she called a “completely inadvertent error”.
She added: “I reject the allegation that I hate Israel, and I reject the assertion that I said that Israel is illegitimate or an abomination.”
The NDP leader said it would not be “party policy” for Ms Davies to resign.