Disputes among G7 nations may prevent consensus on a path to peace in Gaza: experts

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, pauses during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Reuters - image credit)
U.S. President Joe Biden, left, pauses during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Reuters - image credit)

When U.S. President Joe Biden announced a new proposal for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza last week, it took only a few days for the G7 to endorse the plan in a joint statement.

But experts say other disagreements among G7 member countries over the past nine months may mean the world's leading economies fail to reach a consensus on a long-term path to peace when they meet in Italy next week.

The G7 nations — Canada, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, with the European Union also taking part — issued a statement Monday saying they "fully endorse and will stand behind the comprehensive peace deal outlined by President Biden that would lead to an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all hostages, a significant and sustained increase in humanitarian assistance for distribution throughout Gaza, and an enduring end to the crisis."

The statement also repeated the G7's commitment to an eventual two-state solution and called on Hamas to accept the deal.

That ceasefire proposal would see Israeli forces withdraw from populated areas of Gaza, release hundreds of Palestinians from captivity, allow Palestinian families to return to their homes and ramp up food aid delivery to 600 trucks per day.

The ceasefire would last six weeks and would also require Hamas to release all Israeli hostages.

The G7 is less than completely unified on other matters concerning the conflict.

On May 20, the International Criminal Court's top prosecutor Karim Khan announced he was seeking warrants for the leaders of Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

WATCH: ICC prosecutor says no one is 'above the law' 

Biden's reaction was immediate. In a media statement, the White House called attempts to prosecute Israel's leaders "outrageous" and said "there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas."

France, meanwhile, declared it "supports the International Criminal Court, its independence and the fight against impunity in all situations," while French Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Séjourné said the simultaneous warrant requests should not suggest an "equivalency" between Israel and Hamas.

Canada has said it supports the ICC's work. When asked if the government would arrest Netanyahu under an ICC warrant if he visited Canada, however, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the scenario was "hypothetical" and refused to answer.

John Kirton, the director of the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto, said it's unlikely that G7 leaders will come to a consensus on the details of a post-war future at their June 13-15 summit.

"I think they know they can't," he said. "I think what they'll want to spend their scarce time in Apulia on is how can you convince Hamas to drop its ... reservations [on Biden's proposal]."

Domestic, European divisions also at play

Kirton also said domestic political considerations will be a factor for some leaders at the G7 — such as Biden, who is seeking reelection against Donald Trump later this year, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is looking to hold on to the Liberal stronghold of Toronto-St. Paul's in a byelection on June 24.

"All of the [G7] leaders are quite unpopular domestically," he said. "We Canadians, I guess in downtown Toronto, think of the need for the Liberal Party to get the full support of all citizens of the Jewish faith group living in the riding of Saint Paul's."

Max Bergmann, director for Europe, Russia and Eurasia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told journalists in a June 3 briefing he doesn't expect the Middle East conflict to feature prominently on the summit's agenda.

"The Europeans themselves do not have a united position on their approach to the conflict," Bergmann said.

"There are countries like Germany, for instance, that very much has been a long supporter of Israel. And then there are other countries like Spain that have recognized a Palestinian state."

Spain does not have its own membership in the G7 but would be represented at the summit through the EU. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has warned that Israel is headed toward international isolation.

One expert, however, pointed to the harsher tone Biden used regarding Netanyahu in a recent Time Magazine interview conducted before the ceasefire proposal but published days after its announcement.

"There could very well be, ironically, a greater unanimity among the G7 on what needs to happen now," said Errol Mendes, professor of international law at the University of Ottawa. "The next few days ... are going to be crucial for that to either solidify or not."

When Biden was asked during that interview if he thought Netanyahu was prolonging the war in Gaza for his own political reasons, he said "there is every reason for people to draw that conclusion."

The G7's official website notes "a key focus" of the upcoming summit "will be the defence of the rules-based international system. Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine has undermined its principles and triggered growing instability, with multiple crises unfolding worldwide. The G7 will give equal importance to the conflict in the Middle East, with its consequences for the global agenda."

Speaking on background to journalists on Friday, a Canadian government official said Prime Minister Trudeau will participate in a working session on the Middle East during the G7 summit.

The official would not say what Canada hopes the meeting will achieve. "I'm not going to speculate about what the leaders will agree on while in Italy," he said.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

On Thursday, Joly posted on the social media platform X that she had spoken with her Jordanian and Saudi counterparts about Gaza, the "urgent need for a ceasefire" and humanitarian assistance, and the need for the release of Israeli hostages.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a whirlwind trip to the Middle East with stops in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Qatar in the days leading up to the G7 summit. He's expected to discuss the ceasefire proposal.