WJC hails Colombia over opposition to Palestinian statehood

Israel wins rare victory in Latin America with Colombian President Calderon announcement at World Jewish Congress meeting in Bogota.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
March 31, 2011 09:50
1 minute read.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón

colombia president calderon 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The World Jewish Congress on Wednesday lauded Colombia’s decision not to recognize a Palestinian state, saying it showed courage in the face of pressure from neighboring countries.

“We value your friendship and courage for Israel and the Jewish people,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said. “We also appreciate that you have withstood pressure from fellow Latin American leaders to prematurely recognize a Palestinian state.”

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón’s announcement to a delegation of the WJC that he would not recognize Palestinian statehood as a “matter of principle” was a rare victory for Israel after a series of diplomatic defeats to the Palestinians in Latin America.

In the past half-year, a string of Latin American countries, mostly with left-leaning governments, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Guyana, have recognized Palestinian statehood. Chile, which has a right-leaning government, has also recognized Palestinian statehood with caveats.

The announcement in Bogota represents an unusual diplomatic victory for Israel in a region where the Middle Eastern conflict is often seen through the prism of local politics, with right-wing politicians siding with Israel – often perceived as an extension of the US – and left-wing politicians supporting the Palestinians.

The right-leaning government of Colombia is considered to be a staunch supporter of the US in the region and has close ties with Israel. Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins thanked Bogota for fighting the growing influence of Iran, which is a close friend of Colombia’s neighbor and occasional rival Venezuela.

“In Colombia, you know what horrible suffering terrorism inflicts on people,” Terpins said. “After the two deadly bomb attacks against the AMIA Center and the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in the 1990s that were orchestrated by Iran, we Jews know that extremists must be vigorously opposed. We hope that a consensus can be reached among political leaders here that currently, Tehran cannot be a partner for closer political or economic cooperation in any shape or form.”

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