New Colombian president: Palestine recognition 'irreversible'
Colombia's outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos, center, welcoming newly sworn-in President Ivan Duque at the presidential palace, after his inauguration ceremony in Bogota, Colombia, August 7, 2018. (Colombia's presidential press office/ via AP)
Colombiaâs new president, Ivan Duque, on Monday said that he will not reverse his predecessorâs surprising decision last month to recognize a Palestinian state.
âDamage was done by the fact that there was not more institutional discussion. [Former] president [Juan Manuel] Santos told me that he had made that decision, but it is irreversible,â Duque told a local radio station.
âWe would have benefited from more analyses [about the pros and cons of recognizing Palestine], but we should be part of the solution, not the problem,â Duque said.
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Any government governs until it is replaced by its successor administration, and therefore Santosâs decision cannot be disputed and will stand, he said.
While the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem declined to comment on Duqueâs statement, Deputy Minister Michael Oren said the Colombian presidentâs decision not to annul his predecessorâs lame-duck recognition of Palestine was âdamagingâ to Jerusalemâs longstanding friendship with Bogota.
âEven worse â" the decision directly harms the peace process by giving the Palestinians free of charge what they could have received in exchange for concessions in future negotiations. So now, why should the Palestinians want to negotiate at all?â he said in a statement.Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel)
âPerhaps the Colombians feel they are obligated to help the Palestinians,â Oren went on, âbut in fact they are misleading them in the belief that they can achieve a Palestinian state without recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.â
Colombia â" Israelâs closest ally in South America â" until last month was the only country on the continent that refused to recognize a Palestinian state.
Earlier this year, candidate Duque openly mulled moving his countryâs embassy to Jerusalem and vowed to further improve already close ties between Bogota and Jerusalem.
But just one day after Duqueâs August 7 inauguration, news emerged that the outgoing Santos administration had quietly recognized a Palestinian state.
A few days earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced his plan to attend the new presidentâs inauguration in Bogota, but less than a week later, on August 2, he canceled the trip, citing the volatile security situation in Israelâs south.Colombiaâs new president, Ivan Duque, gestures after receiving the presidential sash during his inauguration ceremony at Bolivar Square in Bogota, on August 7, 2018. (AFP Photo/Raul Arboleda)
On August 3, Colombiaâs outgoing foreign minister, MarÃa Ãngela HolguÃn, sent a letter to Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, informing him that her boss had âdecided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state.â
The outgoing government had informed the new one of its plans, but both kept them from the public until after Duqueâs inauguration.
Jerusalem was surprised by the recognition, but the Israeli embassy immediately issued an angry statement saying it was âdeeply disappointed,â not only by the fact that the government recognized Palestine, but also âby the way it was done.â
It was no way to treat a close ally, the embassy statement fumed, demanding that Colombiaâs new government reverse the decision.
The incoming vice president and foreign minister at the time said the Palestine recognition was done legally, but that the new government would review the decision. In decid ing what to do next, it would take two aspects into consideration, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Wednesday: international law, and Colombiaâs foreign relations.
Israelâs ambassador in Bogota, Marco Sermoneta, met incoming Vice President Marta LucÃa RamÃrez, who listened to his complaints and promised to convey them to Duque. She also reiterated that Colombia values the âstrategic importanceâ of its ties with Israel.
For years, Colombia had been Israelâs most reliable friend in South America.
When 138 countries voted in favor of granting âPalestineâ observer state status at the UN General Assembly in 2012, Colombia abstained, as it did when 128 countries voted to condemn the US administrationâs recognition of Jerusalem as Israelâs capital last year.
As a thank you for the longstanding support, Netanyahu last September became the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country.
âUnder your leadership in recent years itâs been a remarkable alliance [between Israel and Colombia] of faith and values, faith in the future,â Netanyahu told Santos in Bogotaâs Narino presidential palace.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos shake hands during a ceremony to sign agreements at the Narino palace in Bogota, September 13, 2017. (AFP/Raul Arboleda) read more:
- Israel & the Region
- Israel-Colombia relations
- Palestinian statehood
- Ivan Duque
- Juan Manuel Santos
- Israeli diplomacy
- Palestine recognition
- Michael Oren