The United States criticized Brazil, Argentina and several other Latin American countries for the recognition of a Palestine state saying that direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are still “the only way” to reach peace in the Middle East.
“We do not look favorably upon this line of conduct,” said Philip Crowley, spokesman for the US Department of State. “We believe that any unilateral action is counterproductive.”
Argentina recognized an independent Palestine state on Monday and Brazil made similar declarations on Friday, referring to the frontiers from 1967, before Israeli occupation. This includes all Palestine territory: The Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
Uruguay announced its decision to follow suit with an announcement in 2011. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are founding and full members of Mercosur, the South American trade block.
Israel rejected the initiative, saying that they contradicted peace talks and Israeli-Palestinian agreements (Oslo, 1993).
If the negotiations between Israel and Palestine remain on hold, the Palestinians will look to petition for recognition from Washington of the Palestinian state with the 1967 outlined frontiers, taking that demand to the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Earlier in the day, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials expressed outrage at Argentina’s announcement that it recognizes a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 war borders, saying it is counterproductive to the Middle East peace process.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman on Monday quoted a letter written by President Cristina Fernandez to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, in which she informed him of her government’s decision to recognize Palestine as “a free and independent state” within the 1967 borders.
The decision is based on a “deep desire to see an advance in the negotiation process (between Israel and the Palestinians) leading to the establishment of a just peace in the Middle East” said Timerman.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor described Argentina’s announcement as “highly damaging and regrettable,” saying it “shattered the foundation of the peace process,” according to the Ha’aretz newspaper.
The Israeli official said the recognition stampede while peace negotiations are ongoing is “contrary to the existing legal framework of the peace process,” adding that it will not change the existing situation or promote reconciliation between the feuding parties.
Another Foreign Ministry official on Tuesday noted the declarations “constitute a breach of an intermediate agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in 1995, which determines that the status of the West Bank can only be determined through negotiations.”
Brazil recognized on Friday the state of Palestine based on borders before Israel seized control of the West Bank in 1967. The Brazilian Foreign ministry said the recognition was in response to a request made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva earlier this year.
The decision is in line with Brazil’s historic support for United Nations resolutions demanding the end of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, and doesn’t detract from the country’s support for peace negotiations between the two sides, the ministry said in a statement.
“Considering that the demand presented by his Excellency (Abbas) is just and consistent with the principles upheld by Brazil with regard to the Palestinian issue, Brazil, through this letter, recognizes a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” it said.
The letter refers to the “legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people for a secure, united, democratic and economically viable state coexisting peacefully with Israel.”
The international community backs Palestinian demands for a state in most of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and east Jerusalem, all territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
The letter says that over one hundred countries have recognized the Palestinian State, among them all of the Arab countries and most of the African, Asian and Eastern European ones. Countries that maintain fluid relations with Israel – such as Russia, China, South Africa and India, among others – have recognized the Palestinian State. All of Brazil’s partners both in IBSA and BRIC have recognized Palestine.
However the United States and most Western governments have held back from recognizing a Palestinian state, saying it should be brought about through a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.
Abbas visited Brazil in 2005 and 2009, and Lula made the first ever trip by a Brazilian head of state to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March of this year.
In a parallel statement, the government assured relations with Israel “have never been more robust”.
“The ties between both countries have been strengthened throughout the years, simultaneously and without harm to the initiatives to establish closer ties with the Arab and Muslim world”, says the statement
Trade and investment flows with Israel have repeatedly reached historical records. The Free Trade Agreement between Mercosur and Israel, in force since April, was the first done between the regional bloc and an extra-regional country.
In March, president Lula made the first visit of a Brazilian Head of State to the State of Israel, in retribution to the visit made by Israeli President Shimon Peres to Brazil in 2009, the first of a Head of State from that country in over 40 years.
Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s administration announced via Foreign Minister Hector Timerman that Argentina recognizes Palestine as “a free and independent state, within the frontiers in existence since 1967.”
The recognition was made through a personal letter from the Argentine head of state to the president of the Palestine Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, revealed Timmerman. Apparently the official request was made during the Palestine president’s visit to Argentina last year.
“The Argentine government shares with its Mercosur associates, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay that the moment has come to recognize Palestine as a free and independent state,” underlined Timmerman.
Palestine Ambassador to Argentina Walid Muaqqat celebrated the decision made by the Argentina government and said that the announcement “gives a strong push to the ongoing negotiations.”
“We highly value the Argentine decision to recognize the State of Palestine with its borders 4 June 1967 and East Jerusalem as its capital, because this position places the two sides involved in the conflict in equal terms”, said Ambassador Muaggat.
He added that the Argentine government’s decision is a “non-violent reaction that the international community should emulate in response to the expansion and continuous illegal construction of Israeli settlements on Palestine territory that endangers the possibility of finding a solution” on behalf of both sides.
The Argentine Foreign Affairs ministry said that recognition is in the framework of the country’s traditional position to defend “the right of the Palestine people to constitute an independent State, within secure, internationally recognized borders”.
The release adds that Argentina joins over a hundred other states that have recognized the State of Palestine and is evidence of the international community’s growing consensus regarding the status of Palestine, “as well as the overall willingness that decisive advances in the peace process can be achieved.”
Israeli ambassador in Buenos Aires Daniel Gazit said that “the Argentine recognition of Palestine as an independent state will not affect the “very good relations” between Argentina and Israel, and the Jewish state hopes that the decision will help speed up the peace process”.
“The declaration doesn’t affect our relations whatsoever. The bilateral relations between Argentina and Israel are very good. We are also looking for positive relations with the Palestinians,” said Gazit.
“It is also our wish that there be a free and independent Palestine state that can exist alongside and in peace with Israel,” he said.
From Montevideo, Uruguayan Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Roberto Conde said that the formal recognition of Palestine will take place in coming weeks and advanced that Uruguay has plans to open an embassy in Ramallah.
In 1967, following the Six Days war, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem (which was later annexed) and the Gaza Strip, all of which are territories that the Palestinians are claiming for their state. Israel withdrew itself from Gaza in 2005, but retains control of a large part of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.