TEL AVIV – Colombia’s new president Ivan Duque on Monday said that he would not walk back his predecessor’s decision last month to recognize a Palestinian state.
“Damage was done by the fact that there was not more institutional discussion. [Ex-]president [Juan Manuel] Santos told me that he had made that decision, but it is irreversible,” Duque told a local radio station.
“We would have benefited from more analyses [before recognizing a State of Palestine], but we should be part of the solution, not the problem,” Duque said.
Santos’ decision will stand, he said. This despite Duque’s earlier pronouncement that he would move the Colombian embassy to Jerusalem if elected.
Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren said the Duque’s refusal to reverse his predecessor’s decision was “damaging” to ties between the countries. Until Santos’ move, Columbia was the only country in South American that hadn’t recognized a Palestinian state.
“Even worse — 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?” he said in a statement.
“Perhaps the Colombians feel they are obligated to help the Palestinians,” Oren, who once served as Israel’s envoy to the US, continued, “but in fact they are misleading them in the belief that they can achieve a Palestinian state without recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been slated to attend the incoming president’s inauguration in Bogota, but canceled the trip amid rising tensions in Israel’s south, according to the Times of Israel. The prime minister sent Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat in his stead.
In a letter addressed to Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Colombia’s outgoing foreign minister María Ángela Holguín said the president had “decided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state.”
The Israeli embassy responded by saying that it was “deeply disappointed” by the move and also “by the way it was done.” It called for the Colombian government to withdraw recognition.
The embassy also said it was felt slighted by the country, which is Israel’s closest ally in South America. The Israeli ambassador, Marco Sermoneta, expressed his country’s dissatisfaction with the move to incoming Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez.
In 2012, Colombia abstained from a vote granting “Palestine” observer state status at the UN General Assembly while 138 countries voted in favor. The South American nation also abstained from voting on a resolution condemning the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year.
To express his gratitude, Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country last September.
“Under your leadership in recent years it’s been a remarkable alliance [between Israel and Colombia] of faith and values, faith in the future,” Netanyahu told Santos at the time.