December 7, 2010

Can South America Rescue the Palestinians?

Considering that Brazil was the last BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] to fall, its recognition of a Palestinian state is unlikely to yield an international tipping point. The balance of power remains as is, with all of Africa, most of Asia, and half of Europe and South America opposing the Western holdouts: America, Canada, Mexico, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan.

But with Argentina backing up Brazil and Uruguay expected to follow, their collective weight on Washington is snowballing into a real factor.

One Brazilian source explained amid the diplomatic fervor that, as the last BRIC country to recognize a Palestinian state, “it was the natural thing to do.” The right thing too. However Argentina didn’t bother hiding the motive behind South America’s sudden advance. Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in U.S. mediations between Israel and the Palestinians, South American states have reached a conclusion similar to much of the world: Israel’s behavior and Washington’s “all-carrots” policy are responsible for the current breakdown.

And they’re poking the White House with the longest stick they can find.

"The move surprised us," a U.S. Latin American expert said on condition of anonymity. "What we had heard is that the Brazilians were looking at this and talking to some people in the region about it."

Israel and the Obama administration have bigger problems now. Brazil and “some people” aren’t rising up independently but in coordination. Cheated by bilateral agreements between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama’s inner circle, the Palestinians have embarked upon an internationalization campaign to soften the ground before a potential UN hearing.

As Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki rejoiced at Argentina's decision, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were co-chairing talks between their delegations at the Cankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara. Turkey has recently signaled its intend to break off European countries, and Gul welcomed Brazil and Argentina's decision to recognize the state of Palestine: "The presence of a Palestinian state is a reality. We expect everybody to recognize the independent state of Palestine just like we did in the past.”

Malki said the Palestinians expect Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile to join Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay.

"It is really symbolic.” he added, “but it is important because the more countries that recognize the Palestinian state, the more pressure this will put on countries that are hesitant and on the peace process. If Israel keeps refusing to recognize the Palestinian state when other countries do, this will make a difference.”

Malki only has one country in mind though.

South America’s tilt comes at the perfect time for the Palestinians. Relatively insignificant in itself, the timing has created a political and propaganda cache to exploit. The hottest topic in Israeli-Palestinian relations is the U.S. monopoly on negotiations, which many states recognize as a root of conflict. South America has decided that now is the best opportunity to assist in breaking Washington’s blockade around the negotiations.

Israel, of course, refuses to negotiate with any state other than America, more concerned of losing its unfair terms than jeopardizing its security. Officials argue that no other nation has the credibility or intricate knowledge inside Israel’s government. These points appear rational but lack validity, as Washington has eroded its credibility to the breaking point. And while Israeli officials have reason to distrust other mediators, what they’re truly afraid of is losing their advantage.

Though it’s hard to blame them for this, the resulting deadlock and marginalization towards the Palestinians makes it easier.

Negotiations led by the Quartet - U.S., EU, Russia, and the UN - would likely produce an agreement based on Saudi Arabia’s Peace Initiative, which is only perceived as unfair by Israel because it represents a substantial decrease in terms. An equal level. Although Israel believes it’s getting a raw deal, the rest of the world believes America is spoiling it. Only a fair two-state solution holds the possibility of stabilizing and demilitarizing the region.

Perhaps those remaining states will continue jumping on the bandwagon. Brazil appears to have brought the rest of South America with it, throwing not just a state but a continent on the scale. Washington isn’t going to give up negotiations and has managed to execute its strategy regardless of increasing isolation. But South American states can help the Palestinians raise the heat on the White House.

The power of numbers must be pursued to its limit.


  1. The US is stepping back from it's bid to freeze settlements as part of the 'peace' negotiations tonight. But the Argentinian initiative is a rare chink of light for the Palestinians. The UK, and no doubt the US, Israel-firsters will not be slow to trash the Argentinian government.

  2. This is snowballing as big as the Palestinians planned. The US State Department recently labeled Brazil's recognition as "counterproductive" - how desperate the White House must be now.

  3. Brazil is not going to feel threatened.
    They are now on their own plateau.
    They have made huge financial and energy deals with China.
    Brazil is coming into the global political arena, and they will be listened to.