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Over the last two weeks, emerging global powers Brazil and Argentina have both given diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, existing within the 1967 borders and with a capital city in Jerusalem. This understandably annoyed the Israelis, who have been struggling to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians for decades. Given that every reasonable observer agrees that any Israeli-Palestinian peace accord will involve some border adjustments and territory swaps, it is odd that Brazil and Argentina would choose to recognize a Palestinian state as existing on territory that even the Palestinians would likely concede, if only off the record, will remain Israeli under any settlement.
Argentina and Brazil are not significant players in the Middle East. As the Israelis correctly point out, neither of them has played any part in the peace process, so their input, while welcome news for the Palestinian negotiators, is entirely symbolic. Argentina even tacitly admitted the entirely symbolic nature of their recognition when they said they recognized Palestine because it had a right to become a state — in other words, they’re recognizing it as a state today in the hopes it will become one tomorrow. A rather strange use of diplomacy, but not unprecedented in recent times — recall the choice to award the Nobel Peace Prize to a President who had probably not even finished unpacking from his move into the White House when the decision was reached.
The move by the Latin American nations is unlikely to have any impact whatsoever on the achingly slow progress of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Many much more important countries have recognized Palestine without it doing the Palestinian people any good. But the recent developments certainly do speak to a disturbing trend in Latin America. Iran, Israel’s archenemy, has been expanding its reach there, while the United States has proven unwilling or unable to use its diplomatic power to protect its Israeli ally. America still tells the world it is prepared to defend Israel, but actions speak louder than words, and Iran and Venezuela, both hostile to the United States, are having no trouble at all making friends around the world. And where Iranian and/or Venezuelan influence spreads, Israel’s popularity soon wanes.
Much of the world’s attention has been on Russia’s renewed interest in Latin America, with military visits and shipments of weapons. But Iran has been just as busy. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been nothing if not open with their friendship, frequently appearing together at conferences or visiting each other’s capitals to discuss economic and defense agreements. Venezuela was even considered a potential source of aid for Iran’s nuclear program, but U.S. diplomatic cables obtained via the WikiLeaks release suggests that while Chavez is happy let people think Venezuela is helping Iran’s nuclear program, the country is, in fact, too broke and technologically backwards to be of any assistance.
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