EDITORIAL – History not always the good teacher
IN 1947, when the United Nations voted for what was known as partition and created the state of Israel – subsequently granting it full membership – several Latin American countries (Brazil, El Salvador, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Honduras) abstained, while Cuba voted against the relevant resolutions.
Mexico abstained on partition, though it voted in favour of admitting Israel to the UN a few months later, and subsequently recognized the Jewish state, acknowledging that its interest was best served by not taking sides in the Middle East imbroglio.
In the coming weeks, most Latin American countries will most likely vote in favour of some form of UN membership or recognition of statehood that the Palestinian Authority is seeking.
The issue is not a simple one for the Security Council’s two Latin American non-permanent members Brazil and Colombia, or for Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Honduras, which have already recognized Palestine, but have not yet voted to grant it “observer” status at the UN.
In order to become a full-fledged UN member, the Security Council must recommend the move to the General Assembly; but upgrading the Palestinian Authority’s status similar to that of the Vatican – which in theory would allow it to participate in many UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court – requires only a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly.
In any case, the political consequences overshadow the legal issues. Forcing the United States to use its veto in the Security Council, or obtaining the support of more than 150 of the UN’s 193 member states in the General Assembly, would be a huge defeat, which is why the Latin American votes are important.
Brazil has already said it intends to vote in the Security Council to recommend Palestine’s admission to the General Assembly; Colombia has said that it plans to abstain. Most other Latin American countries would probably vote in favour of some sort of enhanced status for the Palestinian Authority.
The protracted schism that has engulfed Israel and Palestine, as Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told the UN General Assembly just a few weeks ago, is a disturbing anomaly, if for no other reason than that “everyone knows what the solution is”.
Yes, the Palestinians are entitled to recognition and the “fruits of prosperity within their own soverign state” – just as Israel has the right to exist and its people the right to live in security. The exceedingly long wait of the Palestinians for a homeland of their own must end.
Sadly, as in 1947, Latin America speaks not with a single voice on this crucial issue. But most CARICOM countries are all on the same page of support. In a twist of fate, history would repeat itself.