JERUSALEM - Guyana became Thursday the seventh Latin American state to recognize an
independent Palestinian state. Although the official recognitions are largely
nominal, they have irked the State of Israel as they expose its growing diplomatic
isolation in the face of the current peace deadlock.
It was the announcement in support of Palestinian statehood by Brazil on Dec.
3 that inspired other countries in the continent to follow suit. Since then,
Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and now Guyana, have all offered
Paraguay and Peru are expected to do so soon. Venezuela had already recognized Palestine in the mid-2000s.
Israeli officials fear a 'domino effect'
Recently, Norway upgraded the Palestinian representative office in Oslo from
a 'general delegation' to a 'diplomatic delegation'. And over the past four
months, several countries, including none other than the U.S. (followed by
other Israeli-friendly states such as France, Spain, and Portugal) upgraded the
standing of Palestinian representatives.
Another hundred or so other countries - most of them developing nations -
had recognized 'Palestine' after Yasser Arafat unilaterally declared
"independence" in 1988.
Other states, mostly from the former Eastern Bloc, recognized Palestinian
statehood in the wake of the 1993 Oslo peace accords.
At first, when the new string of recognitions began last month, Israel
expressed "regret", "sadness" and "disappointment".
A Foreign Ministry statement called such moves "counterproductive" and
"damaging" to peace, arguing that "to decide in advance in a unilateral
manner about important issues which are disputed, only harms trust between
the sides, and hurts their commitment to the agreed framework of negotiating
Then, when Chile made the move to recognize Palestine, Deputy Foreign
Minister Daniel Ayalon wrote bluntly in his personal blog, "'The state of
Facebook' is more real than 'Palestine'."
Much like the global social network, the Palestinian Authority is looking for
"virtual friends" in an effort to create "a virtual state", Ayalon argued.
"Facebook is the 'like' state, and so is the Palestinian state recognized in
Brasilia and Buenos Aires," he said, referring to the announcements made by
Brazil and Argentina.
"Irresponsible governments are quick to 'like' the Palestinian state without
actually checking out its profile: an authority without sovereignty, with no
borders or territorial continuity, no economic ability or democratic culture,"
Ayalon has himself gained international recognition (so to speak) for his
undiplomatic style. Last year, he publicly humiliated the Turkish Ambassador
In a blatant violation of standard diplomatic codes of conduct, while
remonstrating with the envoy for Turkey's criticism of Israel, Ayalon had
refused to shake his hand and to display the Turkish flag, and had him seated
on a lower chair.
Yet, besides sarcastic diatribes, Israel has had an increasingly difficult time
coordinating a clear strategy with its U.S. ally against what it sees as a
On one hand, more and more states are willing to recognize a future
Palestinian state with or without Israel's approval; on the other, Israel faces
proportionately increasing diplomatic isolation.
Israeli officials are all too aware that unilateral recognition of Palestinian
statehood "within the 1967 borders" underscores the increasing unwillingness
in the international community to wait until Israel and the Palestinians reach a
Since the U.S.-brokered peace efforts faltered over the issue of a three-
month extension of a freeze in Israeli settlement construction, the Palestinian
Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas has lobbied nations for
recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in the occupied West Bank and East
Jerusalem, as well as in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Last month, the EU staved off Palestinian pressure for such recognition,
preferring a wait-and-see approach until the "appropriate" time, while the
U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution stating that only peace
talks could set such a process in motion.
In parallel, in a bid to evaluate the viability of a unilateral declaration of
independence, the PA started last month to circulate a draft resolution to the
members of the UN Security Council. The Palestinian document states that
Israeli settlements activities are illegal and are the main obstacle to a two-
In contrast to past similar resolutions which were easily thwarted due to their
harsh anti-Israeli character, this draft uses moderate wording. Israeli officials
worry that it will be more difficult for the U.S. to veto such a resolution.
"I wouldn't be surprised if within one year the whole world supports a
Palestinian state, including the U.S.," says Benjamin Ben Eliezer, a senior
Labour party minister in the right-wing government of Prime Minister
"Then we'll ask where we were, and what we were doing," said Ben Eliezer. He
lambasted his coalition partners for lacking a clear peace policy vision.
Columnist Ari Shavit bemoans the current diplomatic paralysis: "Time is
running out. The Palestinians are going to the UN.
"If the prime minister indeed has a peace vision, he will have to present it to
the international community. He will have to speak out clearly soon in the
most dramatic way," he wrote in Haaretz. "For Benjamin Netanyahu, the next
100 days are the last."
Meanwhile, ignoring these dire admonitions, the Israeli leader warned against
"imposed settlement from the outside". "It doesn't work," Netanyahu declared
last week matter-of-factly during an annual meeting with the international
press in Jerusalem.
"The Palestinians are flying out to the world: South America, Asia, the far
corners of the world. Save a lot of air fuel by just going ten minutes, coming
here. There is no short-cut to negotiations," Netanyahu said.
Using the catchphrase coined by Abba Eban, Israel's renowned diplomat, he
added, "I hate to use clichés. But this is a cliché that I have to use. The
Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
Netanyahu's selective use of Eban's legacy could not be left unnoticed.
In 1947, the General Assembly voted the Partition Plan of Palestine into Jewish
and Arab states. The state of Israel was created, sparking the Arab-Israeli
conflict. A liaison officer to the UN Special Committee on Palestine at that
time, Abba Eban had been successful in attaining international recognition of