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August 14, 2018 1:37 pm

US Jewish Groups Call on New Colombian President to Reverse Palestinian State Recognition

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Colombian President Ivan Duque delivers his inaugural address. Photo: Reuters/Fabian Ortiz.

The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday called on Colombia’s newly-elected president to nix the decision of his predecessor, in one of his final actions in the office, to recognize the “State of Palestine.”

“We hope you use the power of your office to reverse this regrettable decision that stands counter to the strong ties shared by Colombia and Israel,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote in an open letter to President Iván Duque, the victor in the Latin American nation’s Aug. 7 election.

“We trust that with your leadership in the region you can lend a powerful voice to those who bypass the steps to create peace between Israel and the Palestinian people,” Greenblatt said.

Both the Israeli government and Jewish advocacy groups worldwide were taken by surprise on Aug. 9, when it was revealed that outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos had recognized Palestinian independence in one his last decisions. The news was announced by the Palestinian embassy in Bogota, in a statement that praised “the Republic of Colombia’s [decision] to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state.”

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ADL’s appeal to Duque on Tuesday came on the heels of strong criticism of Santos’ decision by other Jewish organizations.

The American Jewish Committee pointed out that Santos had “recognized a Palestinian state despite his commitment during his tenure not to do so.”

Noting Santos’ long-held reputation as an ally of Israel and Western democracies, AJC CEO David Harris said, “This gratuitous gesture, which does not advance peace one iota, is simply stunning for a Colombian leader who expanded ties to Israel, and the US, and is a Nobel Peace Laureate.”

The Zionist Organization of America urged supporters to protest the decision with calls and emails to Colombian officials. A ZOA action alert emphasized that Colombia’s 5,000-strong Jewish community was “terrified by the implications of recognition, which will embolden attacks on Colombia’s Jewish community.”

StandWithUs also sent an action alert to its supporters, who “flooded regional Colombian consulates with calls and emails asking that Colombia reverse its decision because this premature recognition of a Palestinian state will jeopardize the positive relations between Colombia and Israel,” the pro-Israel education group said.

“They expressed concern that recognizing a Palestinian state unilaterally actually is a disincentive to peace as it will dissuade Palestinians from engaging in meaningful negotiations,” the StandWithUs statement noted. “The recognition of Palestinian statehood during a time when approximately 40% of Palestinians in the region live in Gaza, under a second government that is, in fact, not part of the Palestinian Authority, but rather Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, leaves open the dangerous question of who would assume control of that state and what it bodes for security of the region.”

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