International political circles are abuzz with talks about the formal recognition by the United Nations (UN) of Palestinian statehood—a campaign that has been ongoing for several decades. Palestine has already asserted its independence and it wants full membership accession to the global organization, the UN. Currently, most of the UN members are in support, but the US has veto powers to block Palestine’s accession to the UN and international news reports quote State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland as saying Thursday, September 8, that the US, Israel’s most formidable ally, plans to exercise that veto, as it continues to maintain its stance for a negotiated solution.
On Friday, September 9, 2011, the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was pleased to announce that the Government of Belize has decided to formally recognize Palestine as a sovereign and independent state within its pre-1967 borders—vastly wider than today’s actual occupation by Palestine. A UN vote could, therefore, raise expectations for the return of what had previously been demarcated as Palestinian territory but which, today, is in Israeli hands. Modern-day Israelis have increasingly occupied what had previously been demarcated as Palestine, as shown in the accompanying map.
As for Belize’s support for Palestine, “This has been our position.... Every year, we have voted consistently for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. This is not new,” Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexis Rosado, told Amandala Monday.
CEO Rosado said that to suggest that the vote or Belize’s position of recognition is anti-Israel is totally missing the boat.
“A vote for Palestine is not a vote against Israel,” added Rosado.
The CEO reiterated Belize’s hope that, “...the state of Israel and the state of Palestine should be able to resolve any or all their differences by peaceful means.”
The Government of Belize said, “In taking this decision, Belize joins more than a hundred and twenty other members of the United Nations who have formally recognized the State of Palestine.”
It also said that the decision is in line with the country’s long-held position in support of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
On September 1, Dr. Shimon Samuels, International Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), an international Jewish organization, on a lobbying tour to Belize and the region, told Amandala that the UN vote on Palestine, which is coming up on 22 of September, is “very dangerous,” because it will raise expectations although the vote doesn’t change anything on the ground—and that could lead to mayhem, he added.
He said that they are asking Belize, “not to rush to judgment,” adding that diplomats have a range of devices available to them: vote yes or no, abstain, or be absent from the hall.
We asked Rosado: Why not abstain from a position?
“As small as we are, we have a voice and we have a vote,” he replied.
Rosado said that the right to self-determination is the principle of international law on which our very existence has depended—”the inalienable right of a people to self-determination.”
Meanwhile, Rosado noted that Belize and Israel, notwithstanding Belize’s support for Palestinian self- determination, continue to enjoy cordial relations.
“Every year, we vote on the same resolutions supporting the Palestinian people and right to self- determination,” said Rosado. “It is really consistent with all voting [in the past].”
A vote in September, said Rosado, could or could not happen and whether Belize will say yes or no, he explained, will depend on the actual wording of the draft resolution tabled at the upcoming UN General Assembly.
“We want to support the right of Israel and the right of Palestine to live in peace and security with clear borders between them, as well as with all the other nations,” said Rosado. “The position is not in any way intended to be anti-Israel or anything,” he maintained.
Leader of the Opposition Johnny Briceño also spoke of the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination.
Stuart Leslie, who has served as Belize’s Permanent Representative to the UN under the Musa administration, told our newspaper that Belize has always voted in recognition of Palestine. Leslie said that Belize has always tried to maintain cordial relations with both sides, and has tried always, as a government, to indicate to Israel that we just want the two states living in peace side by side.
The countries of the Caribbean, said Leslie, have been “very strong supporters of Palestine,” and, he added, Belize has never allowed itself to be swayed.
Leslie said that there had been a recent article in Israeli media that indicated that Belize would change its position but, he said, it would be bad foreign policy for Belize to make such a sudden shift.
Former Foreign Minister of Belize, Lisa Shoman, whose lineage includes Palestinian ancestry, said that when Belize was hunting the corridors of the UN for its recognition of independence, the Palestinians were among some other nations seeking the same.
“They have a right to that...” said Shoman. “That was the same message we were telling people [before Independence], that the people of Belize had a right to self-determination. We’ve always supported Palestine on that...throughout every administration.”
She noted that these discussions are going on in the margins of the upcoming UN General Assembly.
It is hard to go against the issue of right to self-determination; it is a democratic principle, said Shoman.