Brazil today recognized the state of Palestine based on borders before Israel seized control of the West Bank in 1967.
The foreign ministry said the recognition was in response to a request made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva earlier this year.
The decision is in line with Brazil’s historic support for United Nations resolutions demanding the end of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, and doesn’t detract from the country’s support for peace negotiations between the two sides, the ministry said in a statement.
U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who is chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing relations with Latin America, condemned Brazil’s move.
“Brazil’s decision to recognize Palestine is severely misguided and represents a last gasp by a Lula-led foreign policy which was already substantially off track,” Engel, who is also co-chair of the Brazil caucus in Congress, said in an e-mailed statement. “Brazil is sending a message to the Palestinians that they need not make peace to gain recognition as a sovereign state.”
Lula, who steps down after eight years in office on Jan. 1, made his first-ever visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March. He was snubbed during the tour by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for laying a wreath at Palestinian leader Yasser Arafata’s grave without visiting the tomb of Zionist founder Theodor Herzl.
Lula’s outreach to Iran, which he visited in May after hosting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has also raised concerns in the U.S. and in Israel. Brazil and Turkey voted against a U.N. Security Council resolution in June imposing new sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program after the two countries negotiated a deal to swap enriched uranium for fuel to power a medical-isotopes reactor.
“One can only hope that the new leadership coming into Brazil will change course and understand that this is not the way to gain favor as an emerging power,” Engel said.